Using Wood for Good

Austin AIA Homes Tour this weekend showcases local home design with warm woods and cool views

The 2013 AIA Homes Tour is this Saturday and Sunday, November 2 and 3, 10am - 6pm both days, providing the opportunity explore homes designed by the city's top architects and enjoyed by Austin's luckiest homeowners.

Eleven houses sprinkled across the capital city beckon with modern lines and jaw-dropping views, but there's another common thread woven through these spaces, especially poignant because of the recent loss of trees due to drought. (A loss hauntingly illustrated by the art installation THIRST.)

We notice all the wood elements carefully integrated into the designs of these houses  and wonder about their stories. Alive and intact trees provide shade and oxygen. Respectfully used indoors, new or salvaged, this natural building material brings warmth and beauty. 

From bold ceiling beams to exotic cabinets to reclaimed countertops, you'll spot a variety of wood species in these new and recently renovated homes. We asked the designers and architects to tell us the stories about the wood you'll be seeing in these houses.

Tickets for the self-guided tour are $35 in advance and $40 the weekend of the tour and may be purchased online or at Zinger Hardware or Mockingbird Domestics. Check out the AIA Homes Tour website for more information.

Pictured on this slide:

Dick Clark + Associates
New Construction
2,500 sq.ft.

You'll notice the warm wood exterior siding from the get-go and fall in love all over again when you spot the gorgeous wood kitchen cabinets.

"For the kitchen, we chose to use a vertical grain Sapele. The owners were interested in a warmer wood color, and it matched well with the mesquite floors we used for the stairs and wood floor.

"For the exterior we used cypress siding; we also used this on the interior wall of the stair. Cypress is a relatively local wood that is extremely resistant to decay and insects. It has a rich grain and texture that we felt was a good choice for the project. The cypress siding brought a natural and warm quality to the modern form of the house." — Jeff Krolicki, an architect on the project

Alterstudio Architecture

1,028 sq.ft. renovation; 1,139 sq.ft. addition

A "bipolar" renovation and addition offers the opportunity to create intimate and open spaces alike with reclaimed materials.

"The wood in the kitchen was the old shiplap that was taken from the house in the front. It is the native long leaf pine which was used almost exclusively in houses from that era from everything from wall studs to finish flooring. These are shiplap boards that were used to cover the wall studs in lieu of plaster (which was more expensive and used primarily in fancier homes). The shiplap was considered an unacceptable finish at the time, however, and it was typically covered in a burlap-based wall paper. 

"We reused the wood in the design for multiple reasons.  Primarily, it is a beautiful, rich color, and the old boards carry the serendipitous beauty of both nature and time. They add rich texture to a room that is mostly rendered in white walls. The white walls heighten the abstract quality of a dynamic two-story space, and the boards are used as a powerful counterpoint primarily in areas of intimate engagement with the architecture (office niche, kitchen shelving, island table). The use of this wood in particular in both the older and new portions of the home brings cohesion to a house that is conceived primarily as bipolar, with intimate sleeping spaces in the renovated portion and fluid public space in the addition. This wood is also a very sustainable choice (no trees were cut, no transportation, etc). 

"Our philosophy with respect to the choice of wood and other materials is not tied to a particular ideological position, but is instead responsive to the various exigencies that affect architectural choices in particular and lifestyle choices in general. We use a lot of reclaimed products (this home, Peddle Office floors and walls, Bouldin Residence floors, Lakeview Residence floors), but we also recognize that this is not always the right choice for every application, and we tune our decisions to the particular issues at hand." —  architect Ernesto Cragnolino.

Chas Architects
New Construction
7,388 sq.ft. (conditioned);11,817 sq.ft. (covered)

Wood becomes the star in a beautiful home with lots of neutral material choices.

"The kitchen features vertical grain walnut. It has a pretty unique look that has a modern feel and that goes with the rest of the home. It's a pretty standout grain, but not over-the-top. It just worked really well with everything else in the house. The stone used in the house is pretty neutral, so it lets the wood make the impact. It's also used in the doors and cabinetry throughout the house. The kitchen is beautifully done, too; the grain was carefully matched throughout the cabinets to create a consistent look from door to drawer. And all the walnut was sourced locally." —  project interior designer Karmyn Kopfer of Rachel Mast Design. 

Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects
2,890 sq.ft.

Wood in this home is used purposefully to create visual contrast. 

"There are a number of things in this home that look old but are new. All the 1930s shiplap was taken from the old house, and we had only a certain quantity of wood, so we had to choose wisely. We thought it would be nice to have it on the sloped ceiling [of a bedroom space created by raising the roof of the original attic space], giving the illusion that it was an old ceiling and visually contrasting to the white walls.

"We cleaned the wood up a little bit, but not too much. It was important to the client to have a patina to it and that the material be authentic and real. The shiplap has a rich texture and is tactile. We also used the shiplap in the living room —the front walls are all shiplap and give a warm cabin feeling — and also in the master bathroom as a concealed door and on a wall in the kitchen. There's a contrast between clean, modern elements and textured, rich material." — architect Hugh Randolph


Merzbau Design Collective
2,145 sq.ft.

Traditional and unconventional wood types mingle in this home. 

"The dining/library has a 15-foot-high-wall of maple plywood panels, or "tiles," that are cut from standard maple veneer plywood sheets into roughly 32" long x 12" wide strips. The finish is an oil-based whitewash, which helps to diminish the grain pattern of the wood a bit. The tile pattern echoes the travertine pattern on the front porch (the travertine is reclaimed from the remodel of the LBJ Library at UT).

