About Carey Scasserra

Carey Scasserra is a designer, artist and creative director. Carey was an Associate Project Designer for Gensler Architecture, Design & Planning Worldwide in Washington, D.C., where she worked with global lifestyle, and hospitality brands in driving design innovation. She was also a studio professor at George Washington University, teaching candidates of Masters of Interior Architecture, Design Thinking and Trend Analysis. She holds a Bachelors degree from James Madison University and a Masters of Architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles. She loves writing Design Features for The Book The Woodlands because she gets to research and uncover local design stories that highlight and enrich the community.

Wedding Trends

Whether you want your occasion to be large or small, simple or elaborate, traditional or contemporary, creating a personalized wedding experience for your guests will leave a lasting impression. Now more than ever, couples are spending their time and money on creating surprising, memorable, and Instagram worthy moments. Making sure guests leave with just as much elation as the couple in love is now the biggest wedding trend of all. We spoke with several wedding- and party-planning experts around The Woodlands to get the insider scoop on what fun new ideas couples have been seeking out in entertainment, food, decor and style.

Entertainment

Nestled inconspicuously amongst 17 wooded acres just north of The Woodlands is the Spanish meets English Madera Estates. Ian Ramirez, who runs the family owned and operated wedding estate, graciously walked us around, the very morning they happened to be hosting a wedding showcase. The lush property was built by his family as an all-inclusive wedding venue and was the perfect backdrop for showcasing several Houston area wedding vendors. Madera hosts weddings year-round, as it has the capability to provide both indoor and outdoor events.

As soon as we walked through the property, we noticed an impressive, 17-foot, custom stone fireplace. Ian explained they had designed it based off a 1930s postcard from Central Mexico. The fireplace provides the perfect backdrop for nuptials as well as entertainment. Further back on the property, he showed us a large teepee adorned with fresh flowers. Unique items like these are a huge draw for the wedding planners of today.

Wedding entertainment is traditionally rooted in creating a romantic backdrop for the celebratory dances and lively bands, whose focus is to get the party started. While the wedding band isn’t going anywhere, Ian, a professionally trained opera singer himself, says, “Entertainment is no longer limited to one band or a DJ after dinner. It tends to be a continuous stream of unexpected entertainers.” He has hosted sketch artists, opera singers, magicians and astrologers—just to name a few.

He said there is also a big call for casual entertaining before or after the reception. Lawn games, family entertaining areas and al fresco lighting, within an overall chill garden party, has made its way in addition to or in place of the more formal reception. When entertaining your guests throughout the big day it seems there are no longer any rules; to guarantee a wow factor and a smile, the less expected, the better.

Food as Theatre

When it comes time for choosing the meal, less emphasis is being placed on the seated option. The formality of the event is still there, but couples are choosing theatrical food stations with non-traditional cuisine that speaks specifically to the couple’s journey. Couples are requesting smaller plates and adding courses. Jennifer Coyle, an event planner and owner of Fete, says she gets requests for “sushi bars, build your own slider bars and taco bars.” In other words, “taking street food and making it gourmet.” At Madera Estates we saw a signature, vintage popcorn cart strategically placed adjacent to the bar. Offering guests make-your-own food and drink stations, like coffee bars, mimosa bars and prosecco bars, seems to be part of enhancing the experience. “Couples are opting out of party favors and choosing snacks and late night bites so guests can have more fun in the moment,” says Coyle. Smaller bites throughout the event allows the couple to get creative and have fun with a lighthearted menu. Annemarie McKay, the Private Events Director at The Woodlands Country Club, said she doesn’t see this trend going anywhere. “Donuts were the big stars last year, but pretzels seem to really be making their way into the spot light,” Mckay says. “In this particular area, you are seeing couples add their personalities here. A bride and groom may share the love for brunch food and while it might not be ‘traditional’ to serve a meal of chicken and waffles to the guest for a dinner entrée, you are seeing them embrace the idea of serving mini chicken and waffles for a late night bite instead.”

