When the homeowners first set eyes on a woodsy vacant lot in northwest Austin, they lived just a few blocks away in a house that wasn’t meeting their needs and wasn’t capable of being renovated to fit their desires. To get the home they really wanted — one that would accommodate large gatherings and be a place where their children (and assorted other neighborhood kids) would want to hang out after school — they’d have to start from scratch. And the leafy lot down the street seemed like just the place to begin.
The lot came with eight protected trees that the couple had to work around. For help, they hired architect Stuart Sampley, who works solo, keeps his client list small, and meets with his clients once a week throughout the entire process. “Like a shrink,” he jokes. His magic bullet for these homeowners and the tree-dotted lot? A unique, Z-shaped house that frames the views and provides shade in all the right spots.
“We had to really weave the house between all of those trees,” Sampley says. “And that dictated the layout.”
Interior designer Jennifer Greer Hartmann says that “working with so many beautiful views is different than working with a regular design. You want the view to be the main focus and for everything else to take a backseat to it.”
The homeowners wanted to use color in a way that was sophisticated but also fun. “The orange felt that way to us,” Hartmann says of the dining chairs. “It felt kind of crazy to order 12 orange chairs, but we went for it — and then we repeated the color here and there throughout the house.”
Rivaling the playful chairs for most-favored feature in the dining area is the custom shiplap that clads the walls. Poplar wood was milled to the specifications of true shiplap, primed and sanded to a glasslike smoothness and then painted with five coats of paint, each given the proper time to cure before the next coat was applied — a process that took about eight weeks.
“For some people, the shiplap is the first thing they notice,” Sampley says. “Others never notice it at all.” Such is the nature of something that is at once so stunning and so subtle.
The flooring didn’t take quite as long as the shiplap, but the process was equally painstaking. The white oak planks were laid, left to acclimate, then sanded in place. Before applying the finish, the designers “popped the grain,” a process of rubbing alcohol on the wood to open up the pores (which Sampley likens to prepping your face with warm water before washing it). The end result is a classic, beautiful tone that plays nicely with all the furnishings. “White oak floors are like blue jeans,” Sampley says. “They go with everything.”
The open, fresh feeling continues in the kitchen, where a shiplap-wrapped range hood keeps things subtle and a Basaltina perimeter countertop and Carrara marble island countertop add a bit of elegance.
One of the homeowners’ few demands was that Hartmann incorporate a piece of neon art from Roadhouse Relics, and Hartmann knew immediately where it should go. “You can see the media room as soon as you step into the house, and we thought that the neon sign would really brighten that space and pull you in,” she says.
The media room also houses the family’s piano, so the “Live Music” sign fits perfectly. (Then again, when is a “Live Music” sign ever out of place in Austin?)
In the living room, a custom walnut wall unit with shallow shelves hides essential (but not so pretty) boxes and cables. Deeper shelves mirror the design on the other side of the television, keeping the composition balanced. A pair of Jonathan Adler chairs mimic the cool blue tones from the backyard pool just steps away.
In the master bedroom, Hartmann switched gears from the bold color accents and pursued a more serene palette that focuses on views and relaxation. “The client was actually a little worried at first that the bedroom was going to feel too neutral,” she says. “But the trees outside the windows are really stunning; they provide all the drama you need. When the draperies are closed at night, it is really calming.”
In a city that gets 300 days of sunshine a year, the outdoor spaces must be considered just as carefully as the indoor spaces. There’s no shortage of spots to enjoy the weather on this property. Bar stools, a dining area, three conversation areas (including one around a fire pit), pool lounges — and that’s just in the back of the house.
A defining feature of the outdoor space is the bar area, with its clear cedar soffit, ipe cube, and concrete walls, punctuated by a shot of bright blue and softly framed by the trees that directed the design.