One Family’s Weekend Retreat in East Texas Lets Them Practically Live Outside

One Family’s Weekend Retreat in East Texas Lets Them Practically Live Outside

By Mandi Keighran
Most of the living spaces in this home are outdoors—including the enviable open kitchen and dining room.

The ideal weekend retreat is one that allows its occupants to completely disconnect from their day-to-day lives and escape to another world—and it’s hard to imagine a more successful realization of this concept than Aegean Pool House. The dramatic home by Lake|Flato Architects is located in East Texas, about two hours from Dallas, and has been designed with most of the living and social spaces outside.

Aegean Pool House’s expansive roof structure shelters the indoor/outdoor living spaces beneath it. A freestanding stone fireplace anchors the west side of the living and dining area.

"Our clients, Robert and Lacey, were looking for a retreat away from the noise and distractions of city life in Dallas," says Vicki Yuan, associate at Lake|Flato Architects. "They were so open-minded to our ideas about emphasizing generous outdoor living spaces paired with intimate interior spaces."

The interior spaces feature large, sliding glass pocket doors on opposite sides of each room that provide generous views of the surrounding forest and lake, and promote cross-ventilation from prevailing breezes from the southeast.

The site is part of a larger private ranch development protected by a conservation easement. As such, the approach to the home is a picturesque illustration of the East Texas region with its densely shaded forest of tall pines, rolling hills, and abundant lakes.

The home is carefully sited between tall trees in a pine forest and is split into almost equal areas of indoor and outdoor living space.

The Aegean Pool House—so named after a dream that the client had—is situated on a five-acre peninsula, overlooking a lake through a thicket of pines. Its location on the top of a hill, carefully inserted between tall trees, takes advantage of both views and the prevailing breezes. It is the first completed building on the property, and the plan is to eventually build additional structures to create a compound on the site.

The home is located on a hilltop overlooking a nearby lake, surrounded by densely shaded pine forest. The material palette reflects the home's surroundings.

The couple have two young daughters, and they wanted a home that would allow them to stay closely connected to both each other and the outdoors. The retreat also hosts a women’s Bible group that Lacey leads. "It serves as a sanctuary and home base for moments of communal gathering and quiet seclusion," says Yuan. "It was a very interesting way to think about the building and the site."

The home has been designed to encourage engagement with the outdoors, with the majority of the living spaces located outside, including the dining area and kitchen. Sliding timber barn doors close off the kitchen space when it is not in use.

Over half of the living spaces are outside with 620 square feet of internal space and 660 square feet of external living space. "This was intentional to encourage the family to spend more time outdoors and appreciate the natural surroundings," says Yuan. "They only retreat inside for sleeping and inclement weather."

The outdoor dining table playfully converts to a ping pong table. The concrete kitchen island and dining table have been designed to be robust and low maintenance.

Most dramatically, the home’s kitchen and dining area, as well as the primary living space, are located on a large covered porch. An 80-foot-long pool runs down the north side of the building, and a built-in spa anchors the east end of the pool. Beyond this is a sunken outdoor lounge around a built-in fire pit.

A built-in fire pit and sunken lounge seating offer a comfortable area to sit fireside. The built-in furniture references the interior design, creating a harmony between indoor and outdoor spaces.

There is no front door to the home, in the traditional sense. Instead, the building is just one room wide and each interior room—master bedroom, bunk room, and small living space—has sliding exterior doors on the north and south walls. This allows allows for easy access to the outside from all rooms and for cross-ventilation. 

The home has a master bedroom and a bunk room with four beds. The clients' two daughters enjoy completely disconnecting from technology when spending time in the weekend retreat.

Like all the interior rooms, the furniture elements in the master bedroom have been built into the architecture, making efficient use of the compact space.

Innovative built-in furniture in the interior spaces makes the rooms feel larger and offers ample opportunity for storage. An interior hall between the rooms reflects the family’s desire to stay closely connected, and glass transoms between each room help extend the sense of space to make the rooms feel more spacious. Even the shared bathroom connects to the exterior via an outdoor shower on the pool side.

The shared bathroom features warm, natural finishes, including concrete, timber, and ceramic tile.

"In designing a small weekend house focused on the outdoors, we were originally thinking of the efficiency of an Airstream, where all the furniture is built-in and every inch of space is considered," says Yuan. "We even considered the idea of the building as only a roof structure with a parked Airstream under it. When we decided to make it a building, I think the idea of a big roof with a structure below had already stuck."

The interiors are compact and feature abundant, built-in storage. This room faces out onto the spa that anchors the swimming pool on the north side of the home. 

The material palette is a response to the pine forest that surrounds the home. The exterior pine siding has been stained to match the color of the local pine tree bark. The same material has been used in the interior, but whitewashed to create a bright, clean feeling.

Materials are inspired by the region: the exterior pine siding references the color of nearby pine tree bark, and rip rap-filled basins highlight the iron ore found in East Texas.

East Texas is also home to large deposits of iron ore, with rich brown and red hues. In reference to this, the landscape architect has designed large gravel basins along the edge of the house. Smooth concrete floors connect the interior with the exterior, and extend out as a platform for the swimming pool.

A dramatic, 80-foot-long pool and spa runs beyond the building along the north edge, as the site slopes down to the lake.

The swimming pool and spa runs beyond the building along the north edge, and was the vision of landscape architect, David Hocker of Hocker Design Group. Hocker imagined the pool as an echo of the nearby lake, which can be accessed by a private trail.

Hocker also designed the sunken lounge and fire pit. "This is another built-in furniture element, and it continues that consistency between inside and outside," says Yuan. "It seamlessly connects to the pool design, and the interior designer, Wendy Konradi, selected light blue fabric for the seat cushions, which references the pool and lake in a subtle but smart way, too." 

The home is partly inspired by Pritzker Prize-winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt's Arthur and Yvonne Boyd Education Centre. "It is a compound of rural retreat buildings with monastic-like sleeping quarters," says Yuan. "It was inspirational in thinking about the integration of structure with spatial organization."

"I love the ambition that everyone brought to this project, considering how small it is," says Yuan. "There is so much packed into these small spaces that every detail matters, and there is much to discover despite the modest scale. I also love the quality of the interior rooms and how it captures the clients’ desire to be a close-knit family." 

Site plan of Aegean Pool House by Lake|Flato Architects. The home sits on a five-acre site, with a private nature trail bordering the lake on the property. The clients are connecting this trail to other trails on the preserve to create an extensive trail network for hiking and cycling.

Floor plan of Aegean Pool House by Lake|Flato Architects.

Section of Aegean Pool House by Lake|Flato Architects.

More by Lake|Flato Architects:

A Farmhouse-Inspired Home in the Hudson Valley Taps Into the Power of Prefab

An Imposing Oak Tree Serves as a Living Sculpture in This Texas Home

Modular Compound is the Ultimate Retreat for Three Generations

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Lake|Flato Architects / @lakeflato

Builder: Don Romer Construction 

Structural Engineer: Scott Williamson

Landscape Architect: Hocker Design Group

Interior Designer: Wendy Konradi Interior Design

Cabinetry Design: Rob Petre

MEP Engineer: Positive Energy

Landscape Installer: Landvisions 

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