Flower Power

Trendy color palettes come and go, but lately we are seeing couples more interested in creating an overall personalized vibe. We added florists to the list of vendors who, in general, are being tasked with creating more moments that add to the overall guest experience. Based out of her boutique Tomball storefront, Maggie Baily is the owner at Bramble and Bee and a wedding and special events florist. Maggie says, “We are getting a lot of requests for wow factor moments. Our clients would rather forgo the floral centerpieces and instead focus our energy on creating large photographable moments.” Think big, personalized floral walls that act as backdrops for the cakes, place cards, or photobooths. “Brides with a limited budget can now focus on one or more statement centerpieces in the middle of the room, have flowers draping down length of the table, or even have an epic floral arch.” Anne McKay at The Woodlands Country Club also uses budget-friendly balloons to make an impact with flower power. “Not just regular balloons, but the very large, big balloons. People are using them as backdrops for photo areas, ballroom drops and even small, custom-design elements.” Bridal bouquets are trending towards understated and often are compiled using local flowers. Prince Harry hand-picked Meghan Markle’s bouquet from their private garden, escalating the trend to use meaningful blooms to honor loved ones or create a new family tradition.

Something Borrowed

The Royal Wedding has come and gone, but Meghan Markle made a lasting impression last spring with her simple and understated Givenchy wedding gown. Wedding dress minimalism was a huge trend seen during the 2019 Bridal Fashion Week. Simple, modern shapes with very little adornment made their way through bridal gowns and bridal accessories. On the runways, we saw classic styles in light shades of subtle silver and lavender, accessorized with removable shawls and capes. Brides want to show their unique individuality, expressed by way of subtle color tones or stylish accessories like a capelet. As trends come and go, jewelry actually lasts a lifetime. John Robichau is an owner of Robichau’s Jewelry, a family-owned-and-operated jewelry store that has been an institution of The Woodlands for over 30 years. We are not surprised when John says couples are still most interested in classic and timeless jewelry. He echoes the minimalism trend and says he is seeing couples now mix old and new materials. Brides and grooms are weaving the story of their life together with meaningful accessories, such as layered necklaces that are engravable for future children.

Photography Courtesy Derrick Bryant Photography

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are culinary adventures that offer shoppers a chance to see, touch, taste, and learn about the variety of local, farm-fresh foods and goods produced around their region. Not limited to produce, the markets around The Woodlands and its surrounding areas also offer specialty foods and handmade crafts—perfect for gift buying season. Stop by one of the weekly markets in our area for the opportunity to mingle with the farmers who love to give tips on how to prepare their products. They all have a simple mantra: “Food tastes better when you see who grows it.” With samples galore, you can eat, drink and shop your way through the markets alongside families and other local community members.

The farmers market on Tamina Road was founded in 2016 and boasts 25–40 high-quality vendors consisting of local farmers and artisans. Located in the Magnolia area, in front of a 15-acre tree farm, all items sold at the market are handmade, handcrafted or homegrown within local boundaries. Owner and operator Jennifer Lobel founded the market to help drive business to the adjacent Culinary Courtyard, which is home to several brick-and-mortar, food-centric businesses. The market has far exceeded her expectations and has quickly grown to become a foodie destination, often acting as a catalyst for small businesses to expand right next door into the adjacent Culinary Courtyard.

The Courtyard is home to businesses like Victory Pie Co., a sweet and savory pie café that supports veterans—as well as the widows and orphans of veterans—with a portion of all profits from their fresh, handmade artisan pies. You can order online as well as pre-order holiday pies. While you are there, stop by The Toffee Cellar for some hostess gifts like cupcakes or beautifully wrapped toffee. Next door you will find a large variety of English specialty culinary in The British Depot. You can also check out the Chipper, a dine-in picnic table whose fish and chips are not to be missed. Top off your avocado toast with a bag of microgreens from Texas Eco Farms’ USDA-certified, naturally grown produce. If you’re craving more sweets, swing by Bamagirls and enjoy some lemon sugar cookies made with ingredients from other market shops including Red Chicken Ranch eggs, which also sells at Victory Pie Company during the week. Finally, not far away is the newest crowd-pleasing addition, Brick & Brews pizza, serves craft beer and wood-oven pizza using local ingredients.

