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Adobe Modern in East Austin


Today we're visiting the incredible, light-filled Austin home of architectural photographer Casey Dunn, whose design inspiration came from the high desert, minimalist architecture of Marfa, a small town in West Texas. Publishing a coffee-table book on the subject, Marfa Modern, Casey's affinity with the style of houses he was shooting paved the way for the design of his own dream home, which was realised with the help of architects Side Angle Side

It all began when Casey approached Arthur Furman, a longtime friend, about designing a house on a double corner lot he had purchased in East Austin. At the time, he and Sarah Dunn (née Weinstein), his future wife, had not yet met. Over the course of the project, however, the house was re-cast as an eventual family home, and with avid cook Sarah as a second influence, the kitchen took on a much larger role in the overall plan. 

Simultaneously, the project also became an opportunity for Arthur and his architect wife, Annie-Laurie Grabiel, to launch joint venture Side Angle Side. The focus of the design was Casey's vision of a simple shaped house with a gabled roof, and the flat lot had very few site constraints. With no slope to factor in and no view, the architects used the position of the sun, and relationship to the street to determine the house’s orientation, choosing to build on the inner lot, with the indoor and outdoor living areas facing southeast. Using the monolithic adobe buildings of west Texas high country as inspiration, the team created a house essentially created from that one material, which nevertheless provides warmth and a variety of spaces within its barn-like shape.

The building exterior is exclusively burnished plaster stucco, a material suited to the hot, often intensely humid, climatic conditions of Austin. 

“The walls are two-by-six framed walls, so while it’s not true adobe construction, we still wanted to create the same feeling of massive walls,” says Annie-Laurie. Within this envelope, the architects “punched in” recessed window frames that create a shadow line and give the impression the walls are much thicker than they are. This also protects the timber frames from the rain. On the side of the house rather than the front, the entranceway was designed to be discrete while announcing its presence in a natural way.

Inside and out, it is clear to see that this home centres around texture with the use of natural materials and a mix of salvaged and designer pieces. Injecting warmth and demonstrating a beautiful sense of cohesion, the striking beams that soar above the space are akin to the floors, both made from antique wood salvaged from the same barn demolition. As Arthur further explains, "The ceiling beams have the original paint on them, and these beautiful milled floorboards retain big bolt holes that we filled in. Just planing them exposed this gorgeous, amber tone and grain structure, because it’s all old growth timber.”

The striking kitchen was designed around carefully selected appliances by Fisher & Paykel including the 30" Single Built-in Oven and 30" Gas on Steel Cooktop 

The Fisher & Paykel 36" French Door Refrigerator and 24" DishDrawer™ Tall Dishwasher complete the space.  

In the kitchen, the overall goal was to create a minimal, clean space with few distractions. The white oak cabinetry has table legs and open shelving, and the dark soapstone countertops are in keeping with the monochrome palette. Enhancing the overall sense of open-ness in the space, the gas cooktop was kept separate from the oven and clearly visible, while the oven and other more solid elements were consolidated into the inner side of the island. This considered, distributed design allows more than one person to work in the kitchen at the same time. Perfect for a couple who now cook together, they both picked out specific appliances from Fisher & Paykel, allowing the architects, who were very happy with their choices, to design the space around them. 

Photography by Casey Dunn

Images courtesy of Fisher & Paykel

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