Shaping the look of austin

A look inside 15 homes featured on the 25th anniversary of the AIA Austin Homes Tour

Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_pollen
Courtesy of Pollen Architecture and Design
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_pollen2
Courtesy of Pollen Architecture and Design
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_paul lamb
Courtesy of Paul Lamb Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_mell lawrence
Courtesy of Mell Lawrence Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_brian dillard
Courtesy of Brian Dillard Architecture
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_lzt architects
Courtesy of Murray Legge, AIA - LZT Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_KRDB
Courtesy of KRDB
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_eric rauser
Courtesy of Rauser Design
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_dick Clark
Courtesy of Dick Clark Architecture
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_Cornerstone
Courtesy of Cornerstone Group Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_r&c desgin
Courtesy of Rick & Cindy Black Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_barley Pfeiffer
Courtesy of Barley & Pfeiffer Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_A Parallel
Courtesy of A Parallel Architecture
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_Mckinney
Courtesy of McKinney York Architects
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_alterstudio
Courtesy of Alterstudio Architects, LLP
Austin Photo Set: News_Adrienne Breaux_AIA Homes_September 2011_stuart sampley
Courtesy of Stuart Sampley Architect

It’s the time of year that design and architecture lovers have been waiting for: the annual AIA Austin Homes Tour! Falling on October 1st and 2nd this season, this year’s tour is even more special: it’s the 25th anniversary. You’ll find in this gallery a jaw-dropping photo of each of the 15 homes featured, along with a little bit about why they were chosen as well as some information about the great minds behind the designs.

The fun doesn’t stop at the tour this year: In honor of the 25th year of the tour there will be an entire month of design events kicked off by the AIA Homes Tour and called Austin x Design. Design organizations from around the city—architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, furniture design and more—will be throwing events around town during the month of October. You can check out the full calendar on the Austin x Design website.

The tour represents a diverse variety of some of the most recent and most amazing architecture and design in Austin. Not just the biggest homes or the most modern, houses for the tour are chosen because they are extraordinary in their design, either because of clever space and design solutions, eco-friendly elements, how they sit in the landscape or any combination of them all!

And if you haven’t been to the tour in awhile, you might be surprised by all the new features that the tour now sports:

-   Beautiful professional photography in the catalog (that you totally get to keep)
-   An “AIA Homes Tour” iPhone app with maps, photos, links and information about the houses
-   A bicycle tour with suggested routes and bike racks at each home. City Councilman Chris Riley will kick off the bike tour on Saturday at the Center for Architecture

The first Austin AIA Homes Tour was in 1987 and featured seven Austin homes that had been remodeled. It wasn’t a full weekend event like it was today; for $5 you could peek at those seven homes for one afternoon only. About 500 people took that first tour and the catalogs weren’t much more than hand drawings on just one sheet of paper. Last year’s tour saw 5,000 people walk through the homes.

It’s not too late to get your tickets in advance; Prior to the weekend of the tour, tickets are $25 if purchased in person at places like Zinger Hardware and at AIA Austin offices and $27 online. You can also buy a ticket at any house on the tour during the weekend for $30. Tour hours are 10am to 6pm October 1st and October 2nd. 

All photography in this photo essay by Whit Preston.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. But if it is, do it as respectfully and innovatively as you can, as seen in this recreation of a Mid-Century Modern house, the original of which just wasn’t in a good enough shape to try to maintain. Instead, Pollen worked with the homeowners to come up with a new house plan that would respect the spirit of the old one, but be reinterpreted for a new modern family.

The results are dizzyingly beautiful. Warm woods of different tones and patterns wrap interior walls, ceilings and floors, leading into the next room and being the perfect back drop for stylish furnishings. The shape of the house, as sensed from the interior and seen clearly from the exterior, has a definite tip of the retro hat, but also looks to the future with clean lines and sharp angles. And lest you think they only used building a new house as an excuse to play with aesthetics alone, the house also incorporates plenty of eco-ideas like window placement to optimize daylight and solar heat gain, a roof that reflects plenty of the hot sun’s heat and low-embodied energy local materials.

Pay special attention to: All the Mid-Century Modern callbacks that live perfectly in a new, modern home, like furnishings, colors and some details and elements.

