While searching for a new place to call home, an Austin couple was drawn to a contemporary house in the city’s vibrant Zilker district. “The neighborhood has this wonderful energy,” the wife says. “It has fantastic music festivals and magnificent mountain biking and hiking trails, and we love being near great restaurants.” Just steps from the action, the house itself offers a calm escape for the two busy executives. “There’s a great feeling of openness and space,” the husband says. “It’s got a contemporary feel yet it’s also comfortable. When we walked up to the rooftop terrace and saw the downtown skyline views, we were pretty much sold.”
Designer Mark Cravotta’s job was to add some flavor to the existing residence. “My inspiration came from residential designer Gregory Brooks’ beautifully designed house, and the clients’ desire to finally have a home that reflected their personalities,” Cravotta says. The dwelling’s primary materials—including Douglas fir and concrete— provided a strong backdrop for the designer’s chosen palette. “We chose the wall colors first,” Cravotta says. “In the living room, it’s a soft, luminous green. We then looked at several fabric combinations. And the greens won again.” A fantastic 120-year-old Sultanabad rug and a richly colored piece by artist Roi James above the fireplace add to the welcoming ambience.
The couple wanted to maintain the home’s fresh, modern feel while weaving in traditional elements for warmth and authenticity. Cravotta shopped the souks of Marrakesh, for example, to find the perfect combination of rugs to be hung as tapestries. The abode also showcases many treasures from the couple’s own travels. “We have fabulous antique Asian figurines in our dining room,” the wife says. “And Mark did a lovely job of helping us fill the home with photos of our travels. They remind us of our dreams that have come true.”
The homeowners discovered that even a small change could have a big impact. “When we purchased the home, the master bedroom was oriented at a quarter-turn in the other direction,” the wife says. “So it was a bit tight, and you didn’t have this amazing view out the balcony. Just that one-quarter turn transformed the space into a magical cocoon.” Adds the husband, “We open our drapes in the morning, and we’re looking out at the sunrise from the third-floor balcony above the trees and the city. It’s a really special feeling.” The master bath was also refreshed. “We opened up part of the ceiling to install an operable skylight over the shower,” says builder Michael J. Smeets.
In addition, Brooks and fellow residential designer Patrice Mailloux- Huberdeau transformed the sparse backyard into a peaceful outdoor sanctuary that connects visually with the home’s indoor spaces. The yard’s majestic live oaks were used to organize the area. “We composed a backyard with a swimming pool in the only place that wouldn’t destroy the trees,” Brooks says. The duo also designed lighting to extend one’s eyes from the house into the garden as well as an ingenious automatic awning over the pool to keep the space breezy. “It made the pool a complete getaway for us,” the wife says. Brooks and Mailloux-Huberdeau also fashioned fun resting spots. “We created a sitting area between the pool and the deck with a fire pit and furniture around it,” Brooks says. Adds landscape designer Jose´ Roberto Corea, “We brought in Indonesian beach pebbles to create a very stark physical separation between the house and the pool deck. And, we used two different types of bamboo to form these great backdrops for privacy, which also give you a sense of nature as the wind blows and the bamboo leaves rustle.”
With just a few alterations, the couple say they now love—and use—every part of their home. “If you were to come to our house, you would immediately have a sense of who we are,” the wife says. “You would see that we love spending time in our house cooking, relaxing and swimming. A home should be a place that engages and inspires you, and reconnects you to the things that give you purpose and joy.”