Years before building a dream house for his family, the husband of this Austin abode would often ride his bicycle past a lot occupying the crest of a bluff that backed onto a wilderness preserve. It offered panoramic views of the Hill Country and the landmark 360 Bridge, and seemed like the ideal spot to build the perfect home. “With its 4 or 5 acres you can barely even see another house,” says architect Dick Clark, who helped the family design a home on the lot that eventually became theirs. “The clients said, ‘Let’s do something special.’ Their desire was for a space that was warm and contemporary.”
The challenge was to design a house from the ground up that could easily accommodate the family’s love of entertaining while also being a cozy, intimate enclave for the parents and their two young children. “It is set up to be a good family home,” Clark says. “It’s comfortable with just the four of them, yet large enough to fit 44 guests.”
Comprised of a series of rectangular pavilions built with local limestone, the home embodies a “more natural, softer look,” explains general contractor Michael Battaglia. “I like the thickness of the walls. They bestow the house with an old-world feel, or a castle effect, and the roof seems as if it’s floating.” To create a double-height living-dining area teeming with natural light, Clark’s design places the butterfly-shaped roof above a band of clerestory windows that—for all of the limestone’s substantiality—gives the architecture a sense of weightlessness.
The home exemplifies a casual elegance, blending soft, warm surfaces and textures. In the combined living-dining area, for example, a leather sofa sits atop a vintage rug and ebony-stained oak floors, a few feet from a 10-person dining table made from old railroad ties. In the kitchen, cabinets built from local pecan trees are juxtaposed against sumptuous marble countertops. “The wood has a strong grain detail, which is what the husband wanted to see,” says interior designer Karen Kopicki Cano. “The challenge was to make this rustic material more modern and clean, and that’s what the house is: a soft, welcoming place that mixes materials and furnishings. We wanted to give it a soul.”
To that effect, Kopicki Cano chose materials such as leather and wood and combined them with an assortment of contemporary furnishings, vintage pieces and whimsical elements. In the husband’s office, which resides above the kitchen, a mix of pieces includes a high-back leather chair, a vintage teak desk and a Moroccan rug, while the family room is adorned with rock posters and guitars amid cozy seating options.
With the city often experiencing drought conditions, the clients sought native landscaping with minimal water requirements. “Austin’s climate shares many of the same characteristics of the African and Australian savannas,” explains landscape designer Mark Word. “So we went with grasses punctuated with Parish goldeneye and agave, and then used Mexican sycamore and oak trees for shade. It’s a little bit of the Western desert and a little bit of the prairie, spiked with tropical plants that are tough enough to deal with drought.”
In addition, because the clients love to cook both indoors and out, there’s a large covered outdoor cooking area with an Argentinian-style grill and enough space to accommodate friends at the long dining table. For a more serene setting, one can relax by the pool on a series of comfortable chaise lounges or on the loggia peppered with stylish seating and punchy pillows for a pop of bright color. “It’s a very easy house to entertain in,” the wife says. “It’s not too big, and it’s really seamless to transition inside and out. Almost every night we have a beautiful Texas sunset that I never get tired of.”