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September 24, 2012

In Austin, mid-century homes built in the wake of World War II join more traditional vernacular architecture.

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Modern family room with extended window and small staircase

Homeowner and architectural designer Elizabeth Alford explains that rapid post–World War II population growth caused Austin homebuilders to address materiality and place in a more direct way. Though modest, many of the Texas capital’s homes were built with local resources, such as limestone and native hardwood, and made strong connections to the outdoors with the help of large windows, covered porches, and patios. “People were interested in technology and the future,” she says, but ties to farm life were still strong.

Modern outdoor fireplace area with wooden benches
The outdoor fireplace of the Balcones house designed by Elizabeth Alford.
According to Alford, mid-century houses are a “small but appreciated minority” in Austin—head into Hill Country to spot the strictly vernacular dogtrot-style homes—but she’s not kidding when she says that the best example of regional architecture in central Texas might just be the famed Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, about 30 minutes outside of Austin. Nothing screams “sense of place” like the smoke-stained pine that lines the walls and the quilt-like brickwork on the front of the otherwise unassuming building.

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