Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson
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TEXAS RIVER RANCH

When Austin-based architect Hugh Jefferson Randolph sat down with his clients, Bill and Gina O’Hara, to imagine what their dream house could be, they mentioned the colonial plantation-style property in the film Out of Africa, set in 1910s British East Africa (now Kenya). Randolph thought of other reference points closer to home such as Fort Davis—an Indian Wars outpost in West Texas where the barracks are wrapped in dramatic porches. Now in a West Texas frame of mind, Randolph the suggested Cibolo Creek Ranch outside of Marfa as an example of a design style that’s both rugged and gracious. That’s when the architect learned his clients had married there years before and regarded the place with special fondness. Inspired by the style of these outposts Randolph began work on a house for the O’Haras that would embody both romance and practicality; it’s located on nine acres outside of Austin, with a landscape by designer Jeff Neal to fulfill the potential of the Hill Country setting.

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Randolph and his clients wanted their property to evoke the feeling of an old ranch, but not just a Texas ranch. They included associations they had with architecture in Spain, Mexico, India, and elsewhere, where the climates are similar to Texas’ and where buildings have shade but the residents can still enjoy the outdoors.

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The front entry is covered in unpainted stucco in a natural finish. Landscape designer Jeff Neal created a series of low walls with stone found on the property in a way that sets off exterior spaces as if they are separate rooms.

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The landscape is on view in the kitchen.

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The ambience of the kitchen is Old World.

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White plaster walls and dark shining hardwood floors make a modern composition.

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Inside this cool building natural light is tempered but ever-present via the luminescence of the walls and the gleam of the floors.

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A guest bedroom.

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The claw foot tub is a fine place to contemplate the landscape.

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A separate L-shaped garage and guest porch has two guest bedrooms and a bathroom for when children and grandchildren come to stay. The clients can convert the open porch into a sleeping porch, screened from mosquitoes, if they need more sleeping space in the future.

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Around the corner from the house, the detached porch building is covered in weathered cedar siding.

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Neal chose pea gravel to line the garden, both as a walking surface and as mulch for the plants. He inserted stone pavers as pathways throughout the garden

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Both clients were very involved in the plant selection—some are always there to give structure, and others to give a looser sense of nature. The mix includes boxwoods, grasses, and large topiaries that Neal calls “cupcake trees”. Seasonal vegetables and ornamental flowers soften the mix.

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Architect Randolph likes to think of landscape design as a way to create outdoor rooms. In this setting some zones are more formal and the rest are natural.

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Each of the guest bedrooms has a Dutch door, which Randolph notes is partly for functionality and largely for looks.

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The plants were chosen in part for deer resistance and drought tolerance.

PHOTOS BY JACOB BODKIN

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