Pollen Architecture & Design is three principals with varied backgrounds in architecture, building technology, art and more, and it’s these three diverse ranges of skills and experience that show through in every one of their innovative designs. Collaboration pushes the ideas to their farthest point, producing projects that are extraordinary as well as youthful, energetic, colorful and fun. 

It’s certainly impressive when an architect takes a house that’s in disrepair and totally transforms it into a beautiful home. But it’s equally as impressive—in fact, quite possibly a little more so—when an architect takes a perfectly good-looking home and remodels it to fit the needs of a homeowner better, as in the case of this home featured on the tour.

The home had originally been worked on by Paul Lamb nearly 25 years ago, and the homeowner was ready for not only a change of looks but also in some functions. Interior finishes were replaced and bathrooms and kitchen revamped and remodeled to be more modern. New window coverings and furniture were brought in to refresh. The master bedroom was made a little larger, while a home office space was added as well. Along with visible aesthetic changes, sustainable and eco-friendly changes were brought in, too, like a rainwater collection cistern for landscape irrigation and new isonyne house insulation for energy efficiency.

Pay special attention to: How transformed you are by the interiors of this home. It doesn’t really feel like a house in Austin, and the interiors are modern with a slight hint of rustic.

A small firm, Paul Lamb Architects specializes in homes and commercial spaces with extraordinary attention to detail—which creates highly personalized and unique homes for clients looking for something outside the usual. In business for over twenty years, you really sense how much fun Paul Lamb’s team has when they approach each new project with enthusiasm. 

All of the homes on this year’s AIA Homes Tour are equally amazing, but prepare to get your face melted off when you walk into this home by Mell Lawrence Architects. For the Baylor Street House project, Mell Lawrence and his team were tasked with taking a 1903 Victorian house and transforming the inside into a modern home that has a sleek style while still retaining the feel of a 1903 Victorian House.

If it’s sounds impossible, it nearly is, but the solutions Mell Lawrence came up with are spectacular. Much of the first and second floor’s original elements were maintained, with some notable exceptions like a revamped kitchen and other subtle, modern details. It’s the top floor, however, that may just take your breath away, as they turned an attic into a terrific master suite. A skylight transforms the ceiling, opening up the top floor with bright, much-needed light. The top floor, and the house itself, is capped off by amazing, light-wood planks that wrap the walls and ceilings, creating a sleek and modern yet eerily familiar and traditional look.

Pay special attention to: Um…everything? Seriously, such a stunning home. Really take your time with this one and soak in all the amazing details of old and new and how they meld together to create a home that absolutely crackles with excitement.

This isn’t the first melding of old and new that Mell Lawrence Architects has taken on; throughout the years they’ve worked on plenty of homes, retail environments, restaurants, offices and more, but each time they always look to how they can add or enhance the character of a space. This has given them the reputation of a firm that always creates incredibly interesting, timeless and futuristic spaces, all in one. 

What a funny thing it is that as families grow, the house seems to shrink! Any modern family can understand that predicament, but the family living in this Central Austin neighborhood couldn’t bear to leave the area they had grown to love, deciding to enlist Brian Dillard Architecture to help build a home that would fit everyone’s needs.

Instead of just building a huge home without personality, Brian Dillard Architecture wisely chose to create an L-shaped home, creating an outdoor courtyard that became just as an important a living space as any of the spaces indoors. Walls don’t define the courtyard, rather, big, sliding doors do, allowing the homeowners to blur the lines between indoors and out whenever they’d like. Thoughtful, earthy materials further tie the indoor and outdoor spaces as one, creating a color palette that is soft and stunning.

Pay special attention to: How nice it would be on a gorgeous spring or fall day to throw open those big, sliding doors and enjoy moving in and out of that courtyard. Also, that beautiful hue to the wood siding isn’t stain or paint; it’s shou-sugi-ban, the Japanese technique of charring the wood to protect it from weather.

Practicing architecture in Austin for five years, Brian Dillard Architecture is a firm not intent on creating architecture just for notice; they care about the clients’ needs above all, and take each project carefully and individually. They understand that architecture must also sit in context with its surroundings, and that above all, elegant proportions, functionality and simplicity should reign. 

Innovation defines both Murray Legge’s architectural practice as well as this pool house on the AIA Homes Tour. In fact, this structure in the City of West Lake Hills is a first for the city: a garden roof accepted as permeable cover. The vaulted, stunning top to this structure is lovely and really defines the space by bringing an earthy, wood cover when you look up, a stark contrast to a blue sky on a beautiful day.

