A Contemporary Austin Penthouse with Panoramic City Views


Contemporary Neutral Living Room with Fumed-Eucalyptus Panels

Fumed-eucalyptus veneer panels accentuate the living room’s fluted-limestone fireplace surround; both the panels and fireplace were designed by FAB Architecture and fabricated by Architectural Elements by Escobedo. Designer Fern Santini furnished the room with a Holly Hunt sofa, Hervé Van der Straeten lamps, and a vintage coffee table from Monc Xiii in Sag Harbor, New York. Phoenix Day floor lamps join Patrick Naggar club chairs from Ralph Pucci in New York, all set on a Kyle Bunting carpet.

Contemporary Neutral Entry with Butterfly Painting

According to the designer Fern Santini, the owners travel a great deal, and when they stepped off the elevator into their penthouse they didn’t want to feel like they were in a hotel with lots of long corridors leading to various spaces.

Contemporary Neutral Hall with Runner

Raised painted-panel walls trimmed with burnished-brass piping flank the kitchen and discreetly tuck the mechanicals inside that couldn't be moved due to HVAC, plumbing and other systems that were already in place from the existing rooms that took up the now Penthouse.

Contemporary Neutral Kitchen with Head Statue

Positioned across from the kitchen, the freestanding Bulthaup credenza is fashioned in gunmetal gray aluminum and topped with Taj Mahal polished quartzite from Architectural Tile & Stone. Flooring here and throughout the house is white oak with a gray wash from Cox’s Fine Floors.

Contemporary Neutral Kitchen with Vintage Runner

The kitchen boasts a combination of custom white-oak wall cabinets, which Architectural Elements by Escobedo fabricated, and Bulthaup cabinetry on the work islands. Architectural Elements by Escobedo also fabricated the burnished-brass shelving unit. The A. Rudin swivel barstools sport a material from Holly Hunt; the vintage runner is from Black Sheep Unique.

Contemporary Neutral Game Room with Screen Sculpture

Architects Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey worked closely with artist Caprice Pierucci on the frame and lighting of the wood-screen sculpture in the game room; the steel frame was fabricated by Architectural Elements by Escobedo. A custom A. Rudin sectional covered in Holly Hunt Great Plains fabric pairs with a Therien cocktail table and carpet from Carol Piper Rugs.

Contemporary Sitting Area with Colorful Cups

Zanotta chairs and a custom Draenert table, both from Scott + Cooner, create a sitting area in the entertainment kitchen. Above the vignette is a vintage Cenedese chandelier from Jean-Marc Fray Antiques. Caesarstone tops cabinetry fabricated through Architectural Elements by Escobedo and accented with a Walker Zanger tile backsplash.

Contemporary Neutral Family Room with Large Clock

A painted-panel wall with burnished-bronze piping, fabricated by Architectural Elements by Escobedo, and a clock purchased at Art Basel in Miami Beach help define the family room. The A. Rudin chair is upholstered in fabric from de Le Cuona in New York; Caste stools are from David Sutherland, and the custom Oushak rug is from Black Sheep Unique.

Contemporary Neutral Lounge with Panorama Views

Situated off the entry, the lounge is meant to beckon all who enter to relax and enjoy the panorama. Custom Tecno chairs from Scott + Cooner, wearing Clarence House fabric, encircle a custom coffee table purchased through Santini. A vintage chandelier from Jean-Marc Fray Antiques and a Moroccan-style carpet from Carol Piper Rugs complete the setting.

Contemporary Neutral Bedroom with Balcony

The private master bedroom is appointed with Holly Hunt’s Sorraia bed featuring a headboard upholstered in Great Plains fabric. A vintage table lamp from Jan Showers resides on a Maxine Snider nightstand. Patrick Naggar chairs and an ottoman from Ralph Pucci, wearing Osborne & Little velvet, sit on a Stark carpet.

Contemporary Neutral Bathroom with Vanity Stool

The master bathroom’s Kohler tub from Ferguson Enterprises—paired with a Waterworks faucet—joins a vanity featuring hardware from Alexander Marchant. Both are organized along a wall inlaid with tile by Artistic Tile purchased through Architectural Tile & Stone. The Cameron Collection vanity stool is clad in a Kerry Joyce Textiles fabric.

Contemporary Neutral Dining Room with City Views

The classic dining room features furnishings that are offset by a contemporary Alison Berger Glassworks chandelier and a pair of 1940s Venetian mirrors hanging above carved-wood buffets, which add a vintage touch.

