Texas Two-Step

In Austin, mid-century homes built in the wake of World War II join more traditional vernacular architecture.

The outdoor fireplace of the Balcones house designed by Elizabeth Alford.

Homeowner and architectural designer Elizabeth Alford explains that rapid post–World War II population growth caused Austin homebuilders to address materiality and place in a more direct way. Though modest, many of the Texas capital’s homes were built with local resources, such as limestone and native hardwood, and made strong connections to the outdoors with the help of large windows, covered porches, and patios. "People were interested in technology and the future," she says, but ties to farm life were still strong.

According to Alford, mid-century houses are a "small but appreciated minority" in Austin—head into Hill Country to spot the strictly vernacular dogtrot-style homes—but she’s not kidding when she says that the best example of regional architecture in central Texas might just be the famed Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, about 30 minutes outside of Austin. Nothing screams "sense of place" like the smoke-stained pine that lines the walls and the quilt-like brickwork on the front of the otherwise unassuming building.

The family room is situated at the apex of the house, with picturesque views that extend

up the meticulously landscaped north slope. The concrete floor sits just low enough that the main elements of the scene—the succulent garden and large limestone ledges—are at eye level. A bank of NanaWall folding windows breaks up the fourth wall.


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