Originally from Waterville, Ohio, John Simpson spent his career working as a marketing executive in the energy sector. “I always wanted to live near the water,” says John, “so, when it came time to retire, finding a place on the water was a priority.” During his nearly thirty-seven years with Marathon Oil, his career took him to various places, eventually landing a position in Houston. It was while living in Houston that he met his wife Shelley, a Tyler native. “We met in a Bible study class at Second Baptist and volunteered together at the Star of Hope Homeless Shelter,” Shelley recalls. Her career was divided between corporate (Manpower) and non-profit (Yellowstone Academy) work during her twenty-three years in Houston. “We’ve been married for eighteen years.”
While living in Houston, the couple frequently came to East Texas to visit Shelley’s family. “It was during one of those trips that we saw a billboard advertising lots on Lake Palestine. As we crossed over the bridge on Highway 155, we talked about investigating the Brown’s Landing subdivision,” John remembers. “Long story short, we found a piece of land on the waterfront that we liked. We bought it in 2014, thinking that we would build a home there one day.” It was during the time frame from 2015-2016 that many of the energy companies in Houston were having layoffs. “I got caught in the third round of layoffs at Marathon,” John says. “That spurred our plans to start building on our land.”
For three years, the Simpsons attended the Tyler Area Builders Association Parade of Homes™ to get ideas for the home they wanted and to meet builders in the area. John remembers the day he met Eddie Clark in 2016, “On the last weekend of the Parade—we were hot and tired, near the end of the day—there was a house built by Eddie Clark we wanted to see. Eddie was sitting at the table taking tickets when we arrived. Bear in mind, we had been through a lot of homes, but when we walked in, it immediately hit us that this house was 90% of what we were looking for. We struck up a conversation with Eddie and told him we had a waterfront lot in Brown’s Landing. He told me to shoot him the dimensions of the lot and he could show us what might be possible. The following January I called Eddie. That’s how we started. Eddie introduced us to Ryan Phillips, a designer he works with who asked a million questions about our lifestyle and how we spent our time. At that first meeting I was convinced that Ryan was the designer we needed.” At Eddie’s suggestion, the boat house was built first, which gave more time to work with Phillips on the design of the house.
Many of the suggestions Eddie made during the construction phase either improved on the design or simply helped save money on the project. “I’ll give you a couple of examples. One was to eliminate the upstairs sitting porch we had planned. Eddie said that most people never used it if they had a goodsized patio downstairs. It made sense and allowed more space for my upstairs man cave. Another was during the framing process. Eddie asked where we wanted the microwave, explaining that most clients installed it in the center island. We wanted it at eye level. He suggested getting rid of the door to the pantry, opening up that space in the kitchen, and having the microwave in that area. Again, it was a suggestion that made sense and accomplished another goal of ours, which was having more open spaces in the home.
Shelley’s study overlooks the lake. Two more windows were planned for that room, but the view would have been of the neighbor’s pool equipment. Eddie pointed out that it was not necessary because she already had such a great view of the lake. Closing in that wall would eliminate noise coming from the pool equipment and save the expense of two additional windows. “That’s why we liked working with Eddie. He took time to get to know us and he understands how we want to live. After living here for nearly a year, we are really glad we took his suggestions because he was right, we are much happier with the changes he suggested,” Shelley says. Throughout the house are touches that give the home more character and improve traffic flow from one area to another. For instance, architectural details throughout the house such as wide baseboards and crown molding. Nearly every room has a view of the lake and the windows let in natural light throughout. Cove lighting also helps keep the home bright and cheerful after dark. “The well-thought-out design means no space is wasted. Cabinets in the laundry room, closets, the butler’s pantry and kitchen provide extra storage space.”
“With the exception of the guest bedrooms, we use every room in the house every day,” says John. “Instead of many rooms, we opted for larger rooms. The open floor plan makes the house more practical for daily living. As we make new friends, this house will be perfect for entertaining.” The Simpsons appreciated how Eddie planned a week into the schedule for meeting with many of the subcontractors and suppliers before the construction started. That way, they were able to decide in advance about what type flooring they wanted, colors, hardware, doors, windows and fixtures. “We had a wish list and Eddie gave us a quote based on that,” Shelley explains, “and then he also gave a second quote with deviations from our list to give us options based on pricing.”
The house includes a master bedroom, two guest rooms and two studies (hers is downstairs and his is upstairs). Each bedroom and each study have a walk-in closet (his includes a bath). There is also a half bath and powder room off the kitchen. The floor plan transitions from one area of the house to another with a natural flow. The public areas of the house are open, with windows that make the beauty of the outdoors an integral part of the lifestyle the Simpsons enjoy.
The master bedroom is designed for privacy and comfort. The high ceiling is mounted with a cove bordered by elegant woodwork. The cove lighting provides intimacy, augmented when necessary by recessed lighting to bathe the room in artificial light when natural light from outside is not available. The bathroom is designed for pampering and luxury. There is both a large walk-in shower, complete with seat and handheld sprayer, and an oversized bathtub. His and her vanities are practical and include plenty of storage space.
“This house was planned to be as maintenance-free as possible. We decided to install a metal roof because it should last fifty years. We have foam insulation in the attic area that eliminates noise from rain on the roof. The insulation and double-paned windows help conserve energy,” says John. Shelley adds, “The interior was planned to be timeless. Cheri Rome from Interiors by Cheri in Whitehouse was a big help to me. We chose things that will hopefully not appear dated fifteen years from now. The hardware, lighting and accessories are all chosen more for personal comfort and utility as opposed to making a showplace.”
The exterior of the house is brick, except for an upstairs dormer which is stucco. The small amount of trim is hardy board, the only thing that will eventually need repainting. Cast stone surrounds the entry, garage doors and windows. “There is not much that will ever deteriorate. It is built to last without a great deal of maintenance needed. When you are retired, you don’t want to worry about things like maintenance!
“We love the patio. It is a major entertaining area with a magnificent view of the lake,” Shelley says. They had automatic screens installed that allow use year-round. “Facing the east, it gives us a stunning view of the sunrise every morning. We frequently have our dinner on the patio,” says John. It has a complete outdoor kitchen for grilling and a table for dining. On the opposite end is a conversation area with a working fireplace, which is handy on cooler evenings. A flat screen television makes this a good place for watching sporting events with company. “This is the first time we ever attempted to build a house. We are extremely pleased with the work of the team Eddie Clark assembled to create our dream home on the lake.”