Using efficient design, Murray was able to stack much of the pool house’s equipment and program under the vaulted garden roof, allowing for a smaller footprint for the structure and more footprint for the fun surrounding elements. With a high-end residential kitchen and an indoor/outdoor dining area, you’ll be hard-pressed to believe this whole project is actually quite sustainable.

Pay special attention to: That earthy, natural, fun-looking garden roof.

LZT Architects has been around since 1982, and since that time, they’ve striven to be a firm that doesn’t just build architecture for the individual, but for the community as a whole. Aiming for high standards of design, they believe in the power that architecture can have on a whole community when practiced responsibly, and this pool house with its first-of-its-kind garden roof is proof that Murray Legge and LZT Architects are as much about trail blazing as they are about good-looking structures. 

KRDB has a built a reputation as an innovative firm looking to make modern design accessible to a whole slew of folks; so in this residence, like much of their architecture, you’ll see simple materials used in fresh ways to create a look that is affordable but also really nice looking.

In this project, the old house was moved from the lot, and KRDB was faced with a buildable area that was flanked by beautiful trees and a swimming pool. Needless to say it was going to take some creativity to fit a new home that would match the client’s needs and nestle nicely into the existing lot. What resulted was a modern, warm and creative 1600 square foot one-bedroom, two-bathroom house and a 700 square foot studio. High windows let lots of light into the spaces that move gently from public to private, but high enough that they still allow for plenty of privacy in the house. The airy, simply-clad rooms are made bold and bright by the homeowner’s art collection. The stunning architecture and home’s lovely art work together to create a youthful, captivating home.

Pay special attention to: How thoughtful the floor plan is; how it winds from public spaces slowly into private spaces, and how all the spaces are lit by well-placed windows that let just the right amount of light in.

KRDB, led by architect Chris Krager, aims to bring good, modern design to as many people as possible. They really believe in the transformative powers of good design and understand that if people love and feel inspired by where they live, they’ll be the best at what they do. Because of these beliefs, they take on a number of projects, both residential, public and more, always coming up with creative design plans for whatever design challenges the client is working with. 

The Springdale Farmhouse, designed by Rauser Design, could very well win the award for most charming, wish-I-could-get-away-to-this-place-when-things-get-hectic home on the AIA Homes Tour this year. An 800 square foot home on an organic urban farm in East Austin, this home is small and seemingly traditional-looking, but don’t let it fool you: it’s modern and sassy, calming and sweet. A small footprint and a big, wraparound porch hit your senses first, and inside white walls and traditional details make for a clean space. Lots of light-colored wood balances out the home, and simple furnishings leave plenty of open space for an airy feel. A modern, woodsy porch has an outdoor dining table that will make you wish all you had to do in life is have dinner parties on cool autumn nights with friends.

Pay special attention to: How you might feel like running away from your hectic job and city house to tend vegetable and chickens in a gorgeous, charming little home and farm like this.

Rauser Design, helmed by the creative couple of Eric and Rebekah Rouser, doesn't like to talk much about themselves on their about page on their website, but no matter, their work speaks volumes. Interesting and youthful, they also dabble in product design. 

One of the most well-known architecture firms in the city, Dick Clark Architecture’s designs never disappoint, usually because they are so well-thought out, sensitive and interesting. The Meriden Remodel is no different. It’s not easy trying to add to a home’s design, inserting new elements and respecting the past design, but Dick Clark and his team navigate these design waters deftly.

The plan itself was re-imagined, adding several new spaces and revamping old ones, like the children’s bedrooms, wine room, a home office and a pretty phenomenal master suite. Using materials to refreshen and redefine spaces, you’ll spot new light fixtures, stunning cabinetry and stylish furniture and marvel how it all goes together. All in all, the structure’s intimidating high ceilings and open spaces marry simple and thoughtful furnishings to create a home that is at once comfortable and welcoming but also regal and refined. You’ll enjoy how the home is equal parts light and airy and dark and dramatic.

Pay special attention to: All the windows, both from the exterior looking in and the interior looking out. Both vantage points make what you are looking at seem like a gorgeous set from a play. Also: that wine room!

