When Dallas artist Melissa Auberty was younger, she dreamed of building a house on part of her family's ranch in nearby Granbury. Architect Joshua Nimmo helped Auberty realize her dream years later, finding inspiration for the home and studio in vernacular architecture, as well as an unexpected discovery.
Because the young Auberty had cherished the southern views from a spot about a half-mile from the ranch's main entrance, Nimmo decided to tuck the house into the north side of a big clearing, opening up the views to the south. He also split the home into multiple parts.
According to Nimmo, "The modules of the residence/studio mimic the segmentation of the vertebrae of a spine: main suite, plus breezeway, plus studio, plus fire pit, plus guest cabana." These spaces move from left to right (west to east) on the plan, with the studio having the most indoor square footage.
A closer view of the south side of the house, which totals 2,570 square feet, reveals some of the defining characteristics of the design: the gable forms, the corrugated siding/roofing, the generous glazing, and the "cuts" — one open and one roofed over. It appears vernacular in form, yet contemporary in execution, something Nimmo confirms: "We started by considering the fundamentals of a barn: simple form, usually linear, repetitious, gable, local/humble materials, etc." His team balanced this with an innovative, sustainable approach to the architecture, inside and out.
According to Nimmo, all of the materials were local, and some of the stone was extracted from the site.
The view of the guest cabana illustrates the simple form of the architecture and the simple detailing of the corrugated metal, something Nimmo explored elsewhere. He chose the material because of the way it reflects heat, because it's made from recycled steel (which can be recycled in the future), and because "it has an amazing sheen at sunset," he says.
In that same photo, you can also see how Auberty uses the house as a setting for her art; one of her paintings is framed by the window.
The fire pit is easily one of the most important places in the house, no doubt relative to the historical importance of fire. Open to the sky and the southern vista, the space is lined with stone walls on both the studio and guest cabana sides. Steps on the north and the south ends lead from the sloping landscape to the plinth upon which the buildings sit, elevating the importance of this movement. The space is also well-scaled for various purposes: creating art, eating, sitting around the fire.
Following the vertebrae analogy, the project is separated into three enclosed areas: main suite, studio, and guest cabana. But why? The answer is in what lies in the middle: the studio. By removing the main suite and guest cabana from the studio via two open spaces (not just walls), the fumes inherent with painting do not affect those living spaces. Further, the cutting of the project into three volumes also allows Auberty to zone the heating and cooling, turning it off entirely or making one space warmer or cooler.
Sliding doors on both sides of the breezeway allow Auberty to unify the studio and the master suite, creating a flexible interior space.
The painting studio receives plenty of sunlight through generous glazing, and plenty of ventilation through the sliding doors on both the north and south sides. Both of these concerns are important for a studio, but too much sunlight in Texas can be, well, too much. So Nimmo put some sunshades above the transom windows.
Partitioning the spaces for various uses into different volumes also results in interior partitions that demarcate spaces but stop short of the exterior walls, maximizing the infiltration of natural light. Privacy and access that would have been needed with one volume happens via the exterior walls and open spaces.