written by:
photos by:
illustrated by:
January 14, 2009
Originally published in Small Wonders
The last time Blake Trabulsi and Allison Orr had a party at their house in Austin, Texas, it lasted until 5 a.m. Observes Trabulsi: “People are so comfortable here, they never want to leave.”
addition, austin, texas, rick black architect
Allison Orr stands in the kitchen; the new half of the house is behind her.
Photo by 
1 / 7
Blake Trabulsi dressed up the front yard by adding bright colors to the 1930s facade.
Blake Trabulsi dressed up the front yard by adding bright colors to the 1930s facade.
Photo by 
2 / 7
The living room isn’t large, but its high ceiling makes it feel airy, and furniture on slender legs allows light and air to circulate through the space.
The living room isn’t large, but its high ceiling makes it feel airy, and furniture on slender legs allows light and air to circulate through the space.
Photo by 
3 / 7
The kitchen links the new and old parts of the house; fittingly, its style is somewhere between traditional and modern. A kitchen wall makes room for a fridge and roll-out shelving.
The kitchen links the new and old parts of the house; fittingly, its style is somewhere between traditional and modern. A kitchen wall makes room for a fridge and roll-out shelving.
Photo by 
4 / 7
The office contains a platform, where Blake practices drums (or naps with daughter Genevieve).
The office contains a platform, where Blake practices drums (or naps with daughter Genevieve).
Photo by 
5 / 7
The office adjoins a light-filled guest bathroom.
The office adjoins a light-filled guest bathroom.
Photo by 
6 / 7
A back patio, designed by Allison’s sister, Jennifer Orr, a landscape architect, opens to the living room and to the office.
A back patio, designed by Allison’s sister, Jennifer Orr, a landscape architect, opens to the living room and to the office.
Photo by 
7 / 7
addition, austin, texas, rick black architect
Allison Orr stands in the kitchen; the new half of the house is behind her.
Project 
Trabulsi Orr House

The last time Blake Trabulsi and Allison Orr had a party at their house in Austin, Texas, it lasted until 5 a.m. Observes Trabulsi: “People are so comfortable here, they never want to leave.” That could have something to do with the gentle mien and modest scale of the couple’s ten rooms—–half in a 1930s bungalow and half in a new addition by Rick Black Architect (the Austin partnership of husband-and-wife architects Rick and Cindy Black). As Trabulsi, a graphic designer, and Orr, a choreographer, explain it, they aimed to expand without making the original obsolete. Here’s their story.

Trabulsi: We’d been living here since 1999, and when our rent went up, we asked our landlord if we could buy it. It’s in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Austin—–just five minutes from downtown, on a quiet residential street with a variety of architectural styles.

Orr: We thought about moving. But we love our neighbors; we just couldn’t leave them. And the house had a sense of history to it, which is important to us. But we needed a bigger kitchen—–the old one was tiny—–and the master bathroom was pretty gross. And because I work at home I needed to be able to commute to a room where I could close the door behind me. The idea was to create a separation between home and office.

Trabulsi: We talked about a two-story addition. But it would have been way out of our budget, and it would have overwhelmed the existing house. We figured out early on that we didn’t want to build something so large that the old spaces wouldn’t be used.

Orr: Even though we ended up doubling the size of the house, it still has a “regular” scale.

Trabulsi: There’s no wasted space. We give credit to Rick and Cindy for that. Their own house—–which they designed—–is only 980 square feet.

Orr: They’re good role models for us.

Trabulsi: And it helps that we spent a year in the design phase, all of us thinking about the house and refining it.

Orr: It feels open when you walk in; you can see all the way through to the backyard. Yet as you proceed further, the volume changes and things reveal themselves. There are a lot of little spaces where you can have conversations. The house really encourages—–and I know this may sound cheesy—–connections between people.

Trabulsi: The living room was relatively narrow, and when we set up the space, I knew that everyone would be facing the wall with the TV and audio equipment. One of my clients has a home design shop, where I noticed the tree wallpaper. I thought it would be a perfect graphic element for that wall—–the tree design would add depth to the space. And it would continue the forest theme, picking up on the woodwork that we used in the addition.

Orr: The new rooms are modern—–the bathroom is practically a spa—–but they never feel stark or impersonal.

Trabulsi: One interesting thing is that you walk through the shower to get to the bathtub. It was something Rick and Cindy proposed as a way of dealing with the fact that we wanted a shower and a tub, but we didn’t have a lot of space to play with. We resisted—–we thought it wouldn’t be convenient—–but in fact it worked out perfectly: We have one contained wet area.

Orr: We weren’t trying to do an authentic restoration. It was more about respecting the house’s basic elements.

Trabulsi: The kitchen countertop is Fireslate. I like its color [black] and texture [matte]. I like that it’s durable and not too precious. We chose white appliances, instead of stainless steel, which we felt worked better with the bright, open feeling that we were going for. But even with all the openness, there’s also quiet.

Before we built the addition, I kept my drums in an enclosed back porch, which didn’t even have a door on it. When I played, you heard it everywhere. So in the renovation, we made sure the back room where I play has soundproofing in the walls.

Orr: I wake up and lie in bed and look at the woodwork around the doors and windows, and how light bounces off things, and I think about how beautiful it is. I never did that in the old house.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
Two toddlers, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
rec
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
7
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
gpphoto44
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016