Tour An Enchanting Austin Abode With A Secret Garden Feel


covered passageway to a home's...

A Moroccan-style pendant casts beautiful shadows in the covered passageway providing visitors access from the street to the home’s central courtyard.

inner courtyard with lush plantings...

For the interior courtyard, the goal was to create spaces that are welcoming and transportive as well as lush and drought tolerant. The wall sconce is Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights.

antique doors framing an entrance...

Antique doors found at The Original Round Top Antiques Fair frame the entrance to the paseo, a passageway lined with reclaimed brick leading to the interior courtyard. Tazi Designs’ Moroccan-style pendant crowns the space.

living room with expansive windows...

Living room windows by Portella Custom Steel Doors and Windows reveal the courtyard. Sofa cushions wear Holly Hunt Great Outdoors fabric and a Donghia chair dons Mark Tursi Product, Inc. leather. The coffee table is from Revival Home.

dining room with upholstered seating

In the dining area, a Hickory Chair table joins a chair upholstered in Perennials material and others slipcovered with Fabricut’s embroidered Sanya pattern. The RH chandelier hangs above a floor covering from Madison Lily Rugs.

living room corner featuring custom...

Tucked into a living room corner are a vintage wine-tasting table from 1stdibs and Mattaliano lamp from David Sutherland. The custom wood art sculpture by artist Paul Meyer punctuates walls painted Benjamin Moore’s Mountain Peak White.

casita living area with cozy...

The casita’s living area features a Cisco Home sofa from Caffrey & Company atop a Madison Lily Rugs floor covering. A chair slipcovered with Link Outdoor fabric faces a stump coffee table and lamp from Revival Home.

bedroom with dark-painted walls

Benjamin Moore’s Iron Mountain coats the primary bedroom, blending seamlessly with RH velvet draperies. A custom headboard in Holly Hunt’s Great Plains fabric and Bella Notte linens from Kuhl-Linscomb accent the bed. Underfoot is a rug from Madison Lily Rugs.

powder room with a scalloped...

A custom scalloped Colorado marble vanity installed by Decorum Architectural Stone pairs with an antique marble sink from 1stdibs in the powder room. The Watermark faucet from Alexander Marchant complements Paul Ferrante’s Wesley sconces.

lush courtyard with a fire...

Palecek’s San Martin sofas from KBK to the Trade flank the courtyard’s fire pit with Savonarola chairs and a side table from Schors. The pergola covers Elegant Earth’s banquet table and bistro chairs. Wall-mounted lighting is Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights.

Empty nesters deciding to downsize is a familiar story. However, one couple in Austin gave their tale a plot twist by eschewing anything conventional for a new home. The pair put their hobbies—primarily gardening and traveling—at the fore and pulled design inspiration from some of their favorite moments together. “We’ve always loved exploring Mexico and Central America and the secrecy of what might exist behind the wooden doors you see while walking down the streets,” explains the wife. “Plus, we wanted to bring the outdoors inside—making an accessible exterior space we would use on a regular basis.”

To realize this dream, the couple hired architect Charles Travis, who had designed their previous abode. “They wanted something in town that was more manageable for the two of them,” he recalls. In turn, what Travis sketched was a Santa Barbara-style residence and casita featuring all the timeless trimmings—stucco, clay, tile—but with an emphasis on modern lines. (A case in point: squared windows and doorways as opposed to arches.) “Much of our recent work has been about breaking houses down into multiple forms,” he says. “This project continues that tradition with a completely detached casita for guests. We created separate structures with well-defined spaces and connected them with a beautiful garden.” Working with builders Christopher Yokley and Scott Draker, Travis “turned the house in on itself,” he continues. “This is a city lot with neighbors on three sides, so creating an outdoor room gave the owners privacy and a wonderful exterior living area.”

From the street, visitors enter through large antique doors into a paseo, or covered passageway, that leads directly toward the courtyard (where the husband can often be found with his bucket and secateurs) and the main house just beyond. “The courtyard was a primary design element,” the architect notes. “It’s the ‘glue’ that holds everything together.” Working with designers Marcus Mohon and Autumn Mohon, Travis further defined the exterior with a central fire pit that comprises comfortable seating and a pergola sheltering a 12-foot-long dining table. While the couple envisioned a home that lives for two, they also love to entertain and desired a place they could use for as much of the year as possible.

Inside the residence, meanwhile, exists an abundance of dappled light, with windows remaining large and relatively unadorned thanks to the privacy afforded by the courtyard. Benefiting from this, the airy living room occupies the center of what is essentially a great room. Yet, Marcus rethought the familiar flow of kitchen to dining room to living room by centering the sofas and pushing the dining table to the far end. “It’s not a huge home, so we didn’t want it to feel like an apartment,” he explains. “Our clients use the kitchen counter and breakfast nook just for themselves, which allowed us to create a destination dining area that’s not too far away to bring food when company visits.”

Marcus, whose project manager was Stacie Grimes, selected furnishings that speak the same language as the architecture—beautiful yet approachable. “There should be a delicate balance of dynamic and comfortable. Rooms need to beguile, and I think the eye dances here,” he muses, noting the influence of boutique hotels like Portrait Roma, a historic property in Rome. “This house was so artfully designed by Charles that it reveals itself slowly. There’s procession. There’s romance.” At the back of the abode is the primary bedroom, and another surprise. Gone is the light and bright feel of the courtyard, replaced entirely by a dark, dramatic hue on the walls and ceiling “that transforms itself throughout the day, sometimes having bronze, chocolate or indigo undertones,” Marcus notes. The wife was immediately smitten: “I trusted him completely, and the color makes it a perfect room for sleeping, which is a plus we weren’t expecting,” she says.

“It was always about being soft and understated,” chimes the architect. Regardless, the residence continues to garner more than a little attention. “People stop, call, leave notes—so many are fascinated by the house,” laughs the wife. Like all those homes the couple admired on their travels to Latin America, this one enchants passersby as much as it does its lucky occupants.