Tree House is a residence comprised of three pavilions positioned around a live oak tree, completed in 2014 by Matt Fajkus Architecture, located in Austin, Texas. The oak tree serves as the focal point to the exterior of the u-shaped home, helping to create a division between the public and private areas, at the same time offering views of the tree and natural surroundings. The three wings offers 2,766 square feet (257 square meters) of living space, while their positioning around the oak tree creates an outdoor living space for the homeowners and guests to congregate.
Description from the architects: Balanced shade, dappled sunlight, and tree canopy views are the basis of the 518 Sacramento Drive house design. The entry is on center with the lot’s primary Live Oak tree, and each interior space has a unique relationship to this central element.
Composed of crisply-detailed, considered materials, surfaces and finishes, the home is a balance of sophistication and restraint. The two-story massing is designed to allow for a bold yet humble street presence, while each single-story wing extends through the site, forming intimate outdoor and indoor spaces.
In plan, the home is organized into clear zones of public and private function, allowing the center courtyard with the primary tree to negotiate the connection between either realm. The layout is arranged to optimize function and experience, where each daily behavior is considered in connection with the next, resulting in a holistic and flowing composition, rather than just a collection of rooms.
The upper story is clad in stucco, articulated as a floating white box to pronounce a street presence and act as a veritable “tree house” for the children’s bedroom zone.
An integrated board formed concrete planter denotes a spatial separation between the living room and the kitchen/dining space, while still allowing connection between the overlapping realms. The skylight allows natural light to penetrate deep into the space.
The master suite is as much about its opening to the small yard as it is about the enclosed space it captures. The tongue-and-groove wood ceiling is an accent which continues to the exterior soffit, blurring the lines between inside and outside.
The courtyard around the tree terraces down to the yard, acting as a natural amphitheater for gatherings and performances within the wings of the house.
This design is carefully calibrated to allow internal views on the small lot and various amounts of direct and indirect natural light. Each space has more than one type of opening to allow for various connections to the outside and thus nature.
Massing is composed as two single-story wings which wrap the primary existing Live Oak tree on the site. The 2-story “window wall” maximizes the use of inexpensive windows which frame various views to the tree while creating a rich elevation and allowing for the harvesting of daylight to the entry zone. The upper portion of the wall tapers and folds back to allow the tree canopy to extend and grow.
Composed as a functional container for life and experience, the circulation space is intended for passage and informal activities, rather than corridors.
The courtyard design capitalizes on the dappled light from the preserved Live Oak tree, which animates exterior and interior spaces at different times through the day. Each space in the house has a special intended relationship with the tree and its perceived space.
The windows act as playful apertures which activate the courtyard space at night, showcasing the preserved Live Oak.
Ski Shores Lakehouse is a modest weekend lake house that has been skillfully designed by Stuart Sampley Architect, located in Austin, Texas. The spirit of traditional Texas dogtrot-style architecture is modernly refined in this retreat.
Description from the architect: Two volumes flank a central porch that’s naturally cooled by lake breezes, capped on each end by tall, swinging gates for privacy and security, and anchored by a substantial outdoor dining table.
On one side, a sleek, modern kitchen is minimal in material but heavy on style and storage. A sunken living room— highlighted by rich warm wood underfoot — exudes comfort and is the ideal spot to escape the Texas summer heat. On the other side of the porch, cozy bedrooms balance the house, featuring big windows offering views of the Texas landscape.
The home’s materials were sourced regionally and chosen to last; exterior walls made of gray Texas Lueders Limestone mix with Southern yellow pine to create a natural palette that requires no maintenance. It’s a weekend getaway the homeowner can enjoy for decades to come.
Photos: Casey Dunn
The Tree House is a contemporary single family private residence that was designed by Miró Rivera Architects, located in beautiful Austin, Texas. Early sketches of this home explore the play between the steep, sloping site on which it lies and two curving rooflines—one concave and one convex.
The local and natural materials of the exterior wrap into the interior of the home; stone walls and dark wood floors are contrasted by clean lines and glass above, creating the feeling of lightness. Large glass windows and sliding doors take full advantage of the sweeping views of downtown Austin, dissolving the boundaries between interior and exterior, while deep overhangs frame views of the sky above.
