16 Best Midcentury Renovations in Austin Celebrating Their Retro Roots

16 Best Midcentury Renovations in Austin Celebrating Their Retro Roots

By Kate Reggev
These clever interventions keep Austin weird—in the best way.

With its funky personality and plethora of vintage stores, Austin is also home to many neighborhoods constructed in the postwar years—leading to a bevy of midcentury residences that have been remodeled and retrofitted over the years. Here, we take a look at some of our favorite midcentury home renovations that still keep their groove.

1. A Midcentury Gem With an Unusual Awning

Originally designed by locally renowned architect Arthur Dallas Stenger, this 1960s home featured an unusual awning that was maintained during a 21st-century upgrade by architects Rick and Cindy Black. The architects partially reconfigured the interior layout, updated the kitchen, and added new doors to the porch, all the while making sure the adjustments to the house honored its midcentury provenance while still avoiding creating a time capsule.

Designed to comfortably accommodate three to five employees, the 1,000-square-foot home office by Matt Fajkus Architecture complements an existing midcentury abode. The addition includes two individual office spaces, a conference room, a studio, a bathroom, and storage space. An operable wall divides the main space as needed. The wood-and-stucco addition features a pitched metal roof that jives with the existing home's midcentury style.

Originally designed in 1958 by modernist architect Harwell Hamilton Harris, this small apartment complex contains three units that have undergone light renovations that retain the modular grid concept, modest living, and strong connections with nature of the intended design. Subtle updates include new cork flooring and updates to the kitchen and bathroom.

When it hit the market, this 2,660-square foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home hadn’t been updated in more than 60 years, but the homeowner saw its inherent charm and called on architects Rick and Cindy Black and Christina Simon of Mark Ashby Design for a complete renovation. Some of the biggest challenges included "figuring out how to integrate the living room, which was once a carport that had been closed in at some point," says Rick Black. "A brick wall separated it from the other areas, and it was really a dead room." Another consideration was respecting the home’s history and its bones and choosing an aesthetic that matched the homeowner’s active lifestyle. Other updates included terrazzo flooring and built-in furniture.

After a year of searching, San Francisco transplants Liz Armistead and Bill Broome found their dream home—a 1,400-square-foot ranch house in Austin’s Travis Heights neighborhood. The residence was outdated, but the 400-year-old live oak tree on the back of the property was just too enticing to pass up. They fell in love with its potential and reached out to Stephanie and Ryan Lemmo, the principals of Lemmo Architecture and Design, for a full remodel and contemporary master suite addition. 

Austin-based architecture firm Thoughtbarn set out to renovate an H-shaped residence in a wooded, hilly neighborhood known for its midcentury, ranch-style homes, but quickly discovered that the home’s slab was structurally failing and would need to be replaced. This replacement ultimately led to the construction of a new home based on the footprint of the original—but with a small addition to the south. The exterior is clad in board-and-batten siding, while the front porch is covered with stained pine. Both materials have a vertical emphasis, which speaks to the heritage oak trees on the .75-acre property.

When Austin-based firm Matt Fajkus Architecture was tasked with renovating this classic midcentury home, they sought to open up the interior—not only by unifying the common areas into an open-plan layout, but also by literally raising the home's roof. This strategy increased the ceiling height on three sides of the home, allowing for the insertion of clerestory windows to create a bright and airy open living space. "The raised ceiling maintains the original pitched roof geometry to stay harmonious with the existing gabled roof in the private zone," explain the architects in a statement. 

When the husband-and-wife team behind Austin-based Co(X)ist Studio set out to remodel their 1962 ranch-style house, they wanted to update it to suit their modern lifestyles—as well as demonstrate the design sensibilities of their young firm. Tucked in South Austin’s Sherwood Oaks neighborhood, the original home was dim, compartmentalized, and disconnected from the outdoors. Architects Frank and Megan Lin opened up the floor plan, created an addition, and built an expansive back porch, using several reclaimed materials in the process.

The open dining area and kitchen of a midcentury renovation in Austin shows the existing terrazzo flooring, the plaster ceiling, and the kitchen's tile backsplash—Fireclay Debris series in Daffodil—working in harmony. Floating shelves in the kitchen window and a stainless-steel countertop surrounding the kitchen's burners rest just beneath the backsplash. A Boca Raton Blue upper cabinet and Nelson pendants add interest and dimension to the kitchen's warm combination of wood, yellow and blue. Vintage chairs, seated at the kitchen island and in the front right corner at the dining table, complete the design scheme.

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Designed in 1950 by A.D. Stenger, this three-bedroom, three-bath residence was remodeled by Chioco Design in 2012—which was inspired by the original Stenger architecture, but ended up becoming a completely new work of art. The flat-roofed structure is constructed with metal siding and wood, and adds a dynamic component to the original materials of the home's exterior.

To preserve the character of their home midcentury home originally constructed by well-known local architect Roland G. Roessner, Tracey and David Hime wanted to sensitively update the structure to meet their needs. The Himes hired Paul Clayton and Emily Little of Clayton & Little Architects on the recommendation of a relative. Architect Emily Little’s involvement was particularly fitting—her childhood home was on the same street, and she had been familiar with the house most of her life; in fact, her parents were friends with the original owners. As part of the renovation, the entryway was updated and altered; photovoltaic panels were added above the carport and the new guest "casita" behind the carport. The tall sconce at the entry is an original light fixture.

Located on 100-acre ranch just 25 miles from downtown Austin, near the famous Hamilton Pools at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, Rancho Buena Vida—"Good Life Ranch"—sits high on a shaded bluff, overlooking its own spring-fed water source. The existing ranch was refashioned as a comfortable, contemporary retreat for family and friends, and ample space for guests includes a refurbished 1976 "Texas Motel" Airstream, whose updated interiors include a mixture of wood paneling and the RV's iconic shiny silver finish.

Native Texans and married designers Elizabeth Alford and Michael Young came home to roost 10 years ago, when they ditched big-city life in New York for a ranch house in Austin. The couple immediately knew that the home, originally built by architect Jonathan Bowman in 1957, would need a remodel, but realized that a complete restoration would be too costly and perhaps "not that satisfying" for the designers to work solely within the existing structure. So they stripped it down to the footprint and rebuilt, shaping a family home that would reflect both the hypermodern lives they left in New York City and the deep-rooted cultural heritage that comes with growing up in Texas.

With a last-minute deadline, architect Burton Baldridge transformed a decaying trailer into a modern green home for Stubb's, an Austin, Texas club. Baldridge teamed up with Branson Fustes of Pilgrim Building Company to work on the interiors and building custom furniture, such as a bar on one end.

The architects of Austin-based Webber + Studio were asked by a recent divorcee, seeking a home for her three daughters and dog, to renovate a 1968 home originally designed by A.D. Stenger, a unique figure in the American architectural landscape, and double its size by adding 1,500 square feet. The architects emulated the home’s Japanese-inspired elements and referenced other Stenger houses in the area to produce a tasteful homage to a classic modern style.

Plagued by dim rooms and low ceilings, a typical midcentury bungalow in Austin, Texas, is remodeled into a contemporary, light-filled living space for an editor and her filmmaker husband. The desire to uphold the discreet architectural character of the Austin setting, while being able to create open and modern spaces, led to a study in how materials, space, and light could interplay with simple construction means. Murray Legge Architecture removed a maze of small rooms and raised the ceiling height to create a single volume for dining, cooking, and living. Working with the existing building components, the new design continues the use of traditional stick frame construction, yet accentuates its simple beauty by using the open structure as a finished product that adds shape and warmth to the interior.

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