Every space in this house has its own fingerprint and a unique relationship to the outside,” architect Eric Barth says about the Austin home that he and architect Ryan Burke designed for a family with young children. The duo created a brand-new linear home, perched on a gently sloping hill, with a midcentury vibe using much of the brick and other materials from the original 1960s-era house that once stood on the site. “It’s an extreme idea to disassemble a house and reuse the parts,” Barth says. “But it’s more sustainable and there’s something about that continuum that we really like.”
According to the architects, builder Branson Fustes was instrumental in the success of the labor-intensive project. “Branson was committed to the idea of doing something sensible, even if it was counter to the way most houses are built today,” Ryan Burke explains. The home’s transformation still astonishes Fustes, who weaved together the original and new brick so that they are indistinguishable. “The result is a cohesive palette and texture,” Fustes says. “It was originally a very dark house with a big imposing roofline, and now it’s all open spaces with an abundance of natural light.”
Indeed, light floods into the house from long rectangular clerestory windows, strategically placed skylights and floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass that look out onto a series of courtyards, each designed with its own function. “The courtyards are connected like a string of pearls on a necklace that weaves throughout the house,” Barth explains. “You get this expanse of glass and daylight, but you’re never looking at the street or a neighbor, so it’s private even with the shades open.”
The largest, partially covered courtyard, complete with gray Lueders limestone pavers, connects the main home to a casita that the husband uses as his office. Here, landscape architect Sara Partridge continued the limestone in the front of the home, where it was laid as rectangular pavers with grass growing between them to facilitate water drainage. The casual aesthetic continues in a smaller courtyard—visible from several interior rooms—where Partridge planted native grasses around a coral bark Japanese maple tree that will change color throughout the seasons. “The team wanted something natural that would kind of creep into the interiors,” Partridge explains.
Creating a strong connection between inside and out was so important to the architects that they adjusted their design to accommodate the mature oak trees that grew on the site, actually varying the ceiling heights to make room for the old-growth branches. “The lower ceilings allow the house to stay underneath the branches, and we popped up ceiling heights where we could,” Ryan Burke explains. “It’s a pretty magical moment when you’re in the living room and you can see tree branches in every direction.”
In areas with higher ceilings, the long rectangular clerestory windows frame the treetops and offer another source of natural light, while those strategically placed skylights bring brightness into the deeper interior spaces. In the master bathroom, for example, the architects carved out a portion of the ceiling over the tub. “By controlling the ceiling planes, we were able to create these little moments of exception,” Barth explains. There’s another such moment in the kitchen, where a wood trellis prevents the space’s high ceilings from feeling too cavernous and provided a place to affix task lighting. “We went to great lengths to make this kitchen feel nestled into the space,” Barth says. “There’s a language of planes, beams and columns, which are being supported by brick masses.”
Working closely with interior designer Allison Burke and the homeowners, the team selected the materials palette for the entire home. Rift-sawn white oak, which has been used for built-in bookcases in the living room and cabinetry in the kitchen, complements the cypress ceiling and walnut flooring that run throughout the house. “I wanted the white oak and cypress to flow together so that the interesting grain of the walnut floors would stand out,” Allison Burke explains. In the kitchen, white quartzite countertops and a back-painted glass backsplash echo the paint used to unify the new and reused brick throughout. By contrast, the designer brought in patterned rugs with green, blue and yellow hues for the living areas. “A lot of the color palette was driven by the tones found just outside,” she explains. The carpets also add interest to the otherwise clean and contemporary furnishings. In the entry, for example, a small rug with a blue tribal pattern coexists peacefully with a modernist console, while in the dining room, a rug is paired with a live-edge table and a whimsical glass-and-leather chandelier. “The husband is a modernist and the wife is more traditional,” Allison Burke says. “So we tried to bridge the gap between the two.”
According to the architects, the project’s success can be attributed to the strong relationship between the owners and design team. “This house is a simple poetic gesture that has a lot of depth,” Ryan Burke explains. “There’s no line between the interior design and architecture, and that’s the hallmark of a great collaboration. At the end of the day, this project was a smashing success.”