Own an Iconic Midcentury in Austin For Just Under $500K

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By Lucy Wang
Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, this second unit in an architecturally significant triplex features 858 square feet of midcentury charm.

Having worked under Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler, modernist architect Harwell Hamilton Harris pioneered California Modern style across the nation, including in Austin, Texas.

There, nestled in a leafy neighborhood eight blocks from the University of Texas at Austin, sits the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments, a triplex of loft apartments considered one of Harris’ best works, which has also been recognized as a Historic Landmark at the local, state, and national level.

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Hidden behind a 1930s bungalow on a remote street, the entrance to the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments is marked by a redwood pergola.

Hidden behind a 1930s bungalow on a remote street, the entrance to the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments is marked by a redwood pergola.

English professor and art collector Thomas Cranfill commissioned the project in 1958 as an investment and to house his partner, respected photographer Hans Beacham, who had lived in the third unit until his death in 2004. Cranfill had lived next door in a landmark-status home, also designed by Harris during the architect’s term as The University of Texas at Austin’s first Dean of Architecture.

A massive oak tree is the focal point of the entry courtyard. The entrances to each unit are sheltered beneath the overhanging second-story balcony. 

A massive oak tree is the focal point of the entry courtyard. The entrances to each unit are sheltered beneath the overhanging second-story balcony. 

Harris designed Cranfill’s house and the apartments using California Modernist principles adapted to Austin’s climate and environment.

Board-and-batten redwood siding—Harris originally wanted to use Texas cypress, but defaulted to California redwood due to sourcing delays—clad the upper portion of the triplex, while the ground floor was constructed from concrete masonry blocks.

Exterior materials are repeated in the interior, from the board-and-batten redwood siding to the concrete masonry walls.

Exterior materials are repeated in the interior, from the board-and-batten redwood siding to the concrete masonry walls.

New cork floors replaced the original carpet in the second unit.

New cork floors replaced the original carpet in the second unit.

The one-bedroom, one-bath apartments champion modular grid concepts, modest living, and strong connections with nature.

Located above the kitchen and dining area, the loft bedroom includes a walk-in closet, bathroom, and access to the second-floor balcony, which is framed by full-height glazing.

Located above the kitchen and dining area, the loft bedroom includes a walk-in closet, bathroom, and access to the second-floor balcony, which is framed by full-height glazing.

The second-floor balcony on the west side overlooks views of the majestic live oak.

The second-floor balcony on the west side overlooks views of the majestic live oak.

Modest in size, the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments make up for small square footage with big views. Inside, a stunning scene reveals itself in the rear facade where double-story glazing and louvered glass doors create a seamless connection for indoor/outdoor living.

The east side of the living space opens up to a spectacular double-story wall of glass framed by vertical wood mullions and horizontal aluminum H-channels. A six-foot roof overhang protects the glazing from solar gain.

The east side of the living space opens up to a spectacular double-story wall of glass framed by vertical wood mullions and horizontal aluminum H-channels. A six-foot roof overhang protects the glazing from solar gain.

Surrounded by tall elms and thick bamboo, the rear garden is a private oasis.

Surrounded by tall elms and thick bamboo, the rear garden is a private oasis.

After Beacham’s death in 1995, much effort was made to save the homes from demolition. Architects Ernesto Cragnolino and Krista Whitson spearheaded the effort to sensitively update the building to modern standards while securing landmark status.

This one-bedroom, one-bath unit retains its original paint colors. All three apartments share a similar plan, however, the third apartment has slight variations as it was tailored to Hans Beacham's needs.

This one-bedroom, one-bath unit retains its original paint colors. All three apartments share a similar plan, however, the third apartment has slight variations as it was tailored to Hans Beacham's needs.

The kitchen features original ergonomic cabinetry, trim work, and recessed lighting.

The kitchen features original ergonomic cabinetry, trim work, and recessed lighting.

All three units still have their original cooktops and ovens. A dishwasher (not pictured) was a new addition.

All three units still have their original cooktops and ovens. A dishwasher (not pictured) was a new addition.

Thoughtfully modernized without compromising Harris’ vision, the three units in the Cranfill-Beacham Apartments have been mostly occupied by architects and midcentury-modern design aficionados.

Guardrail-high bookcases provide storage and a sense of enclosure from the living area below.

Guardrail-high bookcases provide storage and a sense of enclosure from the living area below.

The L-shaped bedroom accommodates a private workspace around the corner.

The L-shaped bedroom accommodates a private workspace around the corner.

The bathroom was updated with new flooring and plumbing fixtures.

The bathroom was updated with new flooring and plumbing fixtures.

1911 Cliff Street, No. 2, Austin, TX is now being listed by Brian Linder of The Value of Architecture for $495,000. The property was staged by scenography, inc.  See the full listing here.  

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