Austin’s Zilker Park neighborhood features a bevy of single-story ranch-style homes and quaint 1930s bungalows shaded by mature foliage. Set within walking distance of popular attractions like Barton Springs and the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, it’s one of the city’s best neighborhoods—and it's the backdrop for this cozy urban escape.
When it hit the market, this 2,660-square foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home hadn’t been updated in more than 60 years, but the homeowner saw its inherent charm and called on architects Rick and Cindy Black and Christina Simon of Mark Ashby Design for a complete renovation.
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Some of the biggest challenges included "figuring out how to integrate the living room, which was once a carport that had been closed in at some point," says Rick Black. "A brick wall separated it from the other areas, and it was really a dead room." Another consideration was respecting the home’s history and its bones and choosing an aesthetic that matched the homeowner’s active lifestyle.
"The homeowner has this place in town, but also a large ranch in the country," Simon says. "He wanted it to have all of the comforts of his ranch and feel homey, but also be this fun city place where he can entertain."
In collaboration with the homeowner, the remodel team decided on a cool midcentury modern look with custom built-in pieces, southwest Texas-inspired colors, and a mixture of both accessible and more high-end vintage pieces. Because the homeowner also has ranch dogs, each material and fabric had to be chosen with durability in mind.
The design team started by selecting terrazzo flooring, which helped lighten up the previously dark interior. "The white terrazzo flooring was the key, and lightening up the exposed roof rafters helped a lot to reduce the shadows," Rick Black says. "We were also able to add windows in various areas, mostly in the living room and the master bedroom."
The large terrazzo slabs, which had to be custom-ordered due to their unusual size, cover the entirety of the home—even up the stairs from the sunken den and into the master bathroom shower. "They give off this sheen and throw light all over the house," Simon adds.
In the kitchen, Rick laid out the groundwork to achieve the midcentury modern look by building a slatted oak wall on the back of the cabinetry. "It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the house," he says. "It’s far better than seeing dishes in the kitchen sink." It’s a work of art that creates a unique veil and unexpected visual interest.
The rest of the kitchen is outfitted in oak with built-in hardware from AR Lucas. The countertops are fire-brushed black granite, and Simon sourced flatware from Crate and Barrel, local Austin boutique By George, and Hotel San Jose. If you look closely, there’s also a small framed postcard—an inexpensive find Simon picked up in Positano, Italy.
The dining room picks up on the colors of the Southwest with deep red chairs from West Elm, a table from Lekker Home, and a statement-making light from the Noguchi Museum in New York City. The wall sconces are off Etsy from Iris Lighting Studio in Israel.
"He didn’t want a pretentious house, so everything is reasonably priced and accessible," Simon says.
The built-in seating areas feature pillows from Morocco, while the bench seating is coated with Fiber-Seal, making it the ideal spot for an afternoon dog nap.
The living room is one of the most grounded spots in the home with a gold Baxter wool rug from Crate and Barrel, a 124-inch custom-made sofa, custom love seats, and a Palermo dark chocolate leather chair from Rove Concepts. The coffee table is a midcentury original. "We knew we needed to have legitimate pieces from the era," Simon says.
The homeowner specifically requested a light and bright palette for the master bath and the sunroom. Custom golden shades amplify the sunroom, which features a stand-alone tub flanked by an array of plants in West Elm pots. A painting Simon picked up from Round Top adds a splash of color to the entrance.
For the master bath, which sits at the opposite side of the master bedroom across from the sunroom, Simon went with both glazed and unglazed tile—a unique decision that amps up visual interest. Jack Pine paint by Benjamin Moore adds a hint of color to the double vanity.
"Part of what people hire us to do is make things special," she says. "Anyone can just put tile up on a wall, but we come up with approaches from a creative standpoint that really makes things sing."
Now when one walks into the home, it’s open and airy, filled with personal touches and authentic midcentury modern decor. It’s the perfect home away from the ranch—a sophisticated city dwelling the homeowner couldn’t be happier with.
Structural Engineer: Structures
Landscape Design Company: Jeff Fletcher
Secondary Designer: Cori Pfaff
Photographer: Clay Grier / @claygrier