Breathtaking views of Mount Washington turned Texans into New Hampshirites
Written and produced by Doris Athineos
Photography by Jonny Valiant and Jospeh St. Pierre
Texans don’t scare easily, and that’s a good thing. Transplanted Houstonites Nancy and Dick Gould faced an uphill battle when they decided to erect a spectacular mountain retreat on a hilltop with sweeping panoramas of the Northeast’s tallest mountains—the Presidential Range of northern New Hampshire’s White Mountains. To take advantage of breathtaking vistas, builders blasted through bedrock, as well as created a three-quarter-mile-long winding driveway.
Now, the couple’s handsome home looks like the retreat of a colonial gentleman, but it functions like a sky-high weather observatory. “As morning clouds settle in the valley, we’re suddenly transported to what looks like a fjord,” says Dick, a real estate developer. The immensely welcoming, two-story beauty with its postcard views is securely nestled on rugged Beech Hill in Twin Mountain.
The Goulds enjoy sunsets from every seat (bathtub included) in the house. “The power of outside transforms the interior more than in any other house we’ve lived in,” explains Nancy, a crafty, antiques-loving bibliophile with an engaging smile and gentle Southern manner. “The southern sun in winter throws orange light on all the fabrics and case pieces and makes them bolder—impossible to ignore.”
It took three years to build what Nancy affectionately calls the “tree house.” The grand brick facade has Tudor echoes with a porte cochere out front, but the back and side wings are clad in more humble clapboard. A low fieldstone base runs a continuous course and visually pulls the parts together. Out back, a bluestone patio offers an inviting place to stargaze or sip iced tea. “There’s nothing else around—just the animals and birds, like red-tail hawks,” says Nancy. “From up here, you can get a close-up view of what’s real in the world. How a tree blossoms is a story in and of itself.”
Just as captivating are the man-made architectural details—from the angled roofline that flares at the end like a hat to the copper gutters that grow more beautiful with age.
Acute observers of the animal kingdom, Nancy and Dick are still in awe of tracks in the snow (whether bear, turkey, or moose), purple mountains wreathed in clouds, and vivid fall foliage. After four years of full-time mountain living, the born-and-bred Texans (with a twang to prove it) ask themselves only one question: “Why did we wait so long?” laughs Dick, only half joking.
With the help of architects Rob Turpin and Sonya Misiaszek as well as builder Dale Blackley, the house the Goulds built is both stylish and substantial. Inside are paneled walls painted dark slate green, an entry graced with a hand-forged iron chandelier, and, flowing to either side, hallways lined floor-to-ceiling with books. “To me, the secret to making a house look lived in is lighting fixtures,” says Nancy, who lassoed three matching colonial-style chandeliers in a single lot at a Houston auction.
The hallways reveal one of Nancy’s most serious collecting passions—modern first-edition books. (John Steinbeck is her favorite author and Travels with Charley her favorite book.)
She, however, has a roaming eye and is loyal to no one author, collection, or craft. “I dabble in stuff,” says the gifted amateur, who has tried her hand at rug hooking, crocheting, needleworking, felting, scissor-cutting (scherenschnitte), and sewing, among other crafts.
Of course, she has interior motivation. “I love to collect, and I love to display,” enthuses Nancy, who has accumulated Black Forest carvings, pyrography (designs burned into wood), French ivory, vintage tape measures, porcelain Limoges boxes, turkey platters and plates, theorem paintings, cookbooks (“recipes are a window into how people lived”), copper-luster china, and English enamel Battersea boxes, to name a few. But it’s colonial-style crafts made by skilled artisans that put a gleam in her green eyes.
In fact, Nancy made a career out of Early American-style crafts in Houston, where she founded the popular shop Gallery Americana. There she sold handmade furniture by American furniture makers Eldred Wheeler, Gregg E. Perry, Jack McGuire, and David T. Smith, among others, as well as folk art—pottery, basketry, metalwork, and textiles. Most of the shop’s top talent lived in New England, which is how the Goulds ended up heading north.
“At first I wasn’t convinced about reproductions,” admits Nancy, “which shows you how ignorant I was on the subject. Dick got me to look at them 30 years ago, but now I’m absolutely convinced of their worth and usefulness, especially as the antiques we want to live with become less available.” So shoppers wouldn’t be confused, she never mixed period antiques with reproductions.
But at home, Nancy seamlessly blends old and new. She takes the hard edge off new construction with a sponge-painted fireplace overmantel that duplicates the look of smoke. “Historically, smoke graining was done with the smoke from a lighted candle,” explains Nancy, who adds that no interior is complete without books. “We only use old books in the dining room because it adds softness while we’re eating,” she says. Two heart-and-crown banister-back chairs that sit at the dining room table were made by superstar cabinetmaker Allan Breed of York, Maine.
The Goulds recently discovered the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, a group of talented artisans who band together to offer their expertly crafted original designs. “The craftsmen have an annual auction every September, and we’ve hosted them here,” says Dick, who is obviously pleased to stumble upon a homegrown furniture movement. “Ninety-five percent of the people who worked on this house live north of the [Franconia] Notch,” he says. “They understand it isn’t how fast one works but how well.”
Architects: Robert Turpin and Sonya Misiaszek, Misiaszek Turpin Architecture & Planning, One Mill Plaza, Laconia, NH 03246; 603/527-1617, misiazszekturpin.com.
Builder: Dan Blackey, Twin Oaks Construction, 30 Crescent St., Plymouth, NH 03264; 603/536-1051, twinoaksconstruction.com.
Drapery and upholstery workroom: Lord’s of Littleton, 603/444-5336.