For the 31st annual Austin Homes Tour, organisers selected a bakers' dozen of homes ranging from remodelled structures built 75 years ago to brand new dwellings. Sizes ranged widely too, from a tiny 1700 sq feet to a sprawling 6452 sq feet.
A new construction that represents the best in functional family living is located at 5010 Timberline Drive, and was done by Tim Brown Architecture. I spoke with the first owner, Kerrie Pennington.
“I wanted a farmhouse look,” she said. The house was inspired by an old home her grandparents had “with a windy back staircase. I wanted to recreate the idea of a secret staircase here.” The result is a slide, which her three children (5, 6 and 13) not only slide down but walk up! Another fun feature for the kids is a loft, which can only by reached by ladders that are available in three rooms.
One of the kids' bedrooms features a boat-shaped bed. In all there are five bedrooms, and five bathrooms in this two-story house which has a peaked ceiling and 4,568 sq ft.
For the adults there is an outdoor fireplace by the pool and outdoor grilling kitchen with a pizza oven. “I love how the outside melts into the inside,” enthused Pennington, who only lived in the house a few months before deciding to relocate to another state.
A very different farmhouse concept is located at 108 Parkwood Court in West Austin. Matt Shoberg, the owner and builder, told me he “liked a modern farmhouse: a traditional design with modern features. Big stucco box houses are the norm in Austin, so I went against the grain.”
The concept was heavily influenced by the fact he has 3 boys. “We got rid of the formal living room: the kitchen is the heart of the home. The children have their own separate spaces but it still feels like we're together.”
The house, which retained the core of an existing structure, is the largest I visited at 6230 sq ft. It is by Furman and Keil Architects. At one end is the master bedroom with a flexible room below it, currently outfitted as a gym. This is all connected to the main house with a steel and glass dining room bridge. Leading outdoors directly off the kitchen is an expansive area featuring a sport infinity pool.
The most avant-garde design of the suite of 13 houses on the tour is by Alterstudio Architecture at 1103 Constant Springs Drive. I spoke to designer Michael Woodland.
“The project was about taking advantage of the opportunities of the site, especially the slope of the ground and the trees. Live oak trees in front create a large front porch. The back of the house is about the view of a wall of trees and glimpses of a creek.”
What first strikes one upon entering the front porch is an oak tree which appears to be an organic part of the house. It seems planted in the wood floor, and rises through the ceiling with its thick twin trunks. The roughly oval-shaped opening in the ceiling repeats the contours of the front portion of the house that ones walks under just a few feet away. Another large oak tree rises from the earth a few feet to the right, bordered on three sides by the front of this space-aged dwelling.
When I asked Woodland how the shape of the structure and ceiling-opening were decided upon, he rightly attributed it to “whimsy: whatever looked good and felt right.” It certainly works!
At only 3600 sq ft this new home seems a bit constricted inside after the breathtaking expansiveness evoked by the huge trees at the entrance. My colleague regarded the interior corridors are so narrow that he felt claustrophobic.
The backyard features a pool structured above ground, 15 feet above grade. An opening in the ceiling above the pool echoes that of the front entranceway.
With perfect sunny weather on the late October weekend the tour was held, organisers expected some 4,000 people to visit the homes which were dotted across much of greater Austin.
The Austin Homes Tour is organised by the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, a non-profit corporation. AIA Austin serves the professional needs of more than 1,000 architect and associate members. For more information visit the website: www.aiaaustin.org/homes-tour/2017