This home for a family of four is a hybrid of Texas vernacular, mixed with the raw, simple, and rugged design-sensibility of the family's Texas, Colorado, and Nordic roots. It is unique to the neighborhood by striving to be historically contextual in its scale and style, with a warm and modern livability, built to last by wearing its materials like armor.
The 4900sf home sits on 1.5 acres with a tree-framed view of downtown Austin. The property is one of the oldest homesteads in Rollingwood, a tiny city surrounded by Austin, with the original home like several modern 1940s homes built in that neighborhood, notable for linear floor plans, steel corner windows, and long walls of limestone. The original home was extensively remodeled by the second owners to hide the 1940s style, but a single shed roof structure remained at the back which helped inform the new design after the remodeled home was carefully recycled during its demolition.
The home is one block from Zilker Park, a 350 acre urban park with numerous historic structures, creeks, and a surrounding greenbelt. The site sits atop an escarpment that rises abruptly from the Colorado River. The owners wished to maintain the park-like setting of the home and create a new type of modern, yet enduring, contextual house for that setting. The parking area was pushed down and away from the house so that one leaves their car behind and rises up into the lawn with its lap pool edged by a small forest of trees. Similarly, the garage and screened porch are detached so that going outside becomes part of the outdoor experience, and also reduces the size and darkening of the main home. The structures are bundled to one side of the lot, leaving most of the landscape natural.
The entrance has a strong central axis that allows you to see all the way through the home to the back, parceling off the public spaces from the private. The 7ft. wide entrance was revived, along with the long extended awning, using stone massing to create an entry threshold on the interior. The narrow side of the home faces the street to reduce the scale and maximize privacy without requiring window shades, while the linear house threads itself between the pecan, elms and oak trees, roughly following the footprint of the original home and facing the landscape and view. The second floor bundles itself up and back, clad in burn & brush shou sugi ban to also recede in scale. The shou sugi ban was milled locally by Delta Millworks, and is similar to the black appearance of Scandinavian techniques that wipe tar onto wood as a preservative. The 12in. limestone blocks are intended to appear hand-stacked and unchiseled so that the natural clefting gives a buttery texture to the long lines.
The durable, raw materials are carried from the outside to the interior. The long stone exterior wall travels through the main living spaces of the home. Wood exterior wraps to the interior as if spaces are carved out or built around solid elements. Part of the initial concept was a wood-clad “utility block” that several rooms pivot around, giving a sense that one is still circulating in a space that feels like outside. Beetle-kill pine (Delta Millworks) was selected for the cladding material as the family had become very familiar with the devastation wrought by the beetle in the Rocky Mountains. Finding a way to bring beauty and memory to that devastation was comforting, and seeing the bore holes in the wood captured the imperfect character. The color variation in the beetle-kill pine brought harmony to several other wood species used. Walnut was chosen for the Library, Office, and Powder rooms and given a dead-flat finish to keep the raw, unvarnished spirit consistent within the formal beauty of walnut. Floors are dry, white European oak (Moncer Flooring); hemlock ceiling; and stained Douglas Fir true structural timbers. Windows are a mix of Rehme steel and Loewen wood. The four core spaces: living, dining, kitchen and library are all easily a part of the same space rather than separate rooms, and the family finds that they spend more time together, as well as feeling connected to the outdoors.
The home utilizes in-ground rain water collection in tandem with an existing well, in addition to solar panels covering the roof structure.
Design collaboration with Ryan Street Architects, Construction Documents McKinney/York Architects
Images 1-20 © Casey Dunn
Deep within the San Juan Mountains , tucked away in the tiny town of Telluride, sits an unassuming lot covered in 26 giant cottonwoods, one block from the San Juan River. The trees frame views in every direction - towards Tomboy Basin, Ingram Falls with Black Bear Pass, Bear Creek, and the ski area. The corner lot provides alley access for the garage, lifting the Master Bedroom above to allow axial views across the lawn to Ingram Falls, and up Bear Creek. The back of the home spills into a shared wetlands and serves as the quiet, private backdrop for the bedroom block, crafted of stone from another era. The front of the home is public and modern, housing kitchen, dining and living spaces on the second floor, with bunk room and gameroom on the ground level. A modern stair tower links the old and new with an industrial shaft vaguely reminiscent of the mining structures that first gave character to the town. Artist Bryce Pettit's custom sculpture sends a drift of Monarch butterflies up the stairs. Decks flank the home, extending living spaces into the landscape, tucked under tree canopies, snowfall and frantic hummingbirds, depending on the time of year.
Collaboration with Sante Architects
Exterior Image © Koko Waller
Home to a pair of bike racers looking to have a summer escape to race and train, this 1950's home saw many remodels over the decades, each lacking consistency and longevity. The new owners sought to maintain the quirky, delightful character of this remote home on two acres in the Animas River Valley that backed to BLM land, and give new life to its warm and comfortable spirit. Working over the years so that they could still live in it and replenish their budget, they took the home down to stud, but kept the footprint, only popping up or out. Because the area is in the high desert of Southwestern Colorado, the home took cues from both adobe and timberframe structures already inherent in its existing form. Quickly the couple became a family of four and the home became a hub for mountain adventures.
Images © Chris Giles
This small company's first office was a shared dining table in the home of one of the founders. After making $17 in profit on their first day, they eventually upgraded to Whole Foods Market World Headquarters building as it was being newly constructed in downtown Austin. The first 5000sf phase was a raw finish-out to house a variety of office types that allowed for frequent impromptu meetings and quick access to writeable surfaces that also served as translucent or transparent dividers. It gave both privacy and function in an otherwise open room, and allowed the natural light to filter deep into the space. The current recommendations for office design post-COVID are for exactly these kinds of spaces: smaller; divided; writable/cleanable surfaces; separated without feeling isolated; functional divisions for storage of necessary materials/references to minimize circulation. The second phase added an additional 5000sf with even more flexibility to modify spaces to allow a small, private space to become open and accommodating to the entire office staff. In spite of the expansion, the two original founders opted to continue to share an office space rather than take large private offices of their own. They did, however, get their own desks.
Images © Frank Curry
Copyright © 2019 Alex Robinette, Architect - All Rights Reserved.