You can find out who will be at the market each week by connecting on social media. To top it off, each week the market offers a signature, complimentary adult beverage, themed gift basket drawings and live music.

One of the most well-known farmers markets in The Woodlands is located in Grogan’s Mill shopping center and run by the Grogan’s Mill Village Association. This friendly market is open every Saturday from 8 to noon, and it was established in 2008 as a way to connect and give profits back to the community through college scholarships, the CISD school system, Good Citizen Awards and more. This market has more than 50 vendors ranging from artisan items to local produce. It also offers community involvement opportunities including learning CPR or hosting food drives for the Interfaith Food Pantry. Shopping for unique gifts is easy at The Woodlands Farmers market because you can find items like handmade children’s dresses at Petunia’s Bubbles or homemade pet treats at K9 Café. Mudworks Studio has you covered with hand-thrown pottery and A.S. Is Designs has handmade and portable wooden cornhole sets.

Enjoy a refreshing, all-natural iced KicPOP while learning about Houston Winery, a micro-winery downtown primarily featuring Texas grapes in its wine. Stop by and sample some cold-pressed Just Made juice while picking up seasonal local produce for your holiday meal from Atkinson Farms or Houston Organic Farms. If tasting your way through the market samples isn’t enough, there are rotating food trucks and live entertainment. Luckily, this market has a weekly newsletter sent out Fridays so you can map out your visit ahead of time.

The Woodlands is an excellent place to discover new experiences and foods without straying too far from home. Make an effort to stop in at one or both of these farmers markets, and you’ll be richly rewarded with sights, sounds, smells and tastes from near and far. Spice up your life—literally.

 

Holiday Tables

Entertaining over the holidays is a wonderful opportunity to get your creative groove on. Creating a thoughtful, unique and festive environment helps your guests get into the holiday spirit. We went with Darcy Bass, Interior Designer and owner of Bass Interiors, to get some tips and tricks on making your table reflect that magical seasonal ambiance. The perfect place for curating that holiday charm is Picket Fences, a local home decor store based in The Woodlands that sells beautifully curated home items with endless inspiration. The store is notorious for its holiday-themed home décor and has been favorite of The Woodlands since 2001. From place settings to place cards, simple touches ensure your holiday table looks as inviting as the food on it. We’ve created a selection of perfect holiday looks for you to choose from to match your home’s unique atmosphere this upcoming holiday season.

Naturally Chic

Inspired by the natural beauty of The Woodlands, this nontraditional look can be easily put together using ideas right from your own backyard. For a rustic yet refined table setting, start by layering neutral textures as a backdrop. Tablecloths, runners, napkins and plates layered in diverse but neutral tones will add depth and interest to the table. We also found large woodgrain chargers to add warmth and fall fun, contrasting them with gold-dotted, stemless wine glasses and jewel-toned water glasses.

Accents inspired by The Woodlands, like pinecones and locally sourced miniature cacti, come together to create artfully arranged centerpieces that won’t break the bank. In this case we clipped some olive branches to top off a creative burlap name card. Darcy Bass says that using found objects like wooden beads can help personalize the table and set the mood. She also likes to pull in simple yet impactful pieces such as the Thankful sign, which presents a sweet gesture to the guests.

Classically Formal

You don’t necessarily have to own holiday china to create a formal place setting. Pairing versatile white china with monochromatic textures provides the perfect canvas for a classic table. “Pull out the formal crystal glassware and family heirlooms. You can mix and match vintage items with new ones, creating a sense of character and history,” says Bass. According to Darcy, mixing metals is perfectly okay and part of the fun; using metallic accessories as accents will elevate the setting to a more formal look and feel. Here we paired gold-beaded chargers with silver candles and brought our own antique silverware.

