A 1950s Austin Ranch House Gets a Luxe Revamp With Southwest Flair
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A 1950s Austin Ranch House Gets a Luxe Revamp With Southwest Flair

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By Lauren Jones
Terrazzo flooring and built-in furniture are just a few of the striking details in this midcentury modern remodel.

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.

The photograph off the dining area is by Austin-based photographer Nick Simonite, while the ocean waves sketch near the entryway was a cheap find from a local art store. "If you frame art correctly, it can look really elevated," Simon says. "Each piece talks to one another and tells a story."

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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."

A Crate and Barrel planter adds a bit of nature to the dining room. Simon sourced custom-made curtains and hand-poked ceramic sconces—which were a great find at approximately $200 from Iris Lighting Studio in Israel via Etsy.

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.

Simon chose two differing fabrics for this entryway nook, textiles from Morocco, a throw from West Elm, and a stool from CB2. The oil painting above is a vintage find from Round Top. 

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. 

A built-in slatted oak panel seals off the kitchen, creating a peaceful and visually enchanting space for those first walking into the home.

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 built-in hardware is one of Simon's favorite elements of the kitchen. "We liked the idea of not having a lot of jewelry in this room," she says. The pendant lights are from Shades of Light, the bar stools from Interlude Home, the wall sconces from Cedar and Moss, and the accessories are from Everything But the House, an online auction house.

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.

Simon selected tile from Bedrosians Tile and Stone for the backsplash, which plays against the dark, masculine countertops. She then sourced books from Uptown Modern, and a green water jug and espresso percolator from Tom Dixon.

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 sunken living room features many custom-made pieces, including the patterned chairs and large sofa. "We work with companies that we've had relationships with for many years," Simon says. The side tables are Noir, lamps are from Arteriors, while the cocktail table is from 1stDibs. "We wanted the look to be affordable but accessible and paired with vintage pieces," she says. "You want it to come together without looking like a West Elm Showroom and you run into issues when you buy things all from retail stores, so that's why you should pick pieces that fit the personality of the home."

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.

A cozy leather chair anchors the living room and adds traditional flair. The bookshelves are decorated with personal items, a Samsung television that looks like a piece of art, and a miniature horse statue Simon bought in Round Top.

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.

The sunroom is off the master bath. "The homeowner asked for a stand-alone tub," Simon says. "We've done them in the past, but never had a homeowner lead us to install one." The bathroom floors are in a parquet pattern from Concrete Collaborative. The wooden benches are from Urban Outfitters, while the leather director’s bench is from CB2.

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.

The chic sunroom includes a piece of art from Round Top. The gold faucet is from Waterworks. 

"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."

The master bathroom is the only spot in the home that features actual hardware. Simon went with a rich blue-green tone for the double vanity and Colton wall sconces from Y Lighting.

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.

Related Reading:

An Ancient Oak Shades a Revitalized Midcentury Ranch Home in Austin 

This House in Austin Has a Tree Growing Right Through It

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Rick and Cindy Black / @rickandcindyblack

General Contractor: Red Tail Construction / @redtailconstruction

Structural Engineer: Structures

Landscape Design Company: Jeff Fletcher

Interior Design: Mark Ashby Design / @markashbydesign

Secondary Designer: Cori Pfaff

Cabinetry: AR Lucas Construction Company / @arlucasconstruction

Tile: Architectural Tile & Stone / @architecturaltileandstone

Concrete: Concrete Collaborative / @concretecollaborative

Photographer: Clay Grier / @claygrier