This house weaves green building and contemporary design into the context of its Austin, Texas neighborhood -- on a budget.

It was conceived as a framing system for the lives of those within, using a variety of implicit framing devices at different scales to create subtly distinct moments that can be experienced separately or simultaneously.

The clients, a young professional couple with a baby, were most interested in an open, flexible home in which to start their family and a new phase in life. They love to be surrounded by mementos of their life together; cards, gifts, art objects, and books filled every available surface in their old apartment.

The house holds and displays records of the lives within it through a continuous shelving system which simultaneously shapes larger spaces into zones for living. In this way the house serves as an archive, enriching one’s experience of everyday life and its intimate moments with personalized framed settings. Because one is always moving through these not-completely defined spaces, one’s understanding of the house is layered with a variety of impressions that may evolve from day to day and throughout the years spent here.

At the exterior, a metallic fascia runs along the edges of the floors and roof, clearly outlining the planes that horizontally frame the inhabitable space of the house. These planes break from one another to define major zones of the house: the primary entry, main living level, and major public/private spaces.

The facade materials also serve to create distinct zones even before one enters the house. The outermost walls are standing seam metal, reading like a hard exterior shell through which warm cedar-framed windows are extruded for shading purposes. The north and south facades, recessed within deep overhangs, are yellow pine, setting the tone for a softer, more intimate atmosphere on the front and back porches.

These framing devices define thresholds as open moments of transition from one type of environment to another. Spaces are not finite; slipping, indirect connections allow movement from one to another. This strategy holds one’s focus foregrounded in the immediate surroundings but simultaneously aware of their greater context.

Interested in keeping the material palette simple yet dynamic, we custom-built many details into the house. This allowed us to make the most of each piece and the conservative square footage.

Every countertop is custom-poured concrete. We designed integral sinks into the bathroom counters, which read as a singular weighty objects that offer contrast to the lighter wood elsewhere.

 

In the master bathroom, polycarbonate boxes serve as open medicine cabinets, letting light flow through the bathroom even into the secluded toilet room.