Create a more modern, approachable look by using fringed pom pom placemats and napkins rather than a formal tablecloth. You can also elevate your tablescape in a minimal yet elegant way by making up your centerpiece from monochromatic flowers and seasonal greenery; we bought white roses and placed them in an antique crystal vase, setting them beside a winter pine garland. Lastly, top off the look by accessorizing with a favorite ornament or miniature wreath that can also double as a party favor.

Blue Whimsy

Picket Fences has a delightful abundance of whimsical, holiday-themed placemats, napkins, place cards and accessories, and adding these to any tablescape immediately elevates the look into holiday territory. If you have vintage china or everyday dishes that you love, but that are not necessarily traditional holiday colors, don’t hesitate to use them; they become unexpectedly seasonal when combined with fall fruit and seasonal greenery. Adding fresh seasonal fruit to the table is a simple addition to the look while staying within budget. When styling for her clients, Bass often ties the look together by pulling in holiday motifs through ribbon and ornamental accessories. Multicolored miniature velvet pumpkins added a seasonal touch while adding texture and whimsy. We also found whimsical notepads and paper placemats and decided that the paper goods would be a great addition to the blue plates. And with that, the table immediately became whimsical and seasonally appropriate.

Children’s Fun

Help your little ones get in on the festivities by creating a playful and stimulating children’s table. Encourage their creativity and imagination with brown paper kraft rolls, available at most big box stores, topped with mini buckets of crayons and art supplies. At Picket Fences, we found disposable plates embossed with thankful words of encouragement, and we paired them with beautiful—and disposable—wood cutlery. Sprinkle the table with delightful holiday treats and sweets, and it’s simply a wonderful table for the little ones.

Minding Your Modern Manners

Good manners provide us with structure in a world filled with unpredictability. We often think of manners and etiquette guides as a thing of the past, but today it is just as relevant even though the rules of the game are rapidly changing. Let’s face it  we live in a world where technology is here to stay, and we are more connected globally than ever. Different cultures have unique customs which makes it so important to teach our children how to show mutual respect through good manners. According to the Post family, the well-known authors of numerous etiquette guides, “Being considerate, respectful, and honest is more important than knowing which fork to use. Whether it’s a handshake or a fist bump, it’s the underlying sincerity and good intentions of the action that matter most.”

While we can’t keep up with the rapid pace of social media, we can certainly keep up with teaching our children the basics to help guide them through life’s sticky situations.

Jena McCrann and Madeline McCrann are two sisters-in-law who are Directors of The Woodlands Proper Chapter of National League of Junior Cotillions, a national etiquette course whose mission is: To act and learn to treat others with honor, dignity, and respect for better relationships with family, friends, and business associates later in life, and to learn and practice ballroom dance. They work with children who are in fifth through ninth grades to help teach them the tools to confidently navigate through some everyday situations. Below, we discussed some common modern day and traditional questions.

Q: We have mastered the elbow off the table and the napkin on the lap, now what do we do with cell phones at the dinner table? What are some basic cell phone etiquette rules that children can remember when eating at home or out with friends?

A: As soon as your party arrives, turn your phone on silent or vibrate. It’s tempting to keep checking it if it’s within view, so place your phone in your pocket or purse and never leave it on the table facing outward. Never play with your phone at the table. We also suggest that while in the home, do the same. It may seem obvious, but mom and dad should also follow these rules to teach children to respect family time just as much as friend time.

 

Should it be absolutely necessary to take a phone call at the table, say “excuse me” to the group that you are with, and take your phone call away from the table, either outside the restaurant or in a quiet hallway. Do not disturb other diners with a phone conversation.

 

Q: Today’s children are somewhat picky eaters, what do I tell my child if they are eating at a friend’s or relative’s house and they do not like their meal?

