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

THE UGLY DUCKLING

A new homeowner approached architect Tim Cuppett to help transform into a better version of itself what he candidly called “the ugliest house on the block”. The homeowner also wanted to build a new accessory dwelling unit on the site which overlooks Little Stacy Park in the historic Austin’s neighborhood of Travis Heights.

Cuppett was drawn to the wonderfully unique gold masonry block, one of the few redeeming characteristics of the true-masonry structure and part of the magic of the place.

Because the gold masonry block is no longer in production, existing openings were respected and repurposed with new windows and doors. Where necessary, masonry edges were recreated in plaster, dyed, and scored to match the existing gold block.

Roof and interiors were drastically reconfigured to improve form and flow in the dwelling. A central hall was infilled and replaced with perimeter circulation through adjoining rooms.

Natural light pervades the interior through slight interventions such as the high windows in the roof peak.

A new skylight well sweeps out of the kitchen ceiling enabling dappled tree-filtered light from above.

The book shelves contribute to the built-in look for the appliances and also provide a transition into the adjoining bedroom–with a far wall in the bedroom painted the same shade as the kitchen island and the kitchen walls, the fact that there is a bedroom off the kitchen doesn’t seem jarring.

The shelves make for a tiny hallway into the bedroom and provide a place for the pocket door to slide.

And outdoor shower is a favorite feature of the master bath.

At the rear of the property, adjoining a service alley, the new accessory dwelling unit is woven into the twisted tree branches of looming live oaks.

Beneath the unit is a garage/workroom where the owner nurtures his love of gardening.

Each new gable end of the new structure features a small aperture—one faces east, the other faces west.

The new bathroom looks out into the trees.

Photography by Whit Preston

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