There’s a little bit of magic to this house,” designer Marcus Mohon says of the southern European-inspired home he decorated for a couple in Austin. “It makes you want to sit down and linger.” Overlooking Barton Creek, the spacious abode exudes approachable old-world elegance through cozy furnishings and mottled-stone walls. “Every space is stylish but comfortable,” the designer says. “We eliminated the concepts of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ from the interiors.”
After purchasing one of the last available lots in the coveted neighborhood, the owners collaborated with their close friends architect Gary Koerner and landscape designer James Hyatt, whose project manager was Christopher Olson, to develop the basic form of their new dwelling. This resulted in a U-shaped home, in which the main living areas are flanked by the kitchen and the master bedroom. Taking advantage of the breeze and magnificent views, the residence also features outdoor living spaces with a pool in the center. “This property is about various courtyards and rooms that bend around a large courtyard to the rear of the house,” Koerner explains.
A feeling of privacy sinks in from the moment guests approach the front door, accessed through an outdoor entrance behind a courtyard with an antique gate. Adding to the ambience, a gas-burning lantern ties in with both the large glass-and-steel entry door and the steel windows throughout the home, which enhance the views. “We designed the windows to be oversized, with glass to the floor, so your eye is drawn outside when you enter the room,” explains architect Charles Travis, who further developed the original plans and designed the interior architecture. It’s one of the thoughtful ways the team injected contemporary elements into the design. “There’s a seamless blending of different architectural themes that gives this house an authenticity,” Travis says.
It was in this spirit that builder David Dalgleish and his crew approached the project, utilizing time-tested techniques. “The owners were interested in authentic craftsmanship,” he explains. The plaster on the walls, for example, was mixed on site and shows bits of sand in its composition. The stone walls were hand-chiseled and sanded to enhance the aged appearance. And the wrought-iron railings along the outdoor areas were forged and twisted without relying on welding tools. “Even though the home features materials used in southern France centuries ago, they were used in a very crisp, edited way.” Travis says. Case in point: When Dalgleish, who also installed the massive reclaimed ceiling beams, laid the limestone flooring, he carefully detailed the line between the flooring and the plaster walls with a razor blade. “When you can’t cover something up with a piece of trim, there’s no tolerance for error,” he says.
With a simple materials palette as the foundation, Mohon’s selection of furnishings and artwork brings the home to life. “The interiors reflect the wife’s wardrobe of textural neutrals and elegant, understated jewelry, combined with an old-world attitude,” he says. A tactile hide rug layered atop a larger area rug, for example, introduces texture to the living room and defines a seating area featuring a number of custom pieces, including a chaise and a sofa near a large stone fireplace mantel.
Along one wall in the space, a tapestry hangs above a deep-brown antique wood table, punctuating the neutral palette. “A little touch of iron and dark wood creates a strong contrast and highlights everything else,” Mohon says. Likewise, in the adjacent dining room, a striking iron-and-wood chandelier illuminates a sofa settee and a mix of chairs around a circular table.
Nearby, in the kitchen, the designer paired white-oak cabinetry with marble countertops and a monolithic custom-plaster hood. A pair of simple iron pendants illuminate the mammoth-sized island, which is equipped with ample storage space, and tie in with the large-scale sconces flanking the range. “They look like a pencil sketch–a simplified version of an older lantern,” Mohon says. And throughout the home, many bespoke touches exist in the form of doors, like the ornate antique one from Spain the designer customized for the powder room and the leather-paneled doors that mark the entrance to the walnut-paneled den.
Now settled into their European-inspired abode, the owners linger in every room, especially the large outdoor living area–an ideal spot for entertaining visitors or simply sharing wine and conversation with each other. “They love the house,” Mohon says. “It functions great for their large family or just the two of them.”