A film writer and director asked Austin, Texas–based architect Henry Panton to build a bunkhouse with a huge screen porch for family and guests on his 40-acre property in Bastrop, Texas, about 30 miles outside Austin. Situated over a dry creek bed and carefully crafted around the existing loblolly pine trees, the bunkhouse “is sort of like a bridge into the woods,” says Panton, who adds that the 1,400-square-foot structure, which can comfortably accommodate well over a dozen people, is used often by the director, his wife and three children, and their extended family and friends. “They have a lot of sleepovers,” says the architect.
A screen porch runs the entire length of building, built over a dry creek bed on embedded concrete piers. The architect says he worked with the varying topography and native pines, turning the building 30 degrees at one point to accommodate the natural contours of the land.
A stone path leads from a gravel parking area to the entrance, fronted by a wide stair and small porch. “Since we had to slot it in between so many trees with such vertical proportions, we decided our building would have vertical proportions,” says Panton. At left is the enclosed bunkroom, with the double-height screen porch at right.
The opposite side of the bunkhouse, with the only enclosed bedroom, which leads to a small galley kitchen and two bathrooms, at right. This exit leads to a path to a nearby footbridge, swimming pool and outdoor bathhouse.
The structure was built onto a concrete-and-steel base. At left is the porch, pre-screening; at right is a cantilevered outdoor shower off the bathroom. The exterior cladding is cedar, stained in four different colors then placed randomly “for a different palette of colors, like a blend of bricks,” says Panton. “The owner’s favorite color is purple, so we added a purple board here and there.”
The bunkhouse and path beyond.
An aluminum-and-glass door, chosen for its ability to handle exposure to water, leads from the bathroom to the outdoor shower.
The nine-by-three-foot mahogany entrance door is meant to evoke the surrounding trees. The iron handrails lining the base of the porch are a subtle architectural detail, as well as a support system to prevent the cabin from ever twisting or shifting “like so many old Texas outbuildings,” says Panton.
A view across the screen porch from the entrance to the kitchen, with the horizontal window, and the bedroom, reached through the French doors at rear left.
Several sets of aluminum-and-glass French doors open from the bunkroom onto the screen porch. Panton and his team made the dining table and benches on-site; the tongue-and-groove benches and table legs are locally milled cedar, and the top is Brazilian Tigerwood.
A view back toward the entrance. The purlin ceiling beneath the porch’s gabled Galvalum roof is made up of two-by-four cedar strips. A frieze of screened openings runs the length of the building, allowing a cross-breeze and extra light in, while ceiling fans keep the air circulating in summer. “Animals, from deer to raccoons to all kinds of birds, come right up to the porch,” says Panton.
Panton placed several custom-made queen-size steel-and-wood bunk beds inside the bunkroom. All the beds are on wheels and fit through the double-side door openings, so they can be easily rolled into the porch for sleeping. Complementing the locally milled, insect-resistant cedar bunkroom ceiling are floors of purple-stained white oak (bunkroom) and the especially durable Brazilian Tigerwood (screen porch).
The HVAC unit inside the bunkroom is rarely used, but was installed for use during humid days and chilly nights.
The architectural relationship between the bunkroom and porch, and the bunkhouse and the surrounding forest, is especially apparent at dusk, when the building reads as a kind of illuminated lantern.
“I wanted more of a skeletal look for this house, and less of a chunky, log-cabin look,” says Panton, who added stark steel bracing across the entire length of the porch’s roof structure.
The floor plan exemplifies the thin proportions of the bunkhouse, and its 30-degree turn. The bunkroom measures just over 800 square feet, and the screen porch, around 600. Image courtesy Henry Panton.
Near the bunkhouse, Panton built a wood-and-steel footbridge spanning 90 feet across another dry creek leading to the path to a swimming pool and outdoor bathhouse.
With its Brazilian Tigerwood enclosures, the outdoor bathhouse, which includes showers, sinks and dressing areas, references the nearby bunkhouse.