This Spectacular Texas Retreat Cascades Down a Wooded Hillside

This Spectacular Texas Retreat Cascades Down a Wooded Hillside

By Lauren Jones
Cantilevered indoor/outdoor spaces and towering walls of glass give this Rollingwood home a tree house–like appeal.

Lake|Flato Architects associate Brian Comeaux describes the Austin suburb of Rollingwood as a hidden gem. "There’s a lot of activity there now, but it seemed like a secret for a long time," he says. Within the laid-back enclave is one Austin couple’s double-wide lot on a horseshoe-shaped street. Dense with old oak trees, the property backs up to a creek, providing a leafy sanctuary despite being 10 minutes from bustling downtown.

A path of restored rock ledges leads to a dry creek, amphitheater, and private gathering space.

Rollingwood Residence cascades over the ledges while keeping existing trees intact.

The homeowners, who were looking for something "small but highly designed," were intrigued by Lake|Flato’s modern aesthetic and quickly connected with the architect whom they credit with bringing their vision to life. 

In the living room, 18-foot-tall ceilings combine with massive windows.

"We are outdoorsy folks who find solace in nature and wanted our home to be warm, comfortable, and calming," says the homeowner. "In discussions with Lake|Flato, we emphasized our love for the trees and existing landscaping."

A few steps down from the living room is the oversized screened porch with an imposing fireplace, which connects to a first-floor master bedroom. Cantilevered over the surrounding canopy, it has a tree house-like feel.

The first step was to tear down the original 1970s structure on the property. The plan was to preserve the green space to the east, building modestly and thoughtfully on the existing footprint.

"We are not fans of the McMansion," says the homeowner. "A bigger house isn’t always a better house, and because it’s just the two of us and an occasional guest, we didn’t want space that we wouldn’t use."

A combined living room, kitchen, and dining area enjoy ample light and views thanks to the glazed northern facade.

The kitchen showcases seamless maple cabinetry and soapstone counters, elements that pair well to create a simple, cozy atmosphere.

Upstairs, there’s a second-floor office and work by the homeowners’ daughter, artist Kat Marais. 

Hovering around 2,400 square feet, Rollingwood Residence cascades like a waterfall down the sloped lot. Floor-to-ceiling windows capture views from every room in the house, and tall ceilings (that reach 18 feet high in the living room) amplify the sense of spaciousness even more.

The couple played with scale and added in large furnishings to complement the tall ceilings.

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"It has a big presence," says Comeaux. 

The exterior features a combination of Western red cedar, a rot-resistant siding, and Lueders limestone. Inside, the architect went with honed limestone, blackened mesquite flooring, soapstone countertops in the kitchen, clear sealed maple millwork, and exposed Douglas fir joinery. "The maple has a simple look to it, and it’s quiet when paired with richer materials," the architect says. "We looked at the house as a whole collection of materials." 

A piece of millwork in one of the master suites doesn't reach the ceiling, allowing light to spill into the mater bath.

The second-floor porch was designed to sit under the branches of a large oak. 

Uniquely, both bedrooms in the home are meant to serve as master suites. During the colder months, the couple can opt to sleep upstairs, while the downstairs room is more suitable for humid summers.

The outdoor shower is located right off the main balcony and living room.

The first-floor master, located on the other side of the living room fireplace, includes a minimalistic bathroom with Carrara marble and a sculptural millwork object that acts as storage, housing for the air conditioning unit, and a master closet. Meanwhile, the upstairs master includes dark slate tiling and a patio shaded by a regal oak.

The clean cabinetry and moody tiling yield a relaxing upstairs master bath. 

In creating a place of solitude, the homeowners did all of the landscaping themselves, and even created an amphitheater out of the existing rock arches on the property. 

"Even though it has the Lake|Flato aesthetic, it’s designed around the way we live," the homeowner concludes. 

An offset gable roof also follows the slope of the land.

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