When the ideal renovation opportunity revealed itself after a years-long search, an Austin couple was ready to jump—knowing they could enlist myriad professionals from past projects to help realize their vision. “We immediately turned to Derek,” recalls the wife, who, with her husband, has known architect Derek Barcinski for two decades. “We’ve worked together on everything from commercial builds to historic and residential remodels,” she continues, noting home renovations have become something of a hobby for the couple. “The best projects come from knowing the clients and vice versa,” adds Barcinski. “I know how important family is to them—and their home reflects that.”
Like the owners, Barcinski immediately saw potential in the property—not just the house but also the sloping yard they could level for a pool and an additional structure, all while maintaining the mature landscape. “I grew up in Louisiana in a home surrounded by beautiful oak trees, so it just felt comfortable,” says the wife. That the residence was designed in the style of Pelican State architect A. Hays Town made it all the more appealing. “We knew it would be a big project but don’t believe in tearing down a classic,” she adds. And while her response was sentimental, for her husband, a commercial builder serving as their contractor, it was also about practicality. “The original builder had a great reputation and I knew the house was well built,” he says, adding, “And anything you can prevent from going into the landfill is important in terms of environmental impact of construction—that was another reason we remodeled.”
Originally designed as a series of small rooms, the residence necessitated being opened up for a better flow. To that end, Barcinski removed arched passageways and moldings for a cleaner look, joined the kitchen, dining and family rooms, and turned a former library and bedroom into a suite for the owners. “We also replaced the stair rail with a modern interpretation,” says the wife, noting the couple had input on a new one Barcinski designed and metalsmith Lars Stanley fabricated. Another special effort: the oak beams sourced to disguise new steel structural supports in the kitchen and family room, which now features a wood-burning fireplace. Elsewhere, Barcinski created a shiplap-clad back hall connecting the front and rear gardens—off of which springs a second bedroom suite—and glazed the rear façade with French doors allowing the ground floor to flood with dappled light.
While the wife had ideas for a modern, classic and comfortable look for the interiors, she knew she needed help pulling it all together. To that end, through friends she found designer Heidi Feliz-Grimm. “She didn’t want anything too formal, so we devised a design that feels pulled together but not stuffy,” Feliz-Grimm explains. “It’s all about durability and earth tones.” They achieved that look through wood furnishings, including the large family room cocktail table requiring seven men to install. “We wanted a palette that created a casual vibe and chose textural fabrics for a calm feel—no heavy patterns or colors,” the designer adds.
However, that’s not to say Feliz-Grimm, working with designer Heather Berardi, didn’t have a little fun when the opportunity arose. Examples include the dining room chairs they upholstered in a bold blue velvet and the rich, peacock-hued paneled walls in the den. “It feels like a little cave, perfect for watching television or reading,” says Feliz-Grimm, who chose a high-gloss finish for depth. “It’s my favorite room.” She also created a moody feel in the reading nook adjoining the couple’s bedroom, giving the bookcases a wash of soft black, a hue she subtly carried into the airy bedroom with a black-painted four-poster bed.
Updates continued outside, where Barcinski designed a patio and pergola under which Feliz-Grimm created an entertaining area comprising a mix of wood, metal and concrete furnishings. The pool offers welcome relief on warm days, and a new brick-clad structure designed by the architect in a New Orleans style offers additional space for movies, yoga and the husband’s woodworking projects. And it was all done without harm to the grand old oak tree that centers the backyard. “The best thing about a remodel is it’s like a ‘new’ house but with established landscape and trees,” says the architect. The wife adds, “We didn’t save any time with this renovation, but we did save a little history.”