A Concrete Casita in Austin Does Double Duty as Guesthouse and Gear Storage

A Concrete Casita in Austin Does Double Duty as Guesthouse and Gear Storage

By Lauren Jones
Ravel Architecture builds an efficient in-law unit in one family’s backyard out of board-formed concrete and steel.

Located in Austin’s historic Hyde Park in the company of 1920s-era bungalows, the Concrete Casita by Ravel Architecture is distinct with its contemporary, low-lying profile, yet feels at home with the neighborhood. Designs to become in-law’s quarters or serve as a versatile, indoor/outdoor space for an active Austin family, the 600-square-foot structure has a rugged makeup of board-formed concrete, rusted steel, and glass.

Ravel Architecture partners Alex Finnell, Devin Keyes and Dan Fields chose board-formed concrete for the exterior, scoring the vertical boards to "get a really nice texture and interesting dynamics," says Finnell.

"The clients are actually friends with my family," says architect Alex Finnell. "They were interested in doing something on their property that was good for the in-laws when they came to visit, and very versatile."

The homeowners had few directives for the architects but were drawn to the simple, sustainable materials that wouldn’t create visual clutter. 

The guesthouse is intentionally pushed back in the homeowners’ backyard to create a feeling of privacy and seclusion.

The clients were keen on energy efficiency. "We had actually helped them set up solar for their main house, and with the Casita, we also went above-and-beyond by creating a thermal break in the concrete," Finnell says. The slider is from Western Windows, and the other windows were custom-built with double-paned glass and steel frames for further temperature regulation. 

"Concrete is long-lasting, and the rusted steel also has this patina to it that looks natural," says architect Devin Keyes. "From the alleyway, which is behind the Casita, it looks as if it’s been there for a long time." 

It’s a purposefully stark, almost sculptural structure. The board-formed concrete has a unique texture that plays with light and shadow throughout the day, while the custom windows illuminate the entirety, making the small floor plan seem much larger than it actually is. Additionally, the home is insulated like "a concrete sandwich" for further thermal control. 

The kitchenette features ridge-sawed white oak cabinetry and white 2" x 8" subway tiles. "The tiles were a very reasonable price, which allowed us to do more with the space," Finnell says. A piece of art from Angelina Kerene can be seen in the living room. 

And while the couple weren’t picky when it came to the design, as outdoor enthusiasts they knew they wanted plenty of room for their bicycles and climbing gear. 

At a mere 600 square feet, the one-bedroom guesthouse maximizes storage space.

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"Two hundred square feet of it is a storage program," Finnell says. "They wanted to keep everything organized in a space that was tucked away."

Inside, the one-bedroom, one-bathroom guesthouse makes full use of its tiny interior. There’s a kitchenette, a living room, and an outdoor patio. 

"We wanted the interior volume to be a single-clad entity," Finnell says on keeping accessibility and efficiency in mind. This main living space features the Aura Media Unit 77 from Design Within Reach, the Saarinen Tulip Table, and Tolix Marais A56 Armchairs.

The main focal point is the white oak form in the center of the building, a space which holds the bathroom, kitchenette, and entertainment unit. 

"You have to interact with it for every purpose," Finnell says. "It creates circulation within the home and further efficiency." 

The master suite features a monochromatic bathroom, which rests inside the white oak form, and a king bed with West Elm textiles.

The team also helped the couple select an interiors color palette and furnishings, some of which they’d already owned, and others they purchased from a local showroom. The result is a sophisticated, serene space to welcome guests and afford the couple more flexibility.

Related Reading:

A Gorgeous, Off-Grid Guesthouse Perches Lightly on a California Ranch

12 Prefab Guesthouses You’ll Want to Put in Your Own Backyard

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: Alex Finnell, Devin Keyes and Dan Fields of Ravel Architecture / @ravelarchitecture 

Structural Engineer: GreenEarth Engineering

Cabinetry Design/Installation: John Kuvet

Art: Angelina Kerene/@angelina_kerene

Photographer: Jake Holt / @jakeholt


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