Founded in 1979, Dick Clark Architecture is one of Austin’s oldest and most prestigious design firms, having created enough residential, commercial, hospitality and public space designs to have had a significant impact on the look and shape of the entire city of Austin. You can read more about the firm’s lead Dick Clark on a piece we did of him: Dick Clark: the king of Austin architecture?

Though there’s often plenty of collaboration between architect and client in any house project, this home was unique; the client was also the builder! Both client and the architects at Cornerstone Group Architects wanted to create an eco-friendly and sustainable home full of LEED ideas and reused and reclaimed materials; no small feat for such a large home.

But even though the square footage is large, their footprint isn’t; other green elements include a 5,000-gallon rainwater collection system, shading features, energy-efficient systems, spray-foam insulation and glazing maximized to control heat gain, all working together to get the home a five-star rating with the Austin Energy Green Building program. On the design front, a thoughtful living plan gradually moves from public to private spaces and the 95% reused and reclaimed materials are warm, inviting and set the tone for a stunning space.

Pay special attention to: How seamlessly all the eco-friendly ideas were blended into the home and the beautiful materials that were used for the building.

Cornerstone Group Architects (also known as CGA Partners) was founded in 1989 and elegantly tackles architecture and interior design challenges in both residential and commercial projects. They specialize in not only skilled and aesthetically-pleasing-to-look-at-structures, but helping clients realize their building dreams. Skilled in working in any type of style, they have a passion for designing sustainably responsible structures. 

The way architects Rick and Cindy Black deftly added a clever modern addition to a 1930s bungalow without sacrificing the style of either might make you think this wasn’t that hard to do, but trust me: these two have some serious talent.

Doubling the size of the original home that had a lot of vintage charm, they used metal to basically create another version of the original house in the back, maintaining many of the same shapes and profiles by using elements like vaulted ceilings and a wicked-cool metal skeletal structure on the back terrace. You’ll get a kick at how well two distinct styles were married and how they complement each other, and you’ll be in awe of how you can’t really tell there are two different styles from the inside. The materials and colors of this home are fun, charming and bold, too.

Pay special attention to: How possible it is to still respect and love an older bungalow’s shape and charm and still add plenty of modern style and space for a growing family’s needs.

You sometimes forget that Rick and Cindy Black are architects who excel at exteriors because they’re so darn good at the interiors—the parts that make a home a home. Exquisite listeners, they use both their unique points of view to add to a client’s needs and create a home—inside and out—that is beautiful, functional, efficient and above all enjoyable. 

No one will deny that Austin’s an amazing place to live with great people, good food and fun culture, but sometimes building a home on this land isn’t the easiest thing. Rather than shy away from tough topography, Barley & Pfeiffer Architects rose to the challenge to create this home on property once considered impossible to build on. The site necessitated much of the design, but that’s precisely what makes the structure so interesting.

Gripping a rocky ridge top, a linear design was chosen to make sense of the site, and creates not only interesting to look at architecture, but lots of fun views and ways of getting around the house. It would have been enough to even just build on this lot, but Barley & Pfeiffer Architects were able to create a house that took advantage of breezes and solar orientation for cooling and light. As if that wasn’t enough, it was also built sustainably, earning the City of Austin’s 5-star energy rating. It doesn’t look half bad, either!

Pay special attention to: How amazing it is that man’s able to manipulate such a tough landscape! Be sure to look out all the windows in different parts of the home to see the landscape but also how the house sits in the site.

Rocking architecture for over twenty years, Barley & Pfeiffer Architects’ principals are Alan K. Barley and Peter L. Pfeiffer, and they together, along with a great team, bring a whole new level to green building, and are in fact recognized nationally as pioneers in the environmentally responsive green building movement. 

This home on the East Side of Austin is sure to be a surprise to anyone who’s driven past it before. A Parallel Architecture transformed what was once a run-down, Mid-Century duplex in an area of the Cherrywood neighborhood known as “Duplex Nation” into a fresh and bright modern home. It was all done with smart demolition of elements that weren’t working, going from a duplex to a single-family, double-height living space. Rather than completely changing the exterior until it was unrecognizable, A Parallel Architecture instead merely enhanced the good “bones” that were already there, creating a streamlined aesthetic that at once lets you know you’ll be seeing a modern home inside but also still respects the charming aesthetic of the surrounding duplexes.

