INCREDIBLE: A retired Houston man built a 20,000 sq. ft. home for his entire family, including friends, to live together so they can spend more time together.“As much as people say ‘oh that's so nice of you to do this for your sisters.’ They have no idea the joy I get."STORY: fox26houston.com/270559661-story
Posted by FOX 26 Houston on Thursday, July 27, 2017
You may not often get to spend time with your extended family, but a Houston man fixed this issue for himself by pouring his funds into building a sprawling 20,000-square-foot estate for himself, his three sisters and their families.
“I built this house for not just my immediate family but for my extended family, including friends,” Reggie Van Lee told local station Fox 26.
Lee, a former performer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, just retired as an executive vice president of a Houston consulting firm, according to the station. He moved out of his home in nearby River Oaks after building the sprawling estate for his relatives.
Equipped with a hair salon for his sisters and swimming pool for the grandkids, Van Lee said he built the home so that his family could continue making memories together. Each family member has their own separate “apartment” that includes two bedrooms (master and guest room), two bathrooms, a living room, kitchen and space for a washer and dryer.
The mansion’s main kitchen was designed by Van Lee’s sister TJ.
“It’s fun,” Mark Szafarz, Van Lee’s brother-in-law, told Fox 26. “We each have our own spaces. So, we get to see each other as much as we want.”
Carolyn Lee Conner, Van Lee’s other sister, said her favorite room is a small church built inside the home. This wing of the mansion also features a decorated corridor resembling that of an upscale apartment hallway leading to private living quarters, according to the news station. In the master suite in another wing of the home, there are pictures of Van Lee with Rosa Parks, former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The retired executive, who formerly worked for the Clinton Campaign, said he was inspired to construct the family’s estate after the late Caroline Kennedy invited him to the Kennedy Compound.
“And in 1976, this little Black boy from Sunnyside said I’d like to have a family compound someday,” Van Lee explained.
He went on to note that everyone in the home does their part by contributing money for food, housekeeping, groundskeeping, utilities and other expenses. Now, Van Lee said he hopes to encourage other families to follow the family-compound model, even if it’s on a smaller scale.
“I think if we did more of that, we would have more happiness in the world and a lot less tension,” he said.