Texas couple's Twin Mountain home is decked out for the holidays
By John Clayton
Photography by John W. Hession
For one Texas couple, views of New Hampshire's White Mountains won over the challenges of homebuilding and provide a spectacular backdrop for holiday décor.
Any property owner who survives the construction of a new home will tell you that the process can be an uphill battle. But for Dick and Nancy Gould-delighted transplants from Houston, Texas-the experience was literal as well as figurative.
Their home was more than six years in the making-there's the figurative part-but its stunning, elevated location on Beech Hill in Twin Mountain is where the literal part of the uphill battle comes in.
"Dick and Nancy had bought two thousand acres on this hillside from a logging family that had been working the land for fifty years or so," says architect Rob Turpin, AIA, who worked on the project along with his partner, Sonya Misiaszek, AIA, from Misiaszek Turpin pllc in Laconia. "The Goulds subdivided it into large parcels, and then went back and forth as to which parcel they wanted to build on."
"Originally, it was on a lower parcel," Turpin continues, "but then we decided the higher parcel had more commanding views. Getting the driveway up there was one thing-it wound up being three quarters of a mile long-but to get the house on the right east-west axis for the best south-facing views, there was a fairly tight knoll that had to be blasted out and brought down, so it's not a stretch to say there were some site challenges."
But now the Goulds greet each new day with ever-changing views and breathtaking sights, including vistas of the Presidential Range and the Pemigewasset Wilderness.
"Dick tells me that when he gets up in the morning, it's like he's died and gone to heaven," says Dale Blackey from Twin Oaks Construction in Plymouth, who served as general contractor. "Died and gone to heaven."
While those vistas are magnificent in every season, there is a particular majesty in the winter, and that is when Nancy creates an interior holiday wonderland that rivals the exterior views.
But first, how did these Texas city slickers-down-home drawls still very much intact-find their way from Houston (population 2.25 million) to Twin Mountain (population 639)?
"We have friends in Texas who still say, 'What in the world are you thinking?'" Dick says. "It started twenty-five years ago when I had a conversation with a business partner who knew Nancy and I had been to New England many times on business. He asked if we'd ever been up here in the fall, and when I said no, he said, 'You missed the best of everything.'"
Bringing their own style
The Goulds had often traveled to New England for Nancy's business. In Houston, she was the proprietor of a shop called Gallery Americana, and her customer-driven quest for quality replications of colonial furniture and folk art often brought her to the Northeast. (Dick still makes his living as a real estate developer.) Still, it wasn't until that first autumn visit to New Hampshire that the couple saw the light.
Fast-forward a quarter of a century or so, and the Goulds were the happy owners of an 1830s Cape home in Sugar Hill. Well, Nancy was a happy owner. Dick, not so much.
"It was a fabulous home, and I loved it to death, but Dick said, 'I am not going to grow old in this house.'" Nancy says. "I wanted an old house. He wanted a new house. He won that argument."
The Goulds disagree a lot. That's not being catty. They happily acknowledge it as a bedrock part of their relationship, although it can be a bit unsettling for the uninitiated. Take newly hired architects or contractors, for example.
"They did an incredible job of listening to us forcefully stating our opinions," Dick says, laughing. "After the first good one, I thought they were going to fire us as clients, but they let it roll right off."
Turpin and Blackey let it roll right off because they knew they were working with dream clients-consider Dick's decision to create a 160-acre no-build conservation easement for the New England Forestry Foundation.
Following the client's direction
"We spent a couple of years on the design process with the Goulds," Turpin says, "and that resulting interior design is pretty much all Nancy's doing. She came to us with three-ring binders full of images, everything from furnishings to paint colors to window treatments, and she already had a good idea of how every room was going to be laid out."
It was left to Blackey's crew to make those interior visions become reality, and he too marveled at the preparedness of his client.
"We worked the interior finish there for well over a year, just custom detail to the nth degree," Blackey says. "Nancy wanted every nail discussed, and she was armed with all of those three-ring binders filled with articles from magazines, pictures and details of what she wanted. And we gave her what she wanted in the great room, the library, the dining room-rooms where the finish detail is just so elaborate with crown molding, bed molding, custom-milled molding and dentil moldings that we made on the side. If she wanted it, she got it."
The depth and scope of those details were made known in weekly job-site meetings-every Wednesday-some of which ran upward of eight hours.
"I was the GC [general contractor] all the way from cutting the trees until they stuck the key in the door," Blackey says with a laugh. "The Goulds are just great people. There were numerous times when they'd prepare lunch for everyone on the job site. Dick would cook all morning making brisket and barbecue-they are from Texas, after all-and Nancy would bring us homemade cakes and pies. I can't tell you how they displayed endless gratitude and appreciation for those who worked on this project."
The Goulds may be even more grateful today, especially since their home is now decked out for the holiday season.
"My mother was German, and we always had huge Christmases at our house," Nancy explains. "So when I had my gallery in Houston, we were excited to decorate for Christmas. Shortly after the Bicentennial, I began working with a small nucleus of craftsmen who were starting to reproduce many types of American decorative art and I asked these brilliant carvers and potters if they'd ever created a reindeer or a Santa. They said, 'Let's give it a go.'
"What they came back with weren't Coca-Cola Santas," she says. "They were creating Norwegian Santas and Saint Nicholas, England's Father Christmas, German Belsnickles [Santa clad in fur] and gifts of all kinds. At one time, we had as many as 1,200 craftsmen who made pieces for us. Eventually, Christmas got so huge for us that it overshadowed the furniture in the gallery. The wonderful things created by these talented artists would be so packed in the store that customers couldn't even move at our Christmas opening."
Nancy's solution? Christmas in July.
"It was perfect," she says. "Because it wasn't their busy season, we could have the craftspeople come to the store, so the customers could actually meet the artists who created the pieces they were buying. Although we did have chalkware pieces that were $35 or $40, we had others that were hand-carved for thousands of dollars each, and they were all flying out of the store."
Alas, when Nancy decided to close her shop and move to New Hampshire, she sold off her inventory, but you wouldn't know it when you see her new home decorated for the holidays.
"I still have the things that people made for me personally," she says with a smile. "And I don't know how many thousands of ornaments we have collected, but what I do know is that the big tree in the middle of the room goes up first, and it takes Dick the whole day to put the lights on and he's grumbling on the ladder the whole time. Then we start the next day with the happier task of hanging ornaments and then..."
And then the Goulds' home is transformed into the magic place they hoped it would be, and-their comical disagreements notwithstanding-they both agree they find a little bit of magic there every day of the year.
"Normally most people have a favorite room in their home, and we did at our previous home in Sugar Hill," Dick says. "It was this little library no more than twelve by fourteen feet, and we'd cram in there with all of our guests, and it was the absolute antithesis of this house. Having said that, there's something about this house-and I think it speaks to the effort that Nancy put into it-where every room in the house is warm and inviting."
As are the hosts, who happily traded Houston for New Hampshire.