"I knew I wanted to do a wood feature wall in the room, but wanted something with a more 'monolithic' feel than standard wood planks. I brainstormed with my friend and finish carpenter Paul Wintle, and we came up with this system as an economical way to do a really nice wall. We used the same wood and finish at the stair guardrail and at the new media cabinet in the family room, as a consistent feature to tie the spaces together.

"The main use of wood at the exterior is at the front porch, where doubled rafters support painted pine tongue-and-groove decking. The porch columns and beam are stained Douglas fir." — architect J.C. Schmeil.

Nick Deaver Architect
3,100 sq.ft.

You'll find quite a variety of wood types used in this home to add warmth and color. 

"Wood is an essential element in both our restored 1919 Arts and Crafts style bungalow and its concrete-and-glass modern addition.

"The original exterior of the house has painted wooden elements: long roof overhangs, stout brackets and raindrop-style clapboard siding. Inside are crown moldings, parting-beads at door, window heads and tall wainscoting. Vertical grain Douglas fir wood (chosen to complement the long leaf pine floors) make a new, four-foot-wide beveled glass entry door. In the powder room, custom single panel wood doors and horizontal siding are made of the same amber-colored wood. The floors are original long leaf pine floors, which were restored to a honey-colored, no-shine finish. 

"We selected Ipe for the modern apartment kitchen shelves, cabinets and counter tops and site-built exterior doors and windows. Ipe is a Brazilian hardwood, typically used for wood decks (due to its characteristic hardness, easy maintenance and insect resistance). Ipe was also used for our new covered back porch floor (the outdoor dining tables are Ipe and steel). This use of a single species of wood (with its deep burgundy color) creates continuity, dissolving distinctions between interior and exterior spaces.

"Other modern interventions with wood include an indoor bathing-porch with full-length Burmese teak (teak oil finish) on the room floor, shower ceiling, floor and shelf. Teak was selected for its water-resistance and beautiful, rich brown colors. The ceiling is beadboard, since this room originally was a porch.

"A painted pine barn door leads to a bright white upstairs guestroom/exercise area with painted tongue-and-groove horizontal pine walls and ceiling, set against a natural yellow pine floor.

"Wood lends warmth, color and variety." — architect Nick Deaver

Steinbomer, Bramwell & Vrazel, Architects
3,800 sq.ft.

The finish on the salvaged original wood floors pulls double duty by looking gorgeous and tying this home's addition to the original house. 

"The original 1951 house had stained, red oak hardwood floor throughout. It was important to salvage the existing flooring material to retain the history of the house, with the added benefit of staying environmentally friendly by avoiding additional waste through its removal. 

"Our design goal was to unify the new second floor addition with the existing house by matching the Red Oak finish on both floors. The stairs became the opportunity to transition between both floors. using reveals and proportions that reappear in other locations around the house. Hopefully the end result provides a classic look that will last another 50 years or more." — architect Jed Duhon

Shiflet Group Architects
New Construction
16,000 sq.ft. 

Wood makes a stunning visual impact even in a home with a lot of square feet and plenty of other design elements. 

"We included wood beams in many of the rooms because it adds so much warmth. The interior of the house started out with a concept of a cleaned-up version of a Santa Barbara house, but we didn't want the wood to be dark like it is in traditional Santa Barbara houses. Fern [Santini, the project interior designer. Shiflet Group designed the sizes/spacing/locations of the wood beams, and Santini was responsible for the type and finish of the wood] suggested using reclaimed white oak beams with a wax finish and no stain.

"The intent was to embrace the bolt holes, mortised areas, splits, etc. that give a sense of historical contrast to the new construction. 

"The wood floors are made of reclaimed material as well, but they are walnut. They came from the subfloor of an old chicken coop." — Sophie McGough, project architect on this house.

Tim Cuppett Architects
New Construction
5,260 sq.ft.

Only two wood types paint a modern picture in this home with a restricted and powerful materials palette. 

"The kitchen cabinets are walnut. It was chosen for active grain pattern and color contrast with the white oak floors. As I prefer to restrict a materials palette, in the interest of maintaining a cohesive feeling throughout the house, we used only those two woods.

"We had some custom furniture — the dining table, bed, headboard and end tables — built out of walnut to continue the palette. A log was selected prior to milling specifically for the dining table top." — architect Tim Cuppett.

Webber + Studio, Architects
New Construction
4,407 sq.ft.

Engineered and regional wood products make for an eco-friendly environment in this home. 

"The floors are an engineered, regionally ubiquitous pecan/hickory mix. Reconstituted wood products in the space: wood paneling, Eco-wood 'Zebra-wood' for the stairwell panels and wood-paneling, Eco-wood 'Ebony' for the kitchen. 

"The Shoal Creek house interior finishes include regionally ubiquitous pecan and reconstituted wood products, reflecting Webber’s commitment to using regional or reclaimed wood products." — Ransom Baldasare.

Weiss Architecture
New Construction
3,924 sq.ft.

Wood acts as the durable complement and unifier of a home full of lots of different wooden furniture.

"The front door and interior sliding doors are mahogany with a clear stain.Floors are stained red oak. All windows are pine (with metal cladding on the exterior) stained espresso.

"Cabinets are beech with an espresso stain. The garage door and soffits on the first floor are red cedar with a honey oak stain.

"Wood is an important feature in the home because it adds warmth and durability both on the interior and exterior. Since the majority of our furniture has been with both sides of our family for generations and encompasses a number of different species and stains (oak, maple, tiger oak), we used the wood in the construction as a unifying element to tie all of the rooms together. 

"But perhaps the most important use of wood in the project was the protected tree in the front yard that the house was built around. The tree creates an exterior courtyard in the front of the house, provides shade for all of the west-facing windows and inspired a floating bridge that connects the front door to the street while maintaining all of the clearances required to keep the critical root zone and tree canopy healthy and free from construction." — architect Richard Weiss