Houzz Tour: Soothing and Minimal in Austin

Jul - 06

Houzz Tour: Soothing and Minimal in Austin

Smack-dab in the center of a traditional-style housing development out of Austin, this modern home might look a little out of place at first. The customers bought the property since they adored the north Austin location, however they were not conscious of the rigorous set of codes and limitations a homeowners review board could place in their property.

When Austin architecture firm Alterstudio pitched the project to the plank, they convinced them this home would really add to the neighborhood. “The house works very well,” says architect Kevin Alter. “The beauty of the building isn’t only in its shape, but it acts as a canvas. It inspires a different way to live and it creates experiences more beautiful.”


The house includes a single-story layout in the front, however there are two stories in the back as it spreads out over a steep incline.

“The construction is small, but it functions like a geode when you move inside,” says Alter. He — along with spouse Ernesto Cragnolino and architects Tim Whitehill, Russel Krepart, Matt Slusarek and Jessica Connolly — designed the house to prevent obstructing the viewpoints or light of any other houses in the evolution.


“Each material was used in its own nature,” says Alter. While brick was used to enclose specific parts of the home, it was also used decoratively. Here, brickwork on the front entryway plays with shadows and light.


The steel and glass liner the front entry hall contrasts with the outside brickwork. Using steel across the home adds lightness and allowed for expansive windows.


Ipe wood accents onto the garage door and a trellis in the front of the house bring warmth into the house’s quite stark brick outside.

A central courtyard, only visible through the glass entryway, allows the home to centre in on nature.

“The house was constructed within an enclave,” says Alter. It’s its own unique world, he states, so that once you leave the neighborhood and walk throughout the pool of water into this home,”everything out is left behind you.”

The customers had planned to put koi in the pond, but they soon heard of a red-tailed hawk that had made its home in a nearby tree and had already swiped some koi from a neighbor’s pond. The strategy for koi was abandoned, but the calming effect of the water stays.


Using corner glazing through the home allows for rooms to extend out beyond their allocated area and brings the eye out to the house’s lovely views. While the property’s layout is clean, there is nevertheless a fine degree of detail across the house. “The detail lets the interesting qualities of the grain of stone or the pattern of light and shadow play out without diversion,” says Alter.

The stream of the house feels natural and effortless. After entering the front door, the house leads you from room to room on a route surrounding the courtyard. Each area has a different view of the courtyard, woods, and the remainder of the house.

Part of the reason that the customers bought this home was due to its fantastic view. From that vantage point, it’s apparent that the house drops off very steeply from the back. The land drops directly down to the river, also you’ll be able to see across the treetops into the cliff face on the other side.


The kitchen was created without the upper cabinets to keep the room open and clean, but lower cupboards provide loads of storage. The kitchen island is created out of Caesarstone’s Blizzard, and the stone floors are Israeli Blue.

The customers had a moderate budget and wanted to get a clean and crisp appearance while still using off-the-shelf substances. “Working with trivial substances can make it even more challenging to make a specific result,” says Alter. “You need to be sure that you articulate the substances in a specific way.”

While the style of the home is certainly motivated by mid-century modern structure, in addition, it drew inspiration from the Case Study Houses on the West Coast. In many ways, these homes were less about themselves, and more about the way that they motivated people to reside. Shift and Cragnolino desired to make a home that just made the customers’ own lives better.

The house is constructed so that when inside, none of the other houses in the evolution are visible. The views out from the living area are stunning — but a wall into the right blocks the house on the adjoining lot. “Once I build a home, I look for what’s best about a location and attempt to maximize those qualities,” says Alter.

Set over the property’s steep embankment, the master bedroom feels like a tree house. The corner glazing gives a very clear view, and allows the space to be enveloped by trees. “I want to be small enough to know that the construction itself — the object — isn’t the end result,” says Alter. “It’s about developing a compelling environment.”

The master bath is open and full of natural light. An open shower strung in an subtle glass tile, built-in cabinetry, and a marble countertop in Calcutta Gold maintain the streamlined aesthetic of the remainder of the home.

Photography by Whit Preston Photography and Paul Finkel of Piston Design

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