“When our clients approached us about doing this house, they told us that they liked our work, but they really like dark houses,” Kevin Alter recalls. “We asked, ‘How dark is dark?’” As it turned out, dark was very dark.
It’s a challenge to enliven a façade that wants to absorb all the available light, especially on a site shaded by mature trees. But ever resourceful and inventive, Alterstudio devised a mix of materials and details that give dimension and dynamism to the façades, with particular emphasis on the front, street-facing elevation. Here, horizontal Corso bricks contrast with vertically applied ebony-stained cedar siding and a roof fascia of linear ribbed steel. It’s a contrapuntal arrangement akin to visual music. “It’s a very well-detailed project,” said one judge. “The entry is quite exceptional in its mix of materials.”
White soffits on the exterior and ceilings on the interior inject lightness, underscoring and contrasting the dark tones. In plan, the house is as layered as the façades, traversing from front wall, across a formal front courtyard, and through the house to another, more casual courtyard at the back. It creates its own zones of privacy and repose on its suburban corner lot.
“We are interested in architecture having some figure to it, exerting a kind of presence,” says Kevin. “Architecture is made of many things—many small parts and joints. We were trying to make it feel coherent.”
Architect: Kevin Alter, Ernesto Cragnolino, Tim Whitehill, Joseph Boyle, AIA, Shelley McDavid, AIA, Alterstudio Architecture LLP, Austin, Texas
Builder: Clean Tag, Austin
Landscape Architect: Word+Carr Design Group, Austin
Structural Engineer: MJ Structures, Austin
Project Size: 4,401 square feet
Site Size: 0.37 acre
Construction Cost: Withheld
Photography: Casey Dunn Photography
Cladding: Corso brick, ebony-stained cedar siding
Countertops: Absolute black granite, marble, Caesarstone
Door Hardware: Pemko, Sugatsune, FSB, Omnia
Windows: RAM Windows, Heritage Windows by Andersen