A: If you do not like what is being served, take a small portion but don’t find yourself with absolutely nothing on your plate. If you do, your host/hostess may be offended or say something to you about the empty plate and perhaps put you on the spot in an embarrassing situation.

 

Q: What if my child has allergies, how do we tell the host/hostess of these preferences?

A: We suggest letting your host/hostess know of any allergies and offer to bring a dish. Do not expect the meal to be catered to your specific needs so be kind and politely decline a dish if they forget. If you have a dietary preference, like low carb or dairy free, that is a different story. Peggy Post always says to make due with what is available if it is a large group; if it is a small gathering, then again, offer to make something so your host doesn’t feel offended or waste time making a meal you can’t eat.

 

Q: Is it ok to write a thank you note as an email or text?

A: Know your audience. If he/she commonly communicates through email or text and it is not a wedding or formal thank you, then it is ok. If your note is going to an older family member, perhaps they would prefer good old-fashioned paper and pen.
We think writing a letter and mailing it is best and a good habit to get into at a young age. Thank you notes should be at minimum 3 sentences long. Tell the person you are thanking why you love the gift and how you will use it.  If you are writing a thank you note from a party or overnight stay, tell the host/hostess something you particularly enjoyed about the event and how you hope to get together with them again soon. Again, thank you notes should be brief and to the point, and sometimes email enables people to create different paragraphs off subject, so send more than one email if you have more to write than a thank you.

 

Q: Speaking of email, what are some guidelines to follow when replying to emails?

A:  Respond as soon as possible to the email messages you receive, and change the subject line to the subject of your reply. If the other person has spent a long time writing the email, then respond with more than a one-liner response or it may look unappreciated. Never respond quickly to an email that upsets you. If you feel annoyed or angry, wait at least one day to reply.  When you receive a group message, don’t reply all unless your reply applies to the group.

 

Q: Many electronic games have children (and grown-ups!) looking down at their phones as they walk around playing – what are some back-to-the-basic rules for walking down the street or entering a person’s house?

A:  This is tricky – it is really never ok to walk down the street looking down. First of all, it’s not safe. We should all be aware of our surroundings at all times. We should also make eye contact and greet those walking down the streets. This gets back to the basic societal rules that keep us grounded. We need to acknowledge each other and help others when needed. Opening doors for others is something that will never go unappreciated.

While technology seems to be the way of the world, let’s not forget that a first impression can leave a lasting impression and a good ol’ handshake and eye contact speak volumes.

 

Want to wow your family? With the holidays approaching, here is a quick
reference guide for setting the table properly adopted from The Post Guide.

 

Article by: Carey Scasserra | Photography: Andrea Custer Photography

Architecture in The Woodlands

 

 

During the 1970s, Reverend Don Gebert, the first Executive Director of Interfaith of The Woodlands, literally knocked on every incoming resident’s door to help gather the necessary information to establish support services in The Woodlands. That information would also help religious leaders decide when they had enough people to start up a new congregation. Fast-forward and The Woodlands is now home to over 60 religious facilities and places of worship. There is a variety of religious architecture commonly found in newer communities, and they all serve a common purpose which is to express religious beliefs and aesthetic choices. They also are built within the constraints of economic capacity.  

 

An educational film produced in 1958 by the American Institute of Architects and designed for church building committees was titled A Place to Worship. It puts the building of more recent religious facilities into perspective and says, “Since the beginning of history, man has devoted his best creative ability to building his place for worship. In each period of his history, he has built his temple in the spirit of his time.” The Woodlands is fortunate there are so many wonderful options and different faiths found in the community. Here, we visited just four examples of very different religious building types and spaces. 

