This multifamily vacation property outside of Austin perfectly embodies the “gezelligheid” spirit.
If a Dutch modernist had carte blanche to design their own personal summer camp, it might look a little something like Camp Frio. And that’s the way the homeowners like it.
One partner had lived for a time in Amsterdam, and when he and his wife saw architect Tim Cuppett’s home on an American Institute of Architects tour several years ago, they were struck by its familiar, cozy vibes: It was a place that embodied the Dutch concept of gezelligheid.
So when it came time for the couple to build a warm and welcoming vacation property of their very own, they naturally turned to Tim Cuppett Architects to help them access those gezelligheid vibes in the heart of Texas Hill Country.
The resulting 3,600-square-foot, four-building compound by the Frio River (aka Camp Frio) offers an idyllic getaway for the homeowners, their two kids, and a rotating cast of guests. The main house is just one piece of a beautiful architectural puzzle plotted on the southeast corner of the sprawling, oak-tree-dotted lot: there’s also a pair of guest casitas, and a fourth building with a garage and art studio.
The crisp angles of all of the structures are thoroughly modern—they’re built from red cedar and corrugated steel—but surrounded as they are by the sweeping fields, there’s something almost barn-like about them. "We’re referencing rural and agrarian structures, loosely," says TCA partner David Kilpatrick. "We wanted the experience to be much more than a city house."
The cedar cladding was coated with Eco-Stain, a reactive stain that pre-weathers the wood. "Our hope was that these buildings would instantly have some age and feel like they’d been there a long time," says Kilpatrick.
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A high-ceilinged breezeway at the heart of the main house, bookended by screened porches, is a bright and airy space outfitted with a long table perfect for group dinners—but the rest of the rooms are intimately cozy: pure gezelligheid.
"A big part of creating that feeling was getting that scale right," recalls Cuppett. "Even though they wanted to be able to accommodate several families, the scale that each of the spaces has is intimate." The two bedrooms, the bunk room with twin beds for the kids, the living room, and the kitchen are all neat little low-ceilinged compartments that offer a contrast from the wide-open Texas skies outside.
Lighting was a critical part of the coziness equation. "There’s not a downlight in this project," says Cuppett. "The goal was ‘moody.’" Every light source—including the oh-so Nordic electric-candle sconces from Circa—is a specific task light or a table lamp brought in by the homeowner. No overheads or track lighting allowed.
That being said, cheery sunlight is more than welcome here. "Interior spaces are lit naturally from multiple sides: daylight is spread around the edges, so you get nice, natural, balanced light throughout the day," says Cuppett.
There’s not a speck of drywall to be found on the property. Poplar boards, painted a crisp white, line the walls. The exposed ceiling showcases the joists that support an attic form above; underfoot, wire-brushed Douglas fir floorboards from Sustainable Lumber Company add to the rustic flair.
The importance of this warm and welcoming space took on a new meaning when COVID-19 hit and things changed in Texas. The homeowners and visiting family hunkered down at Camp Frio for the long haul—a cozy situation indeed. "Thankfully, it was with people they like," Cuppett laughs.