Jeff Gunning has been a commercial architect in Dallas for 35 years, but when it came to his own home to be perched above Austin’s Lake Travis, he called in fellow architect Sean Guess of Faye and Walker Architecture. He wanted something simple, elegant, modern—and most importantly, budget-conscious. Having seen some of Guess’s other projects ("I actually found Sean from a story in Dwell," he remarks), Jeff knew that the architect could bring the brief to life.
Casework & Countertops
Standing Seam Siding
Framing, Cabinets, Trim (Other)
Doors & Hardware
Interior Glass & Glazing
Plaster & Gypsum Board
Plumbing & Fixtures
|Grand Total: $445,741|
The site, which Jeff and Karen Gunning purchased in 2016 for $146,000, spans 5.7 acres. It has a single point of entry and a rough, winding road along a ridge that climbs some 80 feet, which made getting trucks to the site during construction a challenge. To the north, there is a cliff and Hill Country views, while the south faces deep forest.
To begin, the architects decided to set off on their own paths, allowing them to take on Jeff’s vision from entirely different stances.
"This was my first intense collaboration with another architect on a project, not to mention his own residence," Guess says. "In the past, I’ve collaborated with other practitioners in some concepts, but it’s never been this comprehensive."
Jeff really wanted to make sure the site was engaged, and proposed two separate structures: a phase one and phase two. His idea was a stacked plan, while Guess envisioned something a bit more linear and one-level. In the end, a multi-level plan seemed ideal.
"I wanted it to act as a lake house on the weekends, and later, add on when we retired there," says Jeff. "So it made sense, in terms of construction, to do in two phases. Plus, we have grown kids, so the idea of having two living spaces and two kitchens next to another was practical."
In order to make sure they captured the view, the architects "walked far enough to the water to figure out what elevation the house had to be at to see the lake," recalls Jeff. Phase one would be set at a 90-degree angle, running north to south against several existing oaks, affording captivating sunrise views, while phase two would be set down the hill and connected via a roof deck.
The pair worked with Juniper Construction and made the decision to frame everything with wood, something Guess actually prefers on each of his projects.
"From a budget standpoint and structurally speaking, it’s important to do things out of wood as opposed to creating framing situations that require steel," he explains. "That drives the cost of materials and labor up."
Though choosing wood over steel can make it more difficult to create an architecturally dramatic moment, the contractors built the stair overhang with finesse.
Guess also conceptualized a Leuders limestone–clad wall that extends upward from the lower-level porch and garage, something Karen had requested after seeking inspiration on Pinterest. The home was further clad in cedar with a white, standing-seam roof and white wall panels.
Inside, the architects executed some clever framing tricks to re-center the living room gable to make room for a discreet HVAC unit. They were also able to make the windows feel like a single unit.
"The team was a critical part of staying on budget, and I think they pushed beyond what they'd normally do to make it all happen," says Jeff.
Overall, the project cost $195 per square foot, which is "pretty remarkable in today’s market," Guess says.
With phase one is now complete, the two are currently working on plans for phase two, and hope to have it finished by 2022.
More Budget Breakdown:
Builder/General Contractor: Juniper Building Company
Structural Engineer: Duffy Engineering
Civil Engineer: O'Brien Engineering Services