Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson
In PrintIn StyleIn BooksIn MediaIn the KnowIn House


Austin life coach Dana Baruch envisioned a multi-tasking house that would adapt to at least three lifestyle variations for herself, her husband marketing consultant Mike Krell, and their two college-age sons. The couple’s architects—Kevin Alter, Tim Whitehill, and Ernesto Cragnolino of Austin-based Alterstudio—were ready to accommodate the couple even though they were midway through construction of the 2300-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath house in the Bouldin neigborhood in South Austin. The goal: A house for the couple when they are alone; an upstairs with a separate entry for the sons when they visit; and the ability to rent the upstairs when the sons aren’t in town.

The team began designing an efficient enclave for Dana, Mike, and their two sons with the easy indoor-outdoor access they wanted.  The master bedroom suite is to the left of the entry, at the front of the house. Upstairs includes two bedrooms, a sitting room, and two baths for their couple’s sons.

Their narrow lot determined the profile of the stucco-blonde cypress-and-shou sugi ban sided house: a thin two-story structure slotted between existing pecan trees. The entry is in the middle of the building, facing a courtyard. To the right, the living and dining area open onto a porch and terraces.

For drama, a 35-foot wall clad in glittering black tile extends from the entry through the kitchen and out to the porch. “It looks extravagant,” says Alter, “but it wasn’t expensive.”

Just at the far end of the kitchen, a prep area is out of sight but still glamorous thanks to the black tile wall.

Alterstudio also did the interior design in the house, and used stylish moments—such as the glittering grass cloth wallpaper on the cove ceiling—to send a luxurious message without the costliness.

Economy was a driving force in the design of the residence but it didn’t undermine quality or esthetics. Details such as courtyards and floor-to-ceiling windows, such as here in the office just off the living area, create a luxurious perception of space.

The master bedroom suite is to the left of the entry, at the front of the house. “Placing the bedroom in the front,” says Alter, “allowed for the open living space at the rear to stretch the width of the lot.”  A 25’ front yard setback was utilized to create a private walled court continuous with the master bedroom.

Master bath with custom walnut cabinetry.

“In the back, the porch and terraces were built economically,” notes Cragnolino. The ceiling is the same sheetrock as the interior of the house and the floors are the same finished concrete.

The black wall extends into the covered porch.



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