A Modern, Minimal Austin Residence


Ask architect Rodney Palmer what he was thinking about as he designed this stylish home and he has a one-word answer: Vacation. Although the house is located in landlocked Austin, he thought of it as being on the coast. “There is a decidedly Tuscan feel to the other homes in the neighborhood,” Palmer says, “but we wanted this house to feel fresh, open and modern, more like it was on the water.”

Objective attained. The house features a sunny simplicity of layout and massing that allows the exterior to enjoy a sleek contemporary feel. Palmer kept the roof slope low-slung and sheathed the exterior walls with light-colored, face-cut limestone and smooth white stucco. “No Tuscan beige for this place,” he insists. Meanwhile, the interiors were created with an open-plan concept to expose the rooms to the best aspects of the site: wide-open skies and broad vistas of rolling terrain. “The house is clean, airy and light-filled,” says Palmer.

Another reason why the house feels so fresh is the straightforward nature of the details. Palmer used short tail rafters and closed the soffit where the exterior wall meets the roof, allowing the eye to make an easy transition to the sky. The guardrails, too, have a featherweight feel. “We used steel and stainless steel so there are no heavy walls between the residents and the views,” Palmer says. “Outdoors or indoors.”

Indeed, the interior feels as casually coastal as the exterior. The rooms lay out as an L shape focused on the pool, which commands attention with arcing water jets. The living room volume opens high up to a suite of bedrooms and guest rooms upstairs, while the lower level is focused on family living.

The shape was partly determined by the size and arrangement of the site, says builder Rick Margiotta, whose crew had to move a lot of soil around to get the house to sit exactly where it belongs. Once that was done, though, they were building on solid rock. “Nothing makes a homeowner feel more secure,” Margiotta says.

The current owners of the house, a family of five, were looking at another home nearby for their transfer to the United States from Germany. “They didn’t like the house, but they loved the interiors, which I had done,” says designer Joy Kling. So when the family found this place, which suited them perfectly, they hired Kling to furnish it. “It has the up-to-date feel they wanted for their life in Austin,” the designer says: “functional, minimal and modern.”

Those ideas were already well along, thanks to the good bones Palmer had created. “We pulled out just a few baroque statements,” Kling says, referring to some trim and built-ins. Then she had the entire house painted white, staining even the concrete floors with a snowy additive. “We wanted a clean slate,” she says, “for all the great art and flashes of color.”

Kling finessed the interior spaces by drafting uncomplicated storylines for each room. The living area allows for entertaining with its openness and face-to-face sofas. Two pewter-toned built-ins provide a touch of shimmery glamour. The kitchen-family room area is awash in white marble and anchored with dark wenge wood cabinets. A white lacquer table and darkly upholstered sectional continue the theme of light and dark. The simplest bed imaginable keeps the master bedroom feeling cool and Zen-like.

The art collection is a meet-up of Europe and Texas. An Olaf Probst piece was a going-away gift from the homeowners’ German friends, while an abstract oil painting by Texan Kevin Greer holds pride of place in the living room. From each work, Kling pulled colors for rugs and accents. “Art is the perfect guide for accessories,” she says.

And while the house has a variety of influences, says Palmer, the secret to its overall appeal is amazingly uncomplicated: “When you’re in this house, you feel as if you’re on vacation.”