At the street front, the concave roof forms a low, unassuming facade that respects the scale of the neighborhood and provides privacy for bedrooms and studies. Simultaneously, the convex roof shared by the living, dining, and kitchen spaces opens the interior of the house to a canopy of oak trees and a small pool.
Miró Rivera Architects (MRA) is an internationally-recognized architecture practice that has created a body of work that exemplifies design excellence, blurs art and architecture, and includes poetic and inspirational projects that enrich their landscapes. Services include: residential, commercial and institutional architecture; urban design; and interior design.
Photos: Miró Rivera Architects
Barton Hills Residence is a sensational contemporary property designed by A Parallel Architecture, nestled into a hilltop in Barton Hills, South Austin, Texas. This 2,700 square foot new-construction home boasts panoramic views of downtown and the surrounding valley. A half-sunken concrete garage creates a plinth for the wood and glass home to perch above, maintaining a scale and character consistent with the mid-century-modern neighborhood.
An open-plan living space enjoys the distant views as well as private courtyard views to the rear, reinforcing the indoor/outdoor character that the clients’ lifestyle demands.
A second story master suite opens onto a large roof deck that further embraces the vista and creates a flexible outdoor living space. Passive green-building strategies and energy-efficient specifications ensure a low-impact, low-maintenance structure.
Photos: Topher Ayrhart
Cascading Creek House is a contemporary single family residence that has been designed by Bercy Chen Studio, located in Austin, Texas. The property was conceived less as a house and more as an extension and outgrowth of the limestone and aquifers of Central Texas. Just recently completed, this 11,796 square foot home incorporates plenty of sustainable features including photovoltaics, rainwater collection and hydronic heating and cooling. The beautiful contemporary design details carried out throughout the home was the meticulous work of Alan Cano Interiors.
The primary formal gesture of the project inserts two long native limestone walls to the sloping site, serving as spines for the public wing and private wing of the house. The walls and the wings they delineate shelter a domesticated landscape that serves as an extended living space oriented towards the creek below and protected from the torrents of water draining from the street above during sudden downpours characteristic of the area.
The sitting of the boundary walls and building elements was informed by the presence and preservation of three mature native oaks. The roof structure is configured so as to create a natural basin for the collection of rainwater, not unlike the vernal pools found in the outcroppings of the Texas Hill Country. These basins harness additional natural flows through the use of photovoltaic and solar hot-water panels.
The water, electricity and heat which are harvested on the roof tie into an extensive climate conditioning system which utilizes water source heat pumps and radiant loops to supply both the heating and cooling for the residence. The climate system is connected to geothermal ground loops as well as pools and water features thereby establishing a system of heat exchange, which minimizes reliance on electricity or gas.
Photos: Bercy Chen Studio
Westlake Ranch House is a stunning mid-century home re-designed by Shiflet Group Architects, located in Austin, Texas. Mark Ashby Design worked in collaboration with the architects to reconfigure the 1961 ranch house into a bright, open-plan residence.
The amazing fixture featured in the living room is a functional sculpture, with a futuristic look that also has mid-century modern flair. It is a Cross Cable Mobile in a powder coated aluminum nickel plated steel shade by David Weeks. The dimensions are: Standard Tier Length: 55” x 55”; Tiers can be customized up to 96”.
The extensive remodel included doubling the kitchen, integrating a state of the art sound system, and creating new exterior spaces. Mark also worked closely with the owner to curate the art collection.
The flooring in the dining space are end cut wood. The pendant lamp hanging from the ceiling is a Akari Noguchi light sculpture.
Mark’s approach is defined by a deep reverence for history and architectural context combined with a refined, contemporary aesthetic. He is a true collaborator, engaging his clients and his design team to ensure that each project is a thoughtful expression of the client’s own style and sensibilities.
Mark and his designers work on projects across the southwest and around the country. The firm’s work has been featured in the books Great Homes of Texas and Modern Cabins, as well as in a number of publications, including Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens, Traditional Home, and Western Interiors.
Photos: Courtesy of Mark Ashby Design
This casual compound has been designed as a modern vacation retreat by the San Antonio architecture firm Lake|Flato, located high above Lake Austin, Texas. This is the second home for a busy couple who lives near San Francisco and loves the water.
High above Lake Austin, the main house keeps the couple walking on air, thanks to a catwalk that connects it to one of the three out buildings.