Contemporary Neutral Bar with Wine Fridge

A mirrored bar area is complete with wood cabinetry and brass hardwares. A wine fridge sits below the counter, the mirrors reflect down a long corridor furnished with wall art.

Owning an entire floor at the Four Seasons in downtown Austin definitely has its advantages. From their enviable penthouse perch, a pair of empty nesters not only enjoy 360-degree vistas of the city, but they are also within walking distance of Lady Bird Lake where they routinely head with their golden retrievers. “We love all the activity here; it’s why we chose to live downtown,” says the husband, who, along with his wife, previously split time between Racine, Wisconsin, and Castle Pines, Colorado, before adding the Live Music Capital of the World to the places they call home. “When we step off the elevator, we can see completely through to the view.”

But establishing their panoramic window on the world wasn’t easy. Just ask any member of their design team about the collaboration required to turn the four units the owners purchased into a single welcoming home that capitalized on the spectacular vistas at every turn. According to designer Fern Santini, the first order of business was dealing with what happened upon arrival. “The owners travel a great deal, and when they stepped off the elevator they didn’t want to feel like they were in a hotel with lots of long corridors leading to various spaces,” she says.

The job of erasing that hotel ambience fell to architects Pam Chandler and Patrick Ousey, who remedied the situation in the entry by increasing the height of an existing set of double doors on the north side and creating a matching set on the south wall by cutting an opening in the concrete elevator core. “Now, when the owners come home, they are immediately greeted by the star of the unit: the view,” Chandler says. Next, the duo tackled the problems created by the existing HVAC, plumbing and other systems. “When the owners purchased the units many of the systems were already in place and if we moved a water line or anything else it would affect the people above and below,” says Ousey. “It was a bit like a puzzle.” To resolve the problem, the architects decided to organize the systems into clusters all while creating distinct spaces that served their clients needs.

The inventive architects’ answer was to design the raised painted-panel walls trimmed with burnished-brass piping that flank the kitchen and discreetly tuck the mechanicals inside. Similarly, in the dining room, two boxes clad in fumed eucalyptus houses the powder room and bar while screening the dining area from the service elevator. “Every piece we designed had a purpose above and beyond looking pretty, and around these blocks we created living spaces,” Chandler says. “Our problems became solutions.”

Builders David Escobedo and Kathy Escobedo turned those solutions into reality by fabricating everything from the wall panels to the limestone fireplace in the living room to the floating master bathroom mirrors through their sister company, Architectural Elements by Escobedo. And if getting the intricacy of the designs just right wasn’t difficult enough, everything had to be calculated to meet the size and weight restrictions of the service elevator. Regarding the kitchen’s burnished-brass shelving unit, David Escobedo explains, “that unit had to be made and assembled in the shop, then disassembled, loaded on the elevator, and reassembled on site.”

Thanks to Chandler and Ousey, the extensive layout follows a logical sequence, with the kitchen serving as a dividing line. The more formal areas occupy the west side capped by the master suite, while spaces such as the family and game rooms and guest quarters fill the east end. In concert with Santini, the architects developed a cohesive and nuanced materials palette intended to balance traditional sensibilities with contemporary clean lines. “There are no strong jolts from one space to another, but it’s not monotone,” Chandler says. “There’s an appropriate character and spirit to each space.”

Building on that concept, Santini selected furnishings and accessories that allow all the rooms to flow from casual to refined while deftly melding styles along the way. Her mix begins with a quartet of 1950s-style swivel chairs cloaked in an abstract print visible from the entry. Lit by a Murano glass-and-chrome Sputnik fixture, the space beckons all who enter. “I saw it as the place you’d just want to sit and have a martini at the end of the day,” she says.

In the living room, the art deco lines of the fluted-limestone fireplace surround and a sofa sporting a subtle Art Deco silhouette get cozy with club chairs and a vintage coffee table. “The Deco lines bring an elegant modernism into the space,” Santini says. Immediately adjacent, the classic dining room features furnishings that are offset by a contemporary Alison Berger Glassworks chandelier and a pair of 1940s Venetian mirrors hanging above carved-wood buffets, which add a vintage touch. “By using an accumulation of periods and styles from the ’40s to current times, this home will never feel dated,” adds Santini.

For the homeowners, who define one of their homes as having a lodge look and the other as casual elegance with European flair, their penthouse digs ended up being a major departure. “We never thought we’d go so contemporary but this certainly wasn’t the right setting for anything rustic,” says the wife. “There are a lot of antique pieces that create a vintage modern feel, and it’s more eclectic than i would have imagined, but when we step off the elevator, it feels like home.”

—Mindy Pantiel