Outstanding teamwork between architect, builder, designer and landscaper turned a sad and sorry ‘70s-style Texan house into a luxurious home worthy of its incomparable location
When you consider the combination of this sublime setting and the lively, arty culture of the hip city of Austin, Texas, where the home is located, you have to wonder why one of these owners was reluctant to leave California. Especially as she is an artist herself, pottery and sculpture being her media, and the home sits across from Laguna Gloria Art Museum, an important element of Austin’s rich art scene.
Empty-nesters with two adult daughters, the Californian transplants needed to move to the Texan capital for work. While they adored this home’s location, only 10 minutes from downtown, its ‘70s-style architecture and decor left much to be desired. It also had a few quirks that needed to be addressed, such as the fact that the building stood closer to the water than is actually permitted by local ordinances.
A knockdown-rebuild then? Not at all. The owners wanted to preserve the house but modernise it to make it more liveable, more private and the epitome of casual lakeside living, taking full advantage of its direct access to the water. A good dose of informal luxury was on the agenda as well.
To give an idea of its tragic former incarnation, the exterior was battleship-grey painted wood with red trim; the inside was thickly textured, sponged bronze-coloured wall board, and it was somewhat dark with too many interior walls. So there were quite a few challenges to meet in the extensive works undertaken by Furman + Keil Architects, with Dalgleish Construction doing the building and Abode | Fern Santini the interior design.
Furman + Keil set about remodelling the existing structure rather than build from scratch, preserving the building’s close relationship with the water while bringing it more in line with local requirements. Placid Lake Austin, which wraps around the home on three sides so that it sits on its own small peninsula, is part of the Colorado River system and a popular venue for boating and fishing. Many of Austin’s most desirable homes grace its shoreline.
The floorplan, which was expanded from 5895sqft (550sqm) to 7100sqft (660sqm), includes just three bedrooms and four bathrooms, with a lot of area given over to living spaces. To imbue the home with a sense of calm matching that of its setting, the beautiful, soft textures and hues of real plaster walling along with Lueders limestone and rift-sawn white-oak flooring were introduced.
On the exterior, stucco and Spanish cedar finishes are complemented by Lueders limestone paving and resilient ipê wood decking. Copper was introduced in the roofing, window frames and downpipes, with steel featuring in the carport, boat dock and shade screens.
For thermal efficiency, deep, sloped eaves and porches shade the house from the hot Texas sun and all indoor air-conditioning is within the thermal envelope of the building. The vast areas of glazing are in state-of-the-art glass with high shading coefficients. Plus, the cabinets and floors were all finished with zero-VOC products.
The original building had some neighbours in view, so the new owners wanted those parts of the home where you could see other homes closed in for more privacy while opening the rest of the structure to fully capitalise on the beautiful vistas and create a much more open dialogue between inside and out.
Even so, every room has a view, with the living areas flowing effortlessly to the outdoors. The bathrooms were given many luxurious touches, such as gold tiles, as well as quirky features including the use of a striking credenza as a vanity in one, and the two-tiered antique brass occasional table beside the freestanding tub in the master bathroom.
The architects felt the original house lacked scale, so that issue was addressed by taking out baseboards and mouldings and keeping the finishes minimal to emphasise the height of the rooms and add to the wonderful feeling of light-filled airiness the home now enjoys.
To maximise the impact of the setting, interior designer Fern Santini decided on a subdued colour palette of creamy whites and soft grey-greens that don’t compete with the picture-perfect lake views. These shades provide a subtle background for standout handmade furniture pieces, striking light fittings like the Swarovski branch chandelier in the dining room, and carefully curated contemporary artworks by local artists.
To complete this beautifully integrated package, new landscaping was designed to ensure a harmonious transition between the built forms and the natural elements of the tranquil water, verdant banks and stately mature trees that are dotted around the house. In fact, a few more live oak trees were added to those existing on the site as were some olive trees for a dash of California nostalgia.
Given that one of the homeowners initially had no desire to move from California to Texas, and didn’t like the house when they bought it, it’s very gratifying for the whole team involved in the renovation to see how much she loves her new home now that their wonderful work is complete.
- An unappealing and fairly dark house was remodelled, renovated and landscaped for empty-nesters relocating from California to Austin, Texas
- One of the owners is a sculptor and potter who had a very open mind about design ideas, leading to an easy understanding between owners and design team
- The matchless location on its own small peninsula on the shoreline of Lake Austin inspired much of the structural and interior design
- Though the original house stood closer to the water than legally allowed, the architects were able to reconfigure and extend it to maintain the close relationship to the water
- The home is now larger, brighter, more open, more private and more luxurious — as well as much more stylish with the informality the owners desired. They couldn’t be happier with the result
Words Kerry Boyne Photography Nick Johnson