After seven moves in fewer than 20 years, these homeowners were ready to put down roots. “We’ve had great experiences living in different cities, but with Austin, we had our Goldilocks moment,” the wife says. “This house is just right.” The couple most recently lived in California—and the home they found struck them as “a transitional take on Santa Barbara design,” the wife adds. And because it wasn’t complete, they looked forward to having the opportunity to customize finishes and make it their own.
“This house is a contemporary approach to Mediterranean style,” says architect Ranjit Gupta, whose design was brought to life by Shapiro Homes LLC with Allegiant Contractors. “The design is clean and modern, but with an ode to traditional forms like pitched gables and parapet walls.” Gupta used limestone, traditional for this region, but opted for long cuts stacked horizontally to create an unexpected look. He also eschewed any window ornamentation to keep lines tidy, “simple, almost stark,” he describes. Dappled sunlight floods in through the unadorned steel windows, creating an indoor-outdoor spirit while adding a touch of drama inside.
“We wanted to disrupt what you typically see in transitional homes by going bolder,” the wife notes. To realize this vision, designer Cori Pfaff, of Ashby Collective, focused on the clients’ defining stylistic influences: the work of Lebanese luminary Claude Missir, a devotee of 1930s French modernism; and the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, both the gravitas of the galleries and the exuberant energy of its famous shop. “The goal was to juxtapose art-driven sophistication with a feeling of playfulness,” Pfaff explains.
The rooms were furnished with new and custom designs, but the designer let the couple’s burgeoning art collection guide her choices. “I wanted everything to be simple but architectural, sculptural but subdued,” she describes. The homeowners worked with art advisor Alexis Armstrong on what became a journey all its own. “We went from wanting to select a few special pieces to creating a collection that became one of the most prominent features of the house,” the wife says. “That meant thinking deeply about what each artist brought to the mix in terms of theme, technique and aesthetic, as well as about balancing established and emerging artists.”
A large textural painting by Kazumi Nakamura greets guests in the entry, hinting at the palette soon to unfold. In the dining room, Pfaff paired a red-lacquered table with yellow-leather chairs below a Persian carpet-inspired work by Jason Seife. “I like to think of rooms as having ‘a top moment’ and then other furnishings complementing that hero piece,” she says. In the living room, where they placed art by Erik Madigan Heck and James Nares, Pfaff focused on unexpected furnishings in colors that enhance the works: the bronze-hued sofa, purple armchair and teal rug. “How we’ve used color, especially jewel tones in big, intentional doses, is one of my favorite elements of the house,” the wife muses.
There are occasional pauses on color (notably in the kitchen, defined by its white oak cabinetry; and the husband’s study, done in golden tones), but color returns upstairs in the family’s private spaces. Pfaff designed the sons’ respective homework and game rooms to be “fun and funky,” pairing Shepard Fairey prints with Gaetano Pesce’s La Mamma chair, also in teal. A pair of velvet chairs leads the design of the couple’s bedroom, which features a few architectural surprises. “I played with that space to make it feel different from the rest of the house,” Gupta says. Tall ceilings rise above the room, though he kept them lower over the seating area for a cozy feel, and he opted for a barrel vault in the bathroom. “It’s a play on light and curves, inspired by Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier’s Catalan arches,” he says.
Outside, Pfaff selected minimalist furnishings in neutral tones to echo landscape designer Roy Adams’ plantings, while not distracting from the interiors. And though there’s an outdoor kitchen and pool to entertain guests, the exterior spaces are meant to be contemplative in an ode to Japanese Zen gardens. “We’d always been so transient that we never had the luxury of truly settling down,” the wife adds. “It’s been a treat to tailor each space to how we actually use it.”