 

 

The Woodlands United Methodist Church 

 

As one drives through The Woodlands, it’s hard to miss The Woodlands United Methodist Church. The site was selected along Lake Woodlands to promote visibility and accessibility within The Woodlands community. Dr. Ed Robb was called by George Mitchell to be founding pastor of the church in 1978. Since then, it has become one of the fastest-growing churches in United Methodism with present membership exceeding 12,400 and an average worship attendance of 5,200. Architect Ted Lancaster of Lancaster & Associates credits the success of the design to his great relationship and collaboration with the committee and Robb who had a specific vision for a Mediterranean-style church. The site selection and orientation of the plan were decided in order to preserve the view of the church from the lake coming over the bridge from Lake Woodlands Drive. Ceremonial entrances and moments of contemplation are dispersed throughout the well-manicured campus that is also home to several other buildings offering different worship styles and an education center. The main cupola was designed to sit 115 feet up, on top of the sanctuary, and can be seen from the approach at Grogan’s Mill Road and is also now visible from the Hughes Landing mixed-use development. Stone wainscoting details around the base of the building were designed to provide an inviting sense of warmth and character. Fountains and arches lead you through the main building which was built in phases – the last of which was just completed, a worship chapel and expanded coffee shop and restaurant with a book store. The interior hosts a large variety of community activity throughout the week and was programmed around organizational strategies to accommodate both playing children and quiet adult worship. Open spaces feature warm green and brown tones to offer a gracious and welcoming environment. The main sanctuary has the capacity for 2,200, has built-in video projections and accommodates acoustical variety for both contemplative and larger-scale worship. Within the main building, there is also a smaller 300-seat worship chapel and a small prayer chapel. 

 

Congregation Beth Shalom 

As you enter the wooded property at Shadowbend Place off of Woodlands Parkway, you are greeted with two buildings set in a peaceful natural setting. Meditation gardens and an expansive outdoor leisure area surround the original structure. The original building, which houses the sanctuary, offices and education wing, was first purchased in 1998 and later renovated under former Rabbi James Brandt. Rabbi Brandt studied architecture and, therefore helped establish and set the tone for the “village square”  concept for which the layout of the sanctuary is modeled. 

 

As the congregation expanded throughout the years, the original building could no longer solely support the growing social services and large gatherings. According to the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, “Congregation Beth Shalom of The Woodlands addresses the diverse backgrounds of all its member families. The membership works to integrate Jewish values into daily life while interacting with the greater community to promote a relationship of common purpose and understanding.” The need for a larger, community-driven space was a natural progression for the congregation to plan and build. The stone clad social hall was built in 2005 with the help of Huffco, a design build firm, under the guidance of the dedicated members of the building committee and many fundraising campaigns. Rabbi Jan Brahms was hired in 2003 and strongly supported the capital campaign and helped realize the mission of the new building. The newer structure now houses the social hall, library, conference room, youth group lounge and kitchen. It was noted by the committee at the building dedication in 2004 that the process of fundraising and planning was just as memorable as the moment of the ribbon cutting. 

 

There is an abundance of holy art that finds its way throughout both buildings that sets the tone and unites the multi-purpose campus. Barbara Andes, the chair of the Art and Architecture Committee, helps curate all of the pieces that come mostly through the generosity of its members. When a congregation is so generous and willing to donate on so many aspects, that is when an Art and Architecture Committee is needed. “We all want decor and adornment that adds to our spiritual and emotional experiences that take place there, and many people have been willing to dig deep into their pockets when called upon to make that happen,” Andes shared. One donated area of work is inside the ark in the sanctuary where the Torahs are housed. Andes said, “We commissioned both a Torah cover and a curtain to close the ark. We commissioned all of the furniture on the Bimah, the raised area in the sanctuary.” Within the social hall, there is a full-scale mural painted by acclaimed artist Natalie Rottet from Houston. The mural depicts the Wailing Wall and Lions Gate, an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Art provides a backdrop for
High Holy Day services, social gatherings, and meetings. “The sanctuary’s stained glass windows which symbolically represent kedush, which means holy, were named and conceived with the help of Rabbi Brahms,” Andes shared. 

 

Clearly, Congregation Beth Shalom has come a long way from when it first began as a small gathering space to now providing an enriching educational experience for its members and visitors alike.  

