A Glass Addition Unveils Treetop Views For This Texan Home

By Michele Koh Morollo / Published by Dwell

In Austin, Texas, a 1955 ranch house receives a major renovation, adding a new second level that cantilevers over its existing limestone-clad base.

Named Treetops House because of the canopy perspectives it effortlessly captures, this Texan home was originally designed by Page Southerland Page. Typical of its locale and era, the old dwelling was a nondescript, sprawling, single-story residence clad entirely in Texas limestone and fitted with small windows. 

Yet in 2017, Specht Architects, a firm with offices in Austin, Dallas, and New York, treated the home to a full overhaul, transforming it into a 5,500-square-foot modern residence with four bedrooms and five baths. 

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Huge, frameless glass windows have been used for the new upper level. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

 A garage and gym are contained within the lowest level of the house. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

Scott Specht, the firm's founder, notes the project presented him and his team with the question of how to balance preservation with change.

"The new composition is one which is clearly of its time, but also respects and reflects the time and place in which the original house was created," he states. The team retained the existing limestone perimeter-wall in it’s entirety, and used it as a stable plinth to support the new second level.  

Shou-sugi-ban sections of the facade wraps in to the interior to become accent walls.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

From the double-height entry hall, a staircase leads to the living area on the new upper level.   

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

Porcelain-colored tile has been used in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

The spacious kitchen has smart, built-in storage and serving-windows set at countertop-height, which open out onto the pool terrace and entertaining area. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

A catalyzed finish has been used for the cabinetry under the stairs.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

The large windows open up the interiors by creating double-height spaces that draw natural light into the heart of the house. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

On the upper level, the fully glazed main living/media room overlooks the double-height entryway. A master bedroom with large glass walls looks out to the pool, and another bedroom is located down the hall. 

Wrapped in frameless glass set atop a continuous planter wall, the upper level looks out to the trees and beyond. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

"Large overhangs provide shade at all times of the day, and the surrounding cladding of charred cypress prevents glare and adds a textural counterpoint," says Specht.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

To circumvent the costs of new piers, the architects did not expand the house’s footprint at all, but instead cantilevered the new second level out from the existing structure. 

Beautiful white oak has been used for most of the flooring.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

"This strategy not only allowed for the house to be within budget, but also gave it a distinctive dynamic expression. The different materials and profiles of the first and second floors emphasize the house’s horizontality and create another kind stratum that is visual and expressive," Specht continues to explain. 

In addition to the limestone and Shou-sugi-ban, the exterior walls are made of natural stucco.

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

The owners decorated the interiors using items such as George Nelson benches from their personal midcentury furniture collection. 

Courtesy of Casey Dunn Photography

Project Credits: 

Architecture and lighting design: Specht Architects / @spechtarchitects

Builder: Spencer Construction Company

Structural engineering: Structures

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