Neither David Webber nor any of his associates at Webber + Studios Inc., could quite pinpoint the original style of the 1930s brick home that the firm redesigned for a growing family in the Bryker Woods section of Austin, Texas, so Webber contrived a name that was descriptive of its mixed styles — Cape Cod Eclectic Revival. Today, after having completed a total remodel of the home using energy-efficient and green materials, as well as doubling its size from 1,600 to 3,500 sq. ft., only a single word needs to be added to Webber’s description: Modern Cape Cod Eclectic Revival.
So complete is the transformation that very little of the resulting home bears much resemblance to its previous form. The single remaining exterior touchstone from