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In the Sticks

…with Laura Culpepper, AIA by Aaron Seward

From the outside, there is little to suggest that the two-story traditional house nestled among pine trees at the end of a county road in Nacogdoches is home to a thriving architectural practice. But there’s little to suggest it on the inside either. Knock on the door and chances are you’ll be greeted by Laura Culpepper, AIA, a gentle-mannered architect who, over the past decade plus, has plied her trade in this small East Texas town. “Thanks for driving out to the sticks,” she’ll say. If she doesn’t answer the door, it may be one of her six children – three boys and three girls – who range in age from 11 to 20. Or perhaps her husband: Robert Culpepper, a professor of international business at nearby Stephen F. Austin University. The predominantly domestic setting that greets one on the interior – complete with the kids making tuna fish sandwiches in the kitchen and playing with Mocha, a stray puppy-rescue from a local Starbucks – is broken only in Culpepper’s office, and then only slightly. The relatively small,

12-ft by 12-ft room, which is little more than an antechamber separating the living room from the master bedroom suite, is cozily appointed. The burgundy and ochre walls, hung with the Culpeppers’ many framed diplomas, surround a crowded bookshelf; a well-worn, striped reading chair, complete with ottoman; two desks – one crowded with rolls of drawings, the other supporting a computer – and a large-format plotter. There’s also an old Herman Miller desk chair with a crater in the black leather and yellow foam of the left armrest that’s a perfect fit for Culpepper’s elbow. “It was probably originally just a little break,” she says mildly. “But you know how kids like to pick at things once they start to come apart.” can be deceiving. Over the last several years, from her modest home office, Culpepper has managed to keep an average of six to seven projects in the air at once, working up to 70 hours per week and raising her family at the same time.

Appearances, of course,

9/10 2012

Texas Architect 93


Texas Architect Sept/Oct 2012: Design Awards