A Dome-Shaped Austin Home Gets a Kitchen Worthy of its History

A Dome-Shaped Austin Home Gets a Kitchen Worthy of its History

By Kelly Dawson
A long-awaited renovation flips the script for a historic dome home with an awkward and outdated kitchen.

Haley Rushing’s home has always been a showpiece. 

It was built in the 1970s by architect John Watson, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. The structure is shaped like a dome and situated on a slope in Westlake Hills, Texas, giving precedent to views of Hill Country. "John was a big believer in harmoniously blending homes into their surrounding environments so that both are better off for having met each other, as Wright would say," Haley notes.

The dome’s shape is immediately apparent upon viewing the surrounding walls. In this instance, a circular entrance leads to a living area. The kitchen is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Atrium White to match the existing walls.

The property was initially a triplex, with two loft units on the second level and a third unit on the ground floor. But in the 1980s, a renovation turned it all into a single-family unit—and the results tarnished this showpiece, to say the least.

"It was previously two mini kitchens that were superficially opened up to be one long kitchen," says Haley, who co-founded The Purpose Institute. "It still had a major wall running down the middle, a very low ceiling height to accommodate old air conditioning units, minimal cabinet space, and no pantry."

Before: Front View

The original kitchen was haphazardly combined from two spaces in previously separated units. "Less creative and courageous contractors would have bailed on me, I’m sure of it," Haley says. "But after every new discovery, CG&S always rallied to come up with options so we could carry on."

After: Front View

"We knew that if we wanted to increase the ceiling height, we needed to keep these column locations," architect Joanna Hartman says. "So we let them set our island length." The island is made from polished silestone.

Haley knew that the existing kitchen wouldn’t be a permanent solution for her boyfriend and her two twin daughters, but she also knew that an overhaul would be a big undertaking. So she spent years updating other aspects of the home until this room, which she calls "the last holdout," was the only thing left on her list. And when that time came, she decided to join forces with CG&S Design-Build to take on the task.

Before: Side View

"My boyfriend and daughter were reaching a critical frustration point with the previous kitchen due to its lack of storage, counter space, and modern appliances—all of my appliances were from the ’70s," Haley says.

After: Side View

"The house is so well articulated—a piece of art in its own right—that I wanted the kitchen to flow and complement it as gracefully as possible," Haley says. "I wanted a natural palette in the kitchen that would feel congruent with the natural elements flowing in and out of my home."

"A couple of years back, my colleague Mark designed a new cupola for Haley’s house, and the project went well. So when Haley felt ready to tackle her kitchen, she came back to CG&S," architect Joanna Hartman says. "After all, we did have the strongest working knowledge of her home at that point."

Hartman describes the original kitchen as one that was "functional on a basic level," but that couldn’t meet the cooking needs of the family. She envisioned the kitchen as a unifying setting for Haley’s boyfriend’s delicious meals and the girls’ budding culinary skills, as well as a comfortable hub for homework and entertaining alike.

"Because it was actually two identical, tiny kitchens that were opened to each other, the duplicate appliances were deleted," Hartman continues. "This made for a strange layout that was at once cramped and too spread out. The primary goals for the renovation were to create functional storage, open the kitchen to the living room, provide true ventilation for the cooktop, and increase the ceiling height."

Before: Cabinetry

"Plumbing was going across the ceiling and down supporting walls, and there were electrical wires for nothing," Haley remembers. "Nothing the previous owner had done was up to code, and trying to figure out how to get a vent hood in a dome required some creative maneuvering."

After: Cabinetry

The renovated kitchen has a sleek appearance to blend into the look and feel of the dome structure. 

Hartman, Haley, and the team also wished to honor as much of the original dome structure as possible, so they designed the kitchen around three weight-supporting columns while increasing the ceiling’s height. They chose a minimal aesthetic that would underscore the footprint’s impressive shape, and they selected wood as a standout natural material to artfully complement the manmade finish of the dome.

"When it was built, this house was very modern for its time, and we wanted an equally modern kitchen—one that would be in keeping with the modernity of the dome but that would bring it forward another 60 years," Hartman says.

Once the ceiling was lifted, the floors were leveled, the island was centered, and the pantry was in place, Hartman called upon Arete Kitchens to finish things off. "They used a Leicht system custom-made in Germany and then shipped it over to be assembled on site," Haley says. "Joanna worked with me to select appliances and think through the final color palette."

After: Structure and Living Space

The kitchen’s focal point is the long island, which serves as a gathering place for friends and family. "Having all of the appliances behind wood panels makes it feel like a great room that doesn't scream ‘kitchen,’" Haley says.

After seven months of construction, the kitchen was completed this past October—and it’s every bit the jewel that Haley’s family had been patiently anticipating. There were bumps along the way—like unexpected plumbing and electrical wires running behind walls, for starters—but Haley is glad she found a team who shared her vision.

"I love living in a creative, highly unusual home, but that also comes with major challenges whenever you want to change anything," she says. "The kitchen serves as our connective center, where we all routinely gather for all sorts of reasons. It’s hard to imagine how we tolerated the old kitchen for so long."

Related Reading:

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Kitchens

Make Your Dome Dreams Come True With These 12 Kit Home Companies

Project Credits:

Architect of Record/Builder: CG&S Design-Build

Structural Engineer: Conrad Engineering/Steve Conrad

Cabinetry Design: Arete European Kitchens

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