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. 

Join the Renovations Mailing List
Brighten up your inbox

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. 

Shop the Look

GUBI Pedrera PD2 Floor Lamp

In 1955 Barba Corsini renovated the loft space within Antonia Gaudi's famous building "La Pedrera" in Barcelona, transforming it from a simple laundry room and storage area into 13 modern duplex apartments. To reinforce the modernist style of the rooms, Corsini decorated the apartment with furniture that he designed himself, including Pedrera lamps and tables. The inspiration for the base of the lights came from the vaulted ceilings of the famous house of "La Pedrera" whilst the cylindrical shape and unique, perforated detail of the chimneys influenced the form of the lampshades. The Pedra PD2 Floor Lamp is a cylindrical design made of perforated metal. Available in matte black or matte white finishes. Ships with 118" of cord with dimmer.


The Citizenry Diamanta Throw - Sand

Hand-loomed using an old-world technique of concentric diamond patterns, this baby alpaca throw is oh-so-soft. Featuring a soft sandy hue and knotted fringe, it’s as elegant as it is warm and cozy. Handcrafted by master weavers in a quiet mountain village in the Peruvian Andes, each throw takes about a week to complete. All made exclusively in a fair trade environment. Note: Alpaca wool is hypoallergenic, so this throw is ideal for those with allergies or sensitive skin.


Finn Juhl France Chair

Once known as the FJ 136, the France Chair was originally designed by Finn Juhl in 1956. The influential Danish architect created the seating piece for France & Son, a British company that’s known for industrializing Danish furniture manufacturing and for helping solidify Denmark’s place in the design world. Juhl was a pioneer on his own, and became a powerhouse figure in the Danish Modern movement of the time. At this year’s Salone Del Mobile in Milan, Onecollection relaunched the iconic chair and is producing it in Denmark while staying true to the original model. When it was first designed, it was created to be a high-quality, industrial produced product that could be sold flat-packed. Today, it’s delivered fully-assembled and is available in oak, beech, or stained wood with a variety of fabrics and leathers. Photo: Courtesy of OneCollection


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

Stay Here in Austin

Austin Motel

Austin, Texas

2 guests

$180 per night

Book This

Native Hostel

Austin, Texas

1 guest

$49 per night

Book This

Local architects optimize the 376-square-foot space to still allow the tiny home to celebrate its remarkable past.

The Pond House mirrors and honors its surroundings in both form and function.

For a modern renovation in Pennsylvania, everyone involved—clients, architect, builder, neighbors, even the previous…

The husband-and-wife team behind Liddicoat & Goldhill use diverse materials for their house in Hackney, which is angled…

On a corner lot in Tokyo, a contemporary refuge takes cues from traditional Japanese arts and garden design.

On the shores of one of Canada’s Kalamalka Lake, a dated home gets a second chance with a redesign that embraces the…