An Austin Family’s Abode Maintains High Quality and Functionality


Homeowners Matt and Christy Butterfield didn’t let an exacting ordinance keep them from achieving the delightful house they so desired to share with their young daughter in Austin’s Pemberton Heights neighborhood. In fact, the size and height restrictions fit right in with their plans. “We were downsizing from our previous 4,200-square-foot home, which was nearby but not nearly as family-friendly,” explains Matt, who also helmed the build on the project. “Our number-one goal was to not sacrifice functionality or the quality of where we’d been.”

Integral to the plan was architect Mark Carlson, with whom Matt had partnered many times, and who helped reorient the footprint of the house on the small 50-by-137-foot corner lot. “The original address of the house had it positioned toward the narrow end on the main street,” Carlson says. “We flipped it to face the side street so that the front would be significantly wider and the living areas could be in a more open format.” Adds Matt, “We freed up a ton of space. The 35-foot setback that would have been the front yard became space for the pool and backyard activity.” A detached two-car garage became situated at the opposite end.

Carlson was also able to align the Butterfields’ contemporary tastes with those of their more conservative neighbors. “When people think contemporary, they think of stark museums or colder spaces,” says the architect. “This is all clean lines and warm colors and materials: Hardiplank masonry siding, charcoal-colored standing seam roofing and symmetrically placed windows and dormers. It looks new and has a contemporary flair, but it blends in well with the neighborhood.”

Designer Amy Mooney Lutz had done many projects with both Matt and Carlson as well, and it was her expertise with color palettes and finishes that contributed to the clean, open feel of the interiors. “The main floor is one living space that gets lots of light,” she says. “We ran white oak floors throughout for consistency and added splashes of color to keep it fresh and fun.”

In the living room, Lutz arranged seating around a honed Valentino marble fireplace with a walnut mantel that picks up the coloration of the floors. The all-white kitchen is ample and airy, with Shakerstyle cabinets topped with easy-to-clean Caesarstone counters. The bright red chairs in the adjoining dining area are both colorful and comfortable.

One of the most distinctly modern features is a floating staircase with custom metal rails and glass panels. It leads up to three of the four bedrooms, including the master suite, where both the plush bed and cozy window seat offer respite, while the wet room-style bathroom provides stylish and unusual functionality.

With no room for wasted space, each family member was given a special area within the house. An integrated office nook tucked under the stairs on the main floor was designed to give Christy, a jazz singer, space to work yet still be part of the action, a top-floor office allows Matt to have somewhere away from the household activity when he works at home, and a secret clubhouse loft reached via a ladder from her bedroom is a big hit with their daughter and her friends.

After more than a year in the house, Matt attributes its success to the efforts of all involved. “When you have a team like we do that’s really comfortable working together, from builder to designer to architect, and everyone has mutual respect for what each person can bring to the table, you tend to get a better balance of overall quality and style,” he says. Or as Carlson puts it, “We figured out a way to downsize without giving up anything. The house lives bigger than it is.”