Set amidst a scattering of live oaks, Buck and Stacy Shapiro’s Austin home blends so seamlessly with its surroundings one might assume the majestic clusters had grown around it. But really, the house was designed to accommodate these trees, the land’s original occupants and a symbol of the local Texas landscape. The couple had needed more space for their growing family, and upon stumbling across this property in the vibrant Rollingwood neighborhood, they remained undeterred by its foliage. In fact, the oaks sealed the deal for the owners, who “wanted to preserve as many as possible,” says Buck, “Having a lot with trees was really important to us.”
“Working around those oaks was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” recalls Ranjit Gupta, the architect hired, along with his senior project manager Will Washer, to design the couple’s dream home on their dream plot of land. “It was a challenge, but a fun one.” Gupta adjusted the carefully considered design along the way “in order to dance around the trees,” he says, working with rather than against the landscape and framing the leafy canopies and twisting silhouettes as dramatic vistas. The kitchen, for example, has an arched window overlooking the twin oaks in the south courtyard. And flanking the paved pathway leading up to the front door, two rows of towering mature oaks create an immediate sense of grandeur upon arrival.
Drawing upon the Shapiros’ love of classic forms, Gupta’s design–executed by builder Brian Fuchs with his project manager Jeff Saikin–also puts a modern twist on the simple elegance of traditional architecture. A classic stucco exterior pairs with a sleek flat tiled roof and metal accents, for instance, while the interior’s wood beams and wood ceilings live alongside contemporary plaster walls devoid of trim, a massive steel decorative unit in the great room and oversized picture windows throughout. “We were very particular about the size of the windows,” notes Buck, who collaborated with a local manufacturer to custom design the home’s show-stopping steel windows, which soar to an unprecedented height of 12 feet.
These windows also helped optimize the natural light, which was critical. “It’s tricky because you want enough light,” explains Gupta, “but at the same time, it’s Texas–so you don’t want too much direct sun.” Deep porches and patios at the back of the house work in conjunction with the trees to create the ideal filtration of sunlight, complementing the airy layout the owners desired. “We wanted open spaces for easy entertaining, but with subtle separation and a great flow between the outside and in,” Stacy notes. As a result, the main public spaces, namely the dining area, great room and kitchen, flow into one another, while the more private spaces toward the back of the house, such as the master bedroom and the game room, feel more intimate and contained.
Designer Andrea Giles brought the interiors to life with soft, floating window treatments that complement the connection between the indoors and outdoors. “Our goal was to maintain a clean aesthetic, without it ever feeling cold,” says Giles, who used pattern to enliven the neutral palette, from an exposed brick wall in the library to marble chevron floors in the master bath. Plenty of durable, textured upholstery fabrics–velvets, polyester and even vinyl in the case of a pair of chairs by the great room fireplace–also warm up the space, while providing much-needed durability. “We have three rambunctious little kids, so I was adamant that all the fabrics be either wipeable or washable,” says Stacy.
But while the home is kid-friendly, that doesn’t mean it lacks luxury. “Stacy definitely has a glam side,” says Giles, “so while I made sure everything felt natural and comfortable, I also wanted a hint of classic glamour.” The designer infused many of the rooms with shiny elements, such as gold-metal-based armchairs and a side table in the living area and gem-like geometric pendants dangling above the kitchen islands. Statement-making gestures also abound throughout, from a dramatic Arteriors chandelier in the study to a subtly shimmering gold-tile wall in the powder room.
Just as the oaks have survived on the land for generations, this design team’s measured approach to the Shapiro residence has ensured its staying power. “We wanted a home that would allow us to go through various stages of life, with young kids, older kids, and then an empty nest,” explains Buck, noting the timeless quality of the house, just like the trees surrounding it. “This house will still stand out decades from now.”