Beachfront house was built to celebrate and endure the sea
John and Gina Knight wanted the living spaces to be on the top floor of their Galveston beach house to ensure family members and visitors experience the stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico, ship channel and the historic seaport city.
The Knights hired Galveston seaside architect David Mullican to design for them their perfect beach house, where bedrooms are on the lower floors. They chose a lot in the relatively new development known as The Preserve of East Beach, and spent three months working with Mullican to incorporate all of their must-haves into the plans for their 3,200-square-foot home. It took another two years to build.
“There were a number of absolutes,” said John Knight, who grew up around the sea as a third-generation Merchant Marine. “Number one on the list was to have fantastic views of the beach from the living room and kitchen. We also wanted our architect to incorporate exposed beams that gave the feel of an inverted ship’s frame.”
Gina’s father’s second career was as a fisherman in New York, and she grew up on Long Island always near the water. The Knights, who live in Dallas, fell in love with Galveston decades ago and were drawn to the city’s history, restaurants and social activities and decided to build a vacation home on the beach.
The house’s exterior is designed in Victorian fashion and the interiors are a nod to the city’s past and the sea. Mexican hand-painted tile backsplashes and oriental rugs allude to foreign influences on Galveston as an active port. The kitchen’s large island of blue, tan and gray granite mimics the beach and movement of the ocean. Fixtures such as the crystal and shell chandelier in the dining room relate to the beach. Decorative items, including an 1850s ship’s compass binnacle and massive cargo lights over the kitchen island pay homage to their mariner backgrounds, John said.
Porches and balconies, made from long-lasting synthetic deck board, wrap all around the upper two levels of the house, allowing for incredible 360-degree views. The 16-foot-wide porch outside the living area is an additional outdoor room with a large table for group gatherings. The balcony outside the primary bedroom has enough space for a hot tub as well as some comfortable and decorative chairs.
“The sunrises are spectacular,” he said. “The big surprise is that our sunsets are pretty darn good as well.”
After two years in the house, his favorite spot is either the outside deck beachside or the living room, he said.
“It’s really a toss-up,” he said. “There is a magnetic force that immediately draws me to those spots the second we arrive.”
Large wooden trusses in the living room set the stage for the rest of the house. A wall of glass doors in the room invite the outside in. Views from the couches and chairs in the living room focus on the Gulf and the beach. The adjacent dining room has a table that can seat 12, but when the entire family is in town, it just isn’t big enough.
“We use the entire house,” Gina Knight said. “We actually have an extended family and gather frequently. Thanksgiving was wonderful and our oversized tables both inside and out handily accommodate everyone. We actually had one of my daughter’s wedding on the beach here at the house last June, which was beautiful.”
She had one special request for the kitchen — a walk-in pantry for small appliances and storage. And it’s huge.
Because the house is so near the water, Mullican recommended special materials to endure the harsh environment.
“The salt fog is very damaging,” Mullican said. “We needed to use non-corrosive materials as much as the budget allowed.”
The navy blue exterior is a Hardie cement-type siding and trim, which holds paint well and won’t rot. Mullican also recommended special windows and doors that are impact-resistant and break-away walls on the ground-floor garage. A salt-water swimming pool gives the family more outdoor entertaining opportunities.
Gina Knight took extra precautions and insisted on several water spigots on each level to wash away the salt frequently and easily.
Some of the exterior decorative elements on the house rusted immediately, so John Knight replaced them with handmade polycarbonate materials and stainless-steel screws.
In addition to the expansive living space, a game room loft was created on the top level of the house and is the fifth bedroom, if needed.
A 180-foot private and gated boardwalk from the back patio leads them over the dunes and onto the beach.
“This is really our happy place,” said Gina Knight. “We head to the beach as much as possible. Who doesn’t love a good walk on the beach? There are times when the weather doesn’t want to cooperate, but it’s an ever-changing environment and that is a pleasure to explore.”
John Knight can’t think of anything better than to listen to the sound of the waves, he said.
“It is everything you have heard and more,” he said. “It makes every stress melt away within minutes of arrival. There is nothing more relaxing than staring at the beach as the waves roll in.
“Personally, I watch the families and friends enjoying the beach and I can’t think of a place on Earth where there are more happy people from all walks of life on one little slice of heaven.”