Dickinson couple designed house to bring outside in
The French contemporary Dickinson home Bill and Vivian Latimer built in 1990 is as charming today as it was 28 years ago. The two-story, 3,500-square-foot home’s charm comes from being lovingly maintained by the Latimers and from its wooded backyard in the Sherwood Forest West subdivision.
Bill Latimer built the house while working as a commercial manager at Sterling Chemical’s Texas City plant. No stranger to the construction business, Bill Latimer had been building houses as a sideline for a number of years, so he knew exactly what he and Vivian wanted. Because their children were grown, they could concentrate on their personal preferences when designing the home.
The home, with three bedrooms and two and a half baths, features an open-concept living and dining room, and has several noteworthy architectural features, including the six columns in the entry hall, mid-century modern wet bar, ceilings that rise from 9 to 13 feet, arched windows across the front of the house and large glass-paneled windows across the entire back of the house.
“We designed the house to bring the outside in,” Bill said. “We had to clear some of the trees, but for the most part, our backyard is a nice grove of oaks, ash, pines and elms. We did some landscaping, put in concrete pavers, a four-level tiered deck, added oriental statues and various plants.”
Vivian Latimer likes to relax on the chaise lounge in the master bedroom where she has the best view, she said.
“It’s like having acres of woods behind us when I look through the windows,” she said.
The kitchen cabinets, paneling and most built-ins were constructed of ash, which was Bill’s preference; he likes the straight-grained, moderately coarse texture, he said.
The floors vary from tile to marble to carpet, while several of the room’s walls feature subtle wallpaper.
“I like wallpaper, but not with distinct patterns, so I chose light, muted designs,” Vivian said.
Because they both have eclectic tastes with a penchant for Asian, art deco and contemporary decor, the home is filled with Asian screens, Chinese warrior statues, dragons, elephants, large vases and modern art.
“We like to mix contemporary and Asian together,” Vivian said. “When we see something we like, we don’t care if it goes with anything else or not — we just buy it.”
For instance, the runner across the dining room table is not a runner at all, but a silk obi kimono sash from Singapore, stretching the length of the table. The circa 1930s French leather club armchair in the open-concept living room makes a statement of its own.
The rest of the living room is a combination of stylized white lacquered empire chinoiserie chairs, a comfy sofa, a table for playing bridge and a pastel Japanese six-panel folding screen.
Bill’s office — with masculine touches and a black lacquered Japanese four-panel folding screen — is a few steps away and includes ash wood paneling, a writing desk and built-in bookshelves for his collectibles, all bathed in sunlight streaming through a tall, arched window.
The master bedroom, with a mix of Asian and African décor, has a leaded-glass door leading to the backyard deck. A wall of paneled windows provide a spectacular picture-perfect view of the wooded backyard.
The second floor, with open landing and sitting area, small library, guest bedroom and bath, is what the couple calls the “guest suite.”
“This is mainly for when our children and their children come to visit,” Bill Latimer said. “It gives them, as well as visiting friends, the space they need.”
Looking down at the entry hall from the landing, it’s hard to believe that this custom-built home is 28 years old. The craftsmanship is impeccable, the décor is timeless and the ambience is soothing.
The Latimers — married 58 years — grew up in Galveston and attended Ball High School together.
“We had our first date during the Christmas holidays my senior year, and we got married during Bill’s senior year at Texas A&M in College Station,” Vivian said.
Bill, who is retired, likes to spend time in his three-car garage — an organized man cave — complete with workshop, credenza, a bookshelf loaded with model cars and other meaningful memorabilia, plus modern art hanging on the walls. He also enjoys sitting at the breakfast table with his wife, looking out onto their private forest, he said.
“Our house is actually very green due to tight construction,” Bill said. “Built with proper insulation, window placements — no east and west exposure — and surrounded by trees, our electric bill averages $45 a month.”
Bill, who also helped develop the subdivision, had a hand in naming the streets.
“Even after all these years, we still like everything about our home,” Vivian said. “It reflects who we are.”
“There’s no place like home,” he said. “I really like our house and think it’s very special.”