Launch Slideshow

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Heaven and Hill

Heaven and Hill

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    Casey Dunn

  • The materialssteel, FSC-certified ipe, and Texas limestoneecho those on the main house.

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    The materialssteel, FSC-certified ipe, and Texas limestoneecho those on the main house.

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    Casey Dunn

    The materials—steel, FSC-certified ipe, and Texas limestone—echo those on the main house.

  • Designed for frequent entertaining, the full kitchen includes a grill, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, and sink.

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    Designed for frequent entertaining, the full kitchen includes a grill, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, and sink.

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    Casey Dunn

    Designed for frequent entertaining, the full kitchen includes a grill, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, and sink.

  • Through a wall opening is the restored Airstream, which was given a steel arbor and deck.

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    Through a wall opening is the restored Airstream, which was given a steel arbor and deck.

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    Casey Dunn

    Through a wall opening is the restored Airstream, which was given a steel arbor and deck.

  • The Douglas fir roof opens to the south and follows the lands contours.

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    The Douglas fir roof opens to the south and follows the lands contours.

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    Casey Dunn

    The Douglas fir roof opens to the south and follows the land’s contours.

  • Perpendicular limestone boxes house the kitchen/media center and a storage area/bath with indoor-outdoor shower.

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    Perpendicular limestone boxes house the kitchen/media center and a storage area/bath with indoor-outdoor shower.

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    Casey Dunn

    Perpendicular limestone “boxes” house the kitchen/media center and a storage area/bath with indoor-outdoor shower.

  • Native grasses tie the pavilion to its surroundings.

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    Native grasses tie the pavilion to its surroundings.

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    Casey Dunn

    Native grasses tie the pavilion to its surroundings.

  • Western red cedar slats close off the kitchen and media center.

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    Western red cedar slats close off the kitchen and media center.

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    Casey Dunn

    Western red cedar slats close off the kitchen and media center.

  • The thick masonry walls are oriented to deflect winters northwest winds and collect prevailing summertime breezes.

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    The thick masonry walls are oriented to deflect winters northwest winds and collect prevailing summertime breezes.

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    Casey Dunn

    The thick masonry walls are oriented to deflect winter’s northwest winds and collect prevailing summertime breezes.

  • A commodious custom sofa is the designated spot for lounging and naps.

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    A commodious custom sofa is the designated spot for lounging and naps.

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    Casey Dunn

    A commodious custom sofa is the designated spot for lounging and naps.

  • Sandy-colored plaster on the pools interior is a nod to the limestone bottom of local creeks and rivers.

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    Sandy-colored plaster on the pools interior is a nod to the limestone bottom of local creeks and rivers.

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    Casey Dunn

    Sandy-colored plaster on the pool’s interior is a nod to the limestone bottom of local creeks and rivers.

  • View from the opposite direction.

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    View from the opposite direction.

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    Casey Dunn

    View from the opposite direction.

  • The structure is pulled back from the edge of the hill to create a feeling of floating in the landscape.

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    The structure is pulled back from the edge of the hill to create a feeling of floating in the landscape.

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    Casey Dunn

    The structure is pulled back from the edge of the hill to create a feeling of floating in the landscape.

 

Situated on a plateau a full mile from the main house, Lake|Flato’s 2,375-square-foot pool house has nearly wraparound views of Texas Hill Country. The clients, who own a large ranch where the firm has designed multiple buildings over the years, asked for a contemporary outdoor room like the open-air pavilions in Thailand, where the husband frequently travels for work.

Years ago, the spot had been marked informally with a fire pit and vintage Airstream trailer, smartly remodeled, that sat in the hot sun. “They thought we should pull the trailer away, but we said, ‘We love it, let’s design for it,’” says project architect Karla Greer. The new pool pavilion is composed of three simple elements whose materials echo those on the main house: ipe decking, an open steel superstructure with a roof that tips up to the south, and two thick Texas limestone boxes that run perpendicular to each other, blocking the summer sun and winter’s northwesterly winds. The smaller masonry volume holds a full kitchen and media center, both of which can be closed off with slatted Western red cedar doors. “The owners are huge cooks,” says Greer, so kitchen fittings are deluxe, including a Viking grill, a wok cooker, an oven, and a dishwasher. The larger box houses an indoor-outdoor bathroom, laundry, and storage. Through an opening is the Airstream, shaded by oaks. It sits under an arbor and was given a new deck. “The trailer was remodeled years ago with old longleaf pine floors and decorated with leather, and looks like something Ralph Lauren would have worked on,” Greer says. “But no one seemed to want to go there.”

In summer the pavilion collects the prevailing southeast breezes, and the tilted roof mimics the land’s natural topography. “We strove for a light, delicate structure whose job is just to shade people from the sun,” Greer says. Its Tinker Toy–like steel frame arrived on a truck and was bolted together in a day, then topped with Douglas fir planks and a standing seam metal roof.

With the fully equipped Airstream nearby, the pool house has evolved as another guesthouse, minus the walls, windows, and doors. The living area contains a custom furniture piece that invites lounging, naps, and nights under the stars. “When the couple is here, they use this space actively,” Greer says. “With so little light from any town, there are fabulous views of the stars.”

The visual context was as carefully considered as the structure. Using an enormous oak tree to the west as a reference point, the architects pulled the pool house back from the hill’s edge. “Rather than looking down the hill, you feel like you’re on an island in the landscape because all your views become distant views,” Greer says. “On misty mornings the mist comes just below the top of the plateau, so you feel like you’re floating in the clouds.”

Those effects are amplified by a planting design that blends in with the big picture: a swath of drought-tolerant zoysia turf where the grandchildren play, and a sea of native grasses that move with the wind. The pool interior, too, is covered in sandy-colored plaster that evokes the limestone bottom of the region’s rivers and creeks. All these gestures defer to the land, while rendering a formerly inhospitable site relevant again.