 

The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church 

“A church building speaks. What it will say to the community and the world depends upon the studies and the conclusions of the building committee. The edifice may well say less, but it can say no more than the builders believe.”  -Edward S. Frey in This Before Architecture 

 

The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church resides unimposingly on a natural wooded site tucked in the middle of The Woodlands. The parish first worshiped in their multi-purpose building, which is now their Christian Education building, prior to the construction of their new building and sanctuary. The first worship in the new sanctuary took place in December 1996 and was initiated by a memorable sermon given by Rev. Charles Hendricks visually walking the congregation through their new space. His sermon can be found in the book The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church: A Twenty-Five Year History of Ministry and Mission, written by Reverend Hendricks and Sally Lichtenwalter that was released in September 2016. Co-author and original founding member of the church, Lichtenwalter recalls the experience, “The vision for the architecture of the church was first carefully examined by the building expansion committee and then thoughtfully executed by the architects Merriman/Holt of Houston. Expressing the Presbyterian faith through form, their aim would be to reflect both Christ’s presence and the community formed by Him  in the architecture of our sanctuary. We wish to reflect both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross, the central Christian symbol.”  

 

It is impossible not to acknowledge the success of their vision and the resulting feeling of inclusion reflected in every detail of the building. As one enters the wooded campus, a prayer garden, in memory of Keith Lichtenwalter, leads you to an exterior coffee bar, which was intended to encourage social contact before and after a service. As you pass through the Narthex, you enter the large but intimate fan-shaped sanctuary that comfortably accommodates up to 700 seats. Views to the front are preserved by the slight slope down all while creating ample room for children and elderly to have accessibility, flexibility and freedom of movement. Flexible chancel furniture creates a multi-purpose community space when needed. An abundance of windows are strategically placed to reflect the connection to the indoor and outdoor spaces while allowing natural light to fill the space. As noted in Hendricks sermon, “They allow us to see out into the world, even as we worship.” The light diffuses through the colorful stained glass that centers the sanctuary through a gesture symbolic of the creation.  

 

StoneBridge Church 

StoneBridge is one of the most modern congregations in The Woodlands. Ted Lancaster of Lancaster & Associates also built the 51,000 square feet facility. He again cites that his working relationship with the client added to the success of the design. Lancaster shared, “Considerable credit must be given to Becky Canterbury, the children’s minister, who was a practicing architect prior to becoming a permanent member of the church staff. Becky was a great visionary, and much of the playfulness of the architecture can be attributed to her input.”  

Prior to the new building that was completed in 2006, StoneBridge met at The Woodlands High School. The relaxed atmosphere the church provides is reflected in the contemporary design of the building that was modeled after the idea of a modern mall. Lancaster notes, “The church staff wanted a contemporary design that reflected honesty, transparency, and warmth.” These traits were achieved with the use of natural materials, building forms that were indicative of the use of space they housed, exposed structural and mechanical elements, and the creative use of color and natural light. “As a result, the interior of the building has a very relaxed and comfortable atmosphere, being unconstrained by symmetry, order or formality. I think this kind of atmosphere is attractive to younger families,” shared Lancaster. The 50-acre campus is on a long, rectangular site that can be accessed off of Research Forest Drive and Branch Crossing Drive. The site includes an existing pond, and most of the windows face east with views into existing woods. Exterior materials are metal and wood and shy away from traditional ideas of what church architecture looks like. Entering the church, you are greeted by exposed structural and mechanical elements that are intended to provide visual interest and stimulation. Unlike a traditional church, the space is fairly open and houses large common areas. The lobby and foyer areas are somewhat indefinable, incorporating variations in shape, color, materials and lighting. The children’s classrooms are more spacious than usual. In the middle of the large common space, there is a massive stone fireplace which provides an earthy feel contrasted by the neon art that is dispersed throughout the facility.   

Article by: Carey Scasserra | Photography: Derrick Bryant