Inspired by island life, couple builds dream home and palapa in San Leon
If Doug and Kat Stedifor had their way, they would have built a house like the casitas they observed along the Riviera Maya coastline in Mexico’s northeastern Yucatán Peninsula.
“One New Year’s Eve, we stayed at a resort in one of their open-air, thatched-roof bungalows, and I told Doug, ‘I want a house just like that,’” Kat said.
Insurance regulations in these parts prevented that design, she said. Still, the Stedifors were able to build their dream home.
They had been living in their RV on property they owned in San Leon and did a lot of soul-searching as well as researching about what to do. And then they came up with a plan.
“Let’s just build a palapa for now and worry about a house later,” Doug said, and Kat agreed.
Completed in 2016, the 1,200-square-foot, two-story palapa is constructed of cedar, bamboo and thatch and would rival anything along the Riviera Maya. Once inside, the tropical décor sets the tone, especially behind the oversized bar where Doug likes to mix drinks for friends.
Among the artful toucans, geckos, parrots, sharks, blowfish, pink flamingos, various mermaids and monkeys, you can’t miss the female pirate mannequin, dubbed San Leon Sally, hanging high above the rafters. There are several seating arrangements throughout, plus a bamboo enclosed bathroom with a door featuring a hand-painted beach scene.
An adjoining area features a spa and outdoor kitchen with steps leading up to the second level called the Sunset Tiki Bar.
“The main attraction in this area is the bar, made from one solid piece of Guanacaste wood from Costa Rica,” Doug said.
A 6-foot wooden sculpture dubbed Tiki Mon and a turtle made of teakwood stand out, as do the two swings for swaying in the breeze while watching the sunset.
Canvas roll-up curtains with clear panel windows can be lowered for high winds and during winter months, making the palapa enjoyable year-round.
Last year, the Stedifors completed their dream house with three bedrooms and two baths. The two-story, 1,565-square-foot house is just mere steps from the palapa, but has less of an island flavor and more of a beachy, coastal vibe. Exterior colors of Bungalow Beige and Tidewater by Sherwin-Williams Paints add an inviting appeal. Interior walls of Sherwin-Williams Olympus White dominate the living room, dining and kitchen, while Tidewater brings sea hues to bedrooms and baths. Distressed engineered hardwood floors of grays and browns with dark knots give an appearance of textured wood.
“We have a coastal theme going on throughout the house,” Kat said. “We purchased a lot of the decorative pieces in Galveston, like the heron wall prints above the sofa that we got at Conversation Pieces.”
An artisan glass coffee table with sculptured seagulls on a marble base sits in front of the sofa. A pedestal table made of two verdigris-colored crabs intertwining with bronze coral rests between two matching seashell-patterned chairs.
The open-concept dining room and kitchen have bright and airy touches accented with brushed nickel lighting fixtures. Shaker-style kitchen cabinets, painted white, complement the soft gray and cream quartzite countertops and island.
Of note, in the guest room is a jellyfish-inspired table lamp with wrought-iron tentacles accented with glass beads that was purchased on The Strand in Galveston’s downtown, Kat said. The third bedroom is being used as an office.
A 1,650-square-foot garage on the lower level is actually bigger than the house, but Doug planned it that way, he said.
“We finished the garage ourselves with U Coat It,” he said. “It’s a two component, high-performance, water-based epoxy, flaked and glazed. It’s my favorite room in the house.”
Doug had been traveling to the area for more than 30 years, so he knew he wanted to live in San Leon someday, he said.
“We actually bought the lot in 2013 and we’d sit in the grass envisioning what we wanted to do with the place, so we took our time,” Doug said. “We own a business in North Texas that keeps us pretty busy, so we have to divide our time.”
From the looks of things, it appears Kat finally got her dream casita and a bonus house.
“Yes, I did,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of traveling over the years to the Caribbean and Mexico and I’ve always been inspired by island life. I have it now, right here in San Leon.”