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Midcentury Kitchen Renovation in Austin

With the goals of improving storage and flow in their midcentury home, two Austin residents hired Rick and Cindy Black Architects to reunite their kitchen with an open-plan living space.
A wide view of the renovated home situates it as it sits on Austin soil. Where the gentle swoop of the driveway meets the overhanging garage, the home's patio is just visible. A light in the new kitchen window further integrates the home with the neighborhood just beyond it. Photo by Whit Preston.

The Houser family's journey to renovating their home in the Balcones neighborhood of Austin, Texas, began with a rental. After passing through the hands of its original owners, the Werth family, Sloan and Peggy Hamilton Houser's 1,816-square-foot home was nearly demolished by a next-door neighbor who wanted to extend his driveway. After purchasing the property with a mind to destroy it, the neighbor decided to rent out the house instead. 

The Housers eventually bought the house, and in keeping with its mostly-intact 1957 design (by local architect Barton D. Riley and his partner Emil Niggli), they decided on a modest renovation that would highlight the home's open feeling and amplify the midcentury-era colors of the kitchen. To this end, the architects Rick and Cindy Black made subtle floor plan modifications, retaining the overall arrangement of spaces familiar to the Housers. A destroyed wall and added window in the kitchen added natural daylight, while updated appliances and new cabinets turned the midcentury home into a modern-day showpiece.

The architects decided to retain the terrazzo flooring original to the Houser home: diamond-polished terrazzo, a mix of white, sand, and blue chips. Sloan Houser used his skills as a master plasterer to coat his home's interior walls and fireplace in a French plaster mix called Stuc Pierre. 

Infused with color and light, the redesigned home reflects characteristics of its earlier life, as Peggy House learned in an encounter with a girlhood-resident of her current home. In that resident’s recollections, bright color and midcentury furnishings made for a vivid family environment. The turquoise, yellow, and bright white plaster connects the renovated Houser home with its past, and testifies to its status as a gem of Austin's modern design scene.

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