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Modernism Exposed

A new urban house by Dick Clark + Associates is a public showcase for how to make the most of privacy.

A screen in front of the two-story house conceals an exterior walkway from the garage to the house. It’s also a structural element, its steel vertical posts providing both a shield for stairs that lead to a deck and a railing beyond which is a view of the Austin skyline. 

Project designer Kristopher White created extra living and dining areas that are enclosed by the roof and walls of the house—13 feet more outside the living room creates enough room for a second living area, and 8 feet outside the dining room offers a place to gather. 

The steel screen’s vertical posts are an homage to the skill of the residence’s structural engineer, who was the former owner of the lot.

The motif continues inside for the stairway.  

The horizontal lines of the fireplace are echoed in the horizontal slats of the privacy fence.

The blue velvet Walter Knoll chair and ottoman maximize comfort in a nook in the master bedroom. 

Sunlight streams into the marble-lined shower via high clerestory windows that allow a sky view outside but protect views into the bathroom.  

Late architect Dick Clark is often credited with creating a variant of modernism that is quite at home in Austin. His muscular Hill Country version of the aesthetic established a distinctive look that complements the vigor of the craggy landscape around the city. A recently completed house near Barton Springs, though, gently veers away from the firm’s signature style. The two-story residence ventures into a multipersonality modulation of modernism, merging a hint of the streamlined silhouette of International Style with a kick of the sophisticated hominess that characterizes midcentury modern.

Two associates at Dick Clark + Associates guided the sleight of hand required to create the stucco, metal and glass residence on a corner lot in an established midtown neighborhood. Project designer Kristopher White and interior designer Kate Blocker synchronized their efforts to make the 2,750-square-foot spec house—a project envisioned with builder Vinson Radke—achieve the same high standards that homeowners get when they commission a house. “We approached it as if it were a custom piece,” says White. “We asked ourselves the same questions we would ask a homeowner.” The Q&A process confirmed its value immediately—at the first open house, a buyer walked in and purchased the infill jewel on the spot.

Selling the house wasn’t the hard part. Making it fit onto the compact corner lot while also creating a sense of privacy required finesse. Having two exposed sides on the lot allowed White freedom of expression: “That meant that we could have the front door in the middle of the building, on the same side as the garage, but giving the front door distance from the garage.” That decision yielded a big bang: It freed up the back of the house for the living and dining rooms, which stretch across the width of the building. Both also open onto patios neatly recessed into the structural walls of the house, shielding the bonus living spaces from street view.

A second floor accommodates two bedrooms and a flex room, and White packs a punch into a small package. Stairs, concealed by a structural metal screen, ascend across the front facade, heading to a rooftop deck that offers a view of the city. He also nudged a carport next to the single-car garage, its roof part of the architecture of the house. The horizontal metal soffit becomes a dominant motif, extending from the carport to the breezeway and finally establishing itself as the roof over the main entry. “It’s a piece of the architecture that neatly connects the two ways to enter the house,” White says about a design maneuver that might not be that obvious.

If there is a theme to the sleekly up-to-date house, it’s that the subtlety of its parts creates a powerful whole. Designer Blocker consulted with White from the beginning, joining with him in decisions that bolster the outsize personality of the house. “We used the same concrete terrazzo panels on both the interior floors and the exterior ones,” she says. An exception is in the master bedroom, where white oak planks make for warm tones underfoot. White ceilings extend from inside out to the patio, confirming the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. “We wanted a cohesive look,” says Blocker, who also used DOCA, a Spanish cabinet system, with gray-washed white oak and charcoal lacquer surfaces in the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms. “The kitchen,” she says, “sets the aesthetic for the rest of the house.”

With its 18-inch-high wraparound slot window, the kitchen does more than set the aesthetic. The counter-height window riffs on the horizontal theme but also is command central for watching comings and goings. At the front of the house, the room is the first place guests venture into from the entry. There, spaciousness beckons: Blocker has eliminated unnecessary furniture, opting for a built-in breakfast table, an extension off the kitchen island. A DOCA built-in serves as a credenza in the dining room. Furniture selection—a Minotti sofa and Walter Knoll dining table and chairs paired with Kettal outdoor furniture—fits the sleek International Style aesthetic. In a nod to midcentury practicality, Blocker employed texture enthusiastically, with plush area rugs, a velvet swivel chair in the living room and a linen upholstered wingback headboard in the master bedroom.

Any doubts that a midcentury attitude prevails are dispelled with a barefoot saunter through the house. Smoothly nubby floors, a matter-of-fact version of the polished terrazzo floors often found in International Style houses, make texture a tactile presence. Also a constant is the vision of modernism that Clark nurtured almost 40 years ago. He interpreted it in a way that made sense in the Hill Country, and now, posthumously, his vision is flexible enough to allow for adjustments for the more urban Austin of today. That was part of the architect’s long-term plan. “We are able to showcase Dick’s legacy,” says White, “and with this house, we also showcase what we can do with his legacy.”

DESIGN DETAILS
TYPE

Single-family home

LOCATION
Austin

ARCHITECTURE, INTERIOR DESIGN AND LANDSCAPING
Dick Clark + Associates

BUILDER
Vinson Radke Homes

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER
MJ Structures

RESOURCES 
Ann Sacks
Marble mosaic tile on backsplash in kitchen and above credenza in dining room

Artistic Tile
Marble tile in shower

Concrete Collaborative
Terrazzo tiles throughout

Kettal
Outdoor furniture

Marvin
All windows and doors

Miele
All appliances

Scott + Cooner
Minotti sofa and coffee table in living room, Walter Knoll swivel chair in living room, Walter Knoll table and chairs in dining room, Bensen U-turn chair next to stairs

Urbanspace Interiors
De La Espada bed in master bedroom