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


In the summer of 2015, Suzanne McFayden, a Jamaican-born writer and philanthropist purchased a house in the hills west of Austin that had originally been designed by Austin architect Lawrence Speck, formerly the Dean of the UT School of Architecture. The 7,000-square-foot two-story poured-in-place concrete dwelling was an architectural landmark, but McFayden’s team—Austin architects Paul Lamb and Ted Young of Paul Lamb Architects and New York-based interior designer Jennifer Vaughn Miller—felt that they could make it even better.

A sheepskin chair and hand-carved walnut stool by the Haas Brothers and a ceramic dining table by Korean artist Hun-Chung Lee in the living area are a clue not to expect the ordinary here.

Artwork by Firelei Báez anchors a seating area in the living room. The pine flooring is original to the house, but Vaughn Miller specified a grey stain as a neutral background to showcase the furnishings and the art collection.

McFayden purchased rugs and pottery on a trip to Morocco, which she displays in the dining area along with antique chairs, a Bakalowits chandelier, and artwork by Ida Tursic and Wilfried Mille.

Lamb and Young kept the fabulous poured-in-place concrete walls (some with the builder’s measurements still faintly visible) and the wood-and-steel roof trusses.

Tavares Strachan’s neon You Belong Here brightens the space leading to the entry.

McFayden draws parallels between her life and Awol Erizku’s Girl with a Bamboo Earring, which hangs next to an Apparatus sconce in the entry.

Blackened steel panels in the kitchen are carried over from the entry and are a contrast to an island topped in white macaubas quartzite and a wall clad in lichen-speckled tree bark tiles (see below).

A 14-foot-long 1940s-era industrial fixture hangs above the center island.

A moody powder room balances an Italian marble sink by Kreoo with a perforated steel vanity and unlacquered brass hardware. The pendant is by Workstead, and the faucet is Waterworks.

A glass-topped Gio Ponti desk dominates a cantilevered office area off the kitchen; it sits opposite a custom bed platform.

Blackened steel paneling in the master bedroom contrasts with a tufted headboard and a brass-covered cabinet concealing the television.

Shoe storage cabinets in the master bedroom are fronted with tree bark.

Arabescato marble and cement tiles play off the poured concrete walls in the master bath.

Landscape by Word & Carr.

Word + Carr cleaned up the outdoor area with a series of decks, ramps, and walkways supported by piers and cable railing.



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