Much of the building’s design was determined by three mature oak trees, informing the building’s orientation and L-shaped footprint. The owners liked the idea of accessing much of the house from outdoor covered porches and walkways. The desire to have the main living area closely connected with the water, while respecting the flood plain and oaks, suggested the design’s stair-stepping boardwalk spine.
Interior designer Fern Santini’s ruggedly casual decor makes for relaxed living, and is punctuated on high with stylishly whimsical pendant lighting. Porches encourage outdoor living, and separate yoga studio and exercise room are for well-being. A lake pavilion and boat house complete the setting.
This incredibly stunning home is is open and airy and has wonderful flow. The beautiful furnishings throughout has a modern yet cottagey feel.
The main living area, a two-story single width volume with a master bedroom loft and porches on either end, takes advantage of the cool prevailing breezes and shade from the adjacent oak trees. A movable, barn-like door serves as a bedroom wall, providing privacy when needed from the living room below. These flexible spaces allow the house to be both intimate and social, effortlessly accommodating guests or individuals alike.
Photos: Nick Johnson
Cove House is a contemporary remodel of a dreary 1980s tract house designed by Furman + Keil Architects, located on a narrow peninsula in Lake Austin, Texas. The site was incomparable, with the lake fronting two sides of the property. The new owners loved the location and even wanted to save the house, which spoke to them about casual lakeside living. The architects worked largely within the constraints of the existing footprint, inheriting many of the quirky geometries of the floor plan.
The entry courtyard was redesigned to allow visitors to penetrate deeper into the site, extending and enhancing the entry transition.
New panoramic windows allow the inhabitants to take in the natural surroundings, while massive sliding doors connect the living room to a new screened porch, engaging with views of the lake beyond.
The architects rendered a stunning renovation to the wood and glass building, turning it into an indoor-outdoor house that’s perfect for entertaining both formally and informally.
Fern Santini Design played up the new architecture with elegantly relaxed furniture and an expertly curated array of contemporary art by local artists. Touches of absolute luxury—such as plaster walls in the master bedroom, all-out glamor in the gold-and-white tiled master bath, and a Kyle Bunting rug in the dining room—are reminders that being casual doesn’t preclude being very very stylish.
Overcoming the challenges of the lot and the geometries of the existing house led to an unexpected design which takes full advantage of this spectacular site.
Photos: Nick Johnson
Trahan Ranch is a stunning residential modern compound designed by Patrick Tighe Architecture, situated in the heart of hill country in Austin, Texas. The 3200 square foot residence is on a fourteen acre sloped site with native oaks, natural springs and unobstructed views. The layout of the house is a direct response to the site conditions.
The plan is organized to integrate and enhance the many features of the landscape. A panoramic view that spans 260 degrees is experienced as well as other more site specific orientations. The front of the house is made of heavy materials that rise from the earth. The building is nestled into the brow of the hill and have an unassuming appearance when seen from a distance.
The heavy, solid, grounded front is in sharp contrast to the more ephemeral back. At the down slope side of the house, the structure becomes lighter and opens to the landscape. Steel pipe columns splay at unsuspecting angles dancing along the rugged landscape.
The architecture explores a series of counterpoints including heavy and light, front and back, open and closed and contemporary and vernacular. The grounded front is composed of heavy materials rising from the earth in sharp contrast to the more ephemeral back. The structure rises and becomes lighter at the down-slope side of the house as it opens to the landscape. The main house is a contemporary interpretation of Texas Hill Country post-and-beam construction that exploits regional materials and the expertise of local trades-people. The spaces of the main house flow from one to the other without doors while the guest room appendage is a more traditional layout.
The environmentally mindful design includes a hydronically-heated concrete slab on grade. The concrete foundation and walls provide high thermal mass. Large overhangs and covered walkways offer protection from the sun and cross- ventilation is used. Natural materials are used throughout including concrete, steel, stone and metals.
Texas Hill Country limestone was chosen from the site to create the over-sized Rumford fireplace that is central to the living space. An arbor connects building components and functions as an armature for solar photovoltaic panels that provide power for the property. The landscape consists of regional drought- tolerant plants that are native to the area and the local ecosystem.
The steel frame structure is a kit of parts prefabricated in a shop and erected on-site. The steel pieces attach to a series of exposed board-formed reinforced concrete pylons that are a vertical extension of the foundation.
Photos: Art Gray Photography
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