Although the Zilker district of Austin, Texas, is best known as the home of the beloved music festival Austin City Limits, its charm also extends to homes – more specifically, the architect’s work AD closeswho designed many of the ranch – style enclave houses in the 1950s and 60s.
So when a couple bought a vacant lot in Zilker, they commissioned a local architect Paul Lamb by designing a home for them and their daughter that fit into the surrounding architecture to the point that it looked like it had been there forever.
For inspiration, Lamb and partner Ted Young first looked at the work of California architect Cliff May, whose low sloping buildings gave birth to the original ranch style of the 1930s. But because customers also wanted to include references to their roots in southern and central Texas, Lamb suggested a happy medium: a mix of the architecture of the southern Texas bristles and the easy-going houses of southern California.
The result? An airy, light-filled home that balances soothing, earthy textures with strategic outbursts of color and pattern. “We wanted everything to feel quite bright, but not bright white,” says the wife, who works with commercial property development and did most of the interior design. “Our philosophy for most of the house was to make the rooms we spent the most time in fairly neutral and then explore with color in other areas.”
One of the home’s most lively spaces, the living room mixes traditional warmth with modern chic, where a happy yellow sofa complements the vintage black Terje Ekström chairs. “We definitely wanted it to feel a little more special, but not too expensive,” says the wife. “We wanted two separate seating areas, and one of them would kind of stick to each other, but not match.”
Although not an important item in Texas, the fireplace was inspired by a large stone used for cooking in the husband’s childhood home. The hearth that extends from the fireplace was originally designed as a seating area, but it has since become a perch for art and other tchotchkes.
Lamb designed a lowered slatted roof under a series of skylights, a feature that provides the perfect filter for harsh sunlight from Texas and keeps the home cool, along with mortar-smoothed limestone walls and dark tile floors. The vintage Afghan rug was one of the first items the couple found for the dining room, so they designed the room around it. Since her husband is one of six children, they bought a vintage table that could handle large Texan family gatherings.
At first, they were not sure if the snake-like woven lamp they had made in Mexico would work in the home. But as soon as Lamb saw it, he knew it needed to go into the dining room where it gives an organic touch of drama. “It’s amazing,” he says, “really an outstanding thing.”
“He’s a great chef, but I think the two were the least demanding customers when it comes to the kitchen,” says Lamb of his husband, who is one of the founders of a lively hospitality company in Austin. “We were so surprised.”
But there were still some musts. The most important thing was to have a large island in the middle – unobstructed by sinks or cooking appliances – for preparation. After a diligent search, they found a quartz seat that was large enough to be used for both the island and the countertops. The terracotta use for the glazed slab was chosen to complement the brown vein in the quartzite.
The minimalist cabinet reflects the subtle green palette throughout the home, which refers to the tiles on the outside. But it was important to maintain a balance between light and dark. “We knew there would be a lot of light in the house, so we made dark floors to give it a kind of shady, cool feel balanced with soft white walls and different greens,” says Lamb.
To keep the mornings efficient for the busy couple, Lamb created two separate shower niches with an accentuation of aged brass panels and fixtures, framed in a soothing vault. “It was a masonry reference, because it’s a stone house inside and out,” he explains. “It’s a way to get a soft shape without literally being a bow.” The mint green tile mass on the Fireclay tiles once again subtly refers to the home’s green palette.
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