At the foothills of the Franklin Mountains, 800 feet above El Paso, Texas, a young couple owning an acre of unspoiled land eagerly began to envision their future residence. With one-of-a-kind views, and protected park land on two sides, the site was rife with opportunity to create a dynamic home worthy of its inspiring surroundings.
The couple soon connected with architects Darci Hazelbaker and Dale Rush of Tucson-based Hazelbaker Rush, whose design vision resonated with their hopes for the site. "They appreciated our sensibilities towards the land...and how a home can inspire new ways of living," recalls Darci. Collaborating through the home’s design, and eventually, construction, the couple added two children to their family in the process.
The undulating terrain and soaring elevation of the lot gave the team a unique opportunity to take advantage of several distinct outlooks when siting the home. "It was very important to pay due respect to the fantastic view their high perch on the mountains affords," explains Darci of their clients’ uniquely positioned parcel. With the distant glimmer of city lights on full display to the south, and equally alluring sunset views across the horizon to the west, the site offered no shortage of unique vantage points to showcase.
El Paso, a historic masonry town, celebrates traditional stonework in its local building vernacular, past and present. It is within this geographic and cultural context that the team carefully selected local basalt stone to ground the home’s lower volumes. The texture and grey hue blends in almost undetectably with the surrounding hills covered in native weathered grey rock and deep green agave. "In this context, we wanted the stone mass of the home to feel of the place – a part of the hillside," explains Dale. In stark contrast, the upper, private volume of the home is rendered in white stucco, appearing from afar to float weightlessly in front of the mountainous backdrop. "The bedroom mass is meant to feel light, the place where kids dream and play and float over the landscape," reflects Dale.
Carefully positioned openings were integral to giving the clients unfiltered exposure to the beauty of their surroundings, while simultaneously prioritizing ease and functionality of family life. With this central objective in mind, the team turned to Western Window Systems for their unique needs. "For a home like this, the window is meant to frame the view," says Dale. "We want a simple product that almost disappears," he continues. "Western Window Systems makes windows and doors that reduce and simplify the frames, stiles, and sashes."
Beyond aesthetic understatement, the curated experience of living in the home and moving through the space was paramount in the selection of windows and doors. "Every opening in the building is a choreography of some kind," explains Darci. "[The] change in perception as you move through and live in a space is a key element to designing the experience." This experiential quality is on full display at the home’s second-floor public space. Walking down the hallway, an elongated horizontal window from Western Window Systems frames a panoramic view of all of downtown El Paso, Juarez, and the expansive New Mexican desert. A smaller window at the end of the hallway continues to shift and refine the view, deepening the interactive experience with the environment. "As you approach this window, the focus changes from the far off slope to the canyon below, and when you get right up next to the window, you are floating 30 feet above the ground on the edge of the canyon that is starting to fall steeply away," Darci muses.
Carefully positioned openings shape how the family interacts with their environment on a daily basis. Whether picking fresh herbs and vegetables from their desert garden, marveling at eagles and hawks soaring through the canyon below, or catching glimpses of deer or rabbits roaming through the property, the family enjoys intimate exposure to the rugged West Texas mountainside – all from their front doorstep.
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