The South 3rd Residence began with the desire for a change in lifestyle. With their children finishing college, two empty-nesters moved to a highly sought-after central Austin neighborhood where local amenities like restaurants and greenspace are within walking distance. An unusual L-shaped 40’ x 208’ plot was divided to accommodate a pair of condominiums; a 2,300 sf house and an 850 sf accessory dwelling unit (ADU) coexist to increase affordability. This solution was possible because of the unusual presence of an alley running parallel to the property, thus allowing vehicular access to both residences. The house is designed such that the ground floor might operate independently of the second to welcome short-term visitors or rentals upstairs. Designed and built within a very tight budget of $200/sf, the South 3rd Residence nonetheless maintains conceptual rigor and prioritizes meticulous detailing.

Three courtyards expand the perceived size of their adjacent rooms. Walking between a thin, two-story volume and existing pecan trees, the visitor enters in the middle of the house, facing a small courtyard that holds a special Blue Atlas Cedar. A 25’ front yard setback is utilized to create a private walled court continuous with the master bedroom. Counterintuitively placing the master bedroom at the front of the house allows for an open living space at the rear to stretch the width of the lot and open onto a generous porch— enclosable by a curtain— that provides a liminal space between the interior and private yard beyond.

A collection of monitors introduces light from unexpected sources and walnut cabinets, mill-finished steel, black ceramic tile, and Shou Sugi Ban cedar add material richness. Materials are employed and detailed strategically to emphasize the seamless connection of interior and exterior and facilitate entertaining. The kitchen counter continues to the exterior porch where it accommodates an outdoor kitchen. In the opposite direction, black ceramic tile runs continuously from the porch through the kitchen again to the exterior at the entry behind a high window that allows views of arriving visitors from the kitchen. Grass cloth wall paper articulates the ceiling plane in the living room while purpose-built furniture, including a 13’ kitchen table on wheels, enables efficient and flexible living.

Designed to embrace a lifestyle that easily moves between inside and out, this efficient home takes maximum advantage of the pleasures of living in one’s own private enclave in the dense context of modest bungalows, one-off stores and chic restaurants.

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Exterior Entry


Landscape Design
  • Westhop
  • Green Places


  • 2014
  • Square Feet
  • 2399