A healthy-sized new kitchen, a living space that’s airy and open and a stunning steel staircase add a modern look to the interior, while elegant and understated furniture and beautiful art create a comforting and warm home. Most delightfully, the home looks like a modernly designed one, but doesn’t stand out from the rest of the neighborhood, still respecting the hip feel of the whole area.

Pay special attention to: The neat stair details and the way the exterior blends seamlessly into the surrounding neighborhood while still looking modern and awesome.

A Parallel Architecture started in 2008 and consists of partners Eric Barth and Ryan Burke, who have been collaborating on good design since 1997. They don’t just redo old duplexes into modern homes, they’ve done retail, restaurant, multi-family, residential and even furniture design for folks in Austin and into Texas and beyond. 

McKinney York Architects, helmed by Heather McKinney, is another firm that’s been around for many years (almost 30), and in those years, they’ve tackled tons of residential, institutional, commercial and hospitality spaces. This variety of work has given them a skilled touch, but also a warm one: they know how to create a space that represents those who will be using and living in it. Such is what happened with the Cuernavaca Residence. Bought by a lovely older couple ready to move a little farther away from the city, the house had previously been the home of creative musicians and featured plenty of quirky details. Rather than rip all of that out, McKinney York used those details as inspiration for a new, warm color palette and style.

Many elements to this house were improved upon, like the entry space (they also got rid of too many entry points and made a true and powerful front door). There was also a new, screened-in porch added, the master suite was expanded and the interior space was opened up, allowing more light in. The materials and color palette is warm and earthy, and the exterior is charming and surprising.

Pay special attention to: How brilliantly a new modern interior look was married to a charming, older exterior look. That interior stairwell with glass partition is pretty rock star, too.

McKinney York Architects was founded in 1983 by Heather McKinney and has since been awarded plenty of architecture awards for excellence for designs that are always good-looking, but also thoughtful and meaningful. They care quite a bit about the environment, and work hard to encourage clients to choose sustainable practices whenever possible. We wrote about how she’s changing the shape of Austin, too: Heather McKinney designs architecture for (creative, cool, clever) people.

Sometimes, it behooves an architectural firm to make sure the architecture of a new home doesn’t ruffle the feathers of any of the other surrounding architecture. And other times—well, a home’s just got to show off what it’s got. Such is the case of the Scout Island Residence by Alterstudio Architects. A modern exterior infuses itself into a hillside neighborhood taking advantage of views at the rear of the property, but the heart of this architectural gem’s got to be the internal courtyard.

The house itself is split into two bars—divided between public and private spaces—and connected by a glass passageway. The architecture is really something, with a pretty modern brick façade, but it’s the way the house interacts with the landscape that really makes this home extraordinary and worthy of a spot on the tour.

Pay special attention to: The changing views of both the architecture and the plants and landscaping as you navigate the property and how while you’re in the house, you sort of forget you’re in the neighborhood. Also: getting to learn what emerald zoysia is (hint: it’s a type of grass).

Alterstudio Architects, LLP is headed up by the talented Kevin Alter, and they primarily focus on not just beautiful architecture, but creating architecture while considering the kind of living that goes on within it. They like creating efficient spaces, beautiful views, using daylight to light a home and making homes that work for the kind of lifestyles their clients have and want. 

The 2000 square foot Moontower Residence, which is lucky to have one of the coolest names of the tour, also happens to be an incredibly efficient design full of really inventive details, making it quite unique and spellbinding.

The simple exterior belies its extraordinary interior: cork floors dance with wood like walnut, which mingles with metal and glass. Small spaces are made to feel just right by smart layouts and clean, simple materials that let the action of the interiors be the star of the show. Frosted glass windows throughout the house let lots of natural light in but leave plenty of privacy for the inhabitants. Three beautiful trees on the lot necessitated the shape of the home, allowing for exciting outdoor spaces enhanced by great material choices.

Pay special attention to: Pretty cool exterior metalwork and the fact that these lucky residents get to live close enough to a moontower to see it from their house! 

Stuart Sampley’s work is always a practice of dichotomies: thoughtful designs yet not too experimental that they’re not comfortable. Functional and efficient spaces yet still beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. Sustainable homes that are responsible, but also affordable for many folks. His designs always work for his clients, but also for the neighborhoods in which the homes sit.