Midcentury Kitchen Renovation in Austin

By Jacqueline Leahy / Published by Dwell
Recommended by
With the goals of improving storage and flow in their midcentury home, two Austin residents hired Rick and Cindy Black Architects to reunite their kitchen with an open-plan living space.

The Houser family's journey to renovating their home in the Balcones neighborhood of Austin, Texas, began with a rental. After passing through the hands of its original owners, the Werth family, Sloan and Peggy Hamilton Houser's 1,816-square-foot home was nearly demolished by a next-door neighbor who wanted to extend his driveway. After purchasing the property with a mind to destroy it, the neighbor decided to rent out the house instead. 

A wide view of the renovated home situates it as it sits on Austin soil. Where the gentle swoop of the driveway meets the overhanging garage, the home's patio is just visible. A light in the new kitchen window further integrates the home with the neighborhood just beyond it.

The Housers eventually bought the house, and in keeping with its mostly-intact 1957 design (by local architect Barton D. Riley and his partner Emil Niggli), they decided on a modest renovation that would highlight the home's open feeling and amplify the midcentury-era colors of the kitchen. To this end, the architects Rick and Cindy Black made subtle floor plan modifications, retaining the overall arrangement of spaces familiar to the Housers. A destroyed wall and added window in the kitchen added natural daylight, while updated appliances and new cabinets turned the midcentury home into a modern-day showpiece.

A close-up of the renovated exterior shows the home's new, brightly-colored door in relief of the new kitchen window, whose floating shelves are just visible. Selected by Sloan Houser, the door's shade of turquiose is similar to Benjamin Moore's Americana, although with stronger hints of green.

The architects decided to retain the terrazzo flooring original to the Houser home: diamond-polished terrazzo, a mix of white, sand, and blue chips. Sloan Houser used his skills as a master plasterer to coat his home's interior walls and fireplace in a French plaster mix called Stuc Pierre. 

BEFORE: Prior to renovation, the kitchen's storage came in the form of all white cabinetry arranged in an enclosing, C-shaped space.

Infused with color and light, the redesigned home reflects characteristics of its earlier life, as Peggy House learned in an encounter with a girlhood-resident of her current home. In that resident’s recollections, bright color and midcentury furnishings made for a vivid family environment. The turquoise, yellow, and bright white plaster connects the renovated Houser home with its past, and testifies to its status as a gem of Austin's modern design scene.

A post-renovation view of the kitchen shows it opening into the family room. Replacing the former white cabinets are Island drawer fronts and wall panelling of teak wood and reclaimed American elm countertop, milled by Vintage Material Supply. The differing grains of the teak veneers and elm countertop vadd complexity and rhythm to the kitchen's wood motif. Stuc Pierre plaster ceiling selected by the homeowner, Sloan Houser, adds an airy feel to the opened space.

BEFORE: Prior to renovation, low-contrast wood cabinets obstructed the passage between the kitchen and the family room, giving both rooms a feeling of dullness in spite of the light tone of the wood and the walls around it.

A new pantry wall in a teak wood veneer supplies all-but-invisible cabinet space with the help of touch-latch door hardware. Perched atop the existing terrazzo flooring, the underbelly of the kitchen's central island, painted with Benjamin Moore paint in the Midsummer Night shade, is visible beneath the reclaimed American elm countertop.

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.

Opening the kitchen to outdoor spaces, a new window with floating shelves for storage looks out into the front yard. New appliances, stainless steel countertops and an integral sink add utility. Photo by Whit Preston.

BEFORE: Without the additional lumination from the added kitchen window, the Houser home's kitchen rior to renovation is dark and incompatible with the surrounding spaces.

A view of the kitchen's back wall shows the bright marriage of the yellow Fireclay tile backsplash with incoming light from the adjacent sliding door and the row of windows just above the hanging Boca Raton blue cabinets. Basked in light, the new kitchen displays an organized and cheerful aesthetic.

BEFORE: Looking disjointed, the living room in the pre-renovation Houser home is an alienated space, occluded from the natural light entering the spaces just beyond.

The delicately redesigned living room maximizes natural light, using bright furnishings to maintain the room's newfound brightness. The Stuc Pierre plaster ceiling and walls and the Venetian Plaster at the fireplace put in place by the homeowner, Sloan Houser, refresh and integrate the spaces of the Houser home.

The principles of simplicity and efficiency governing the Blacks' renovations of the Houser home are evident in the home's pre- and post-renovation floor plans.

Project: Houser Residence
Everybody loves feedback. Be the first to add a comment.
The author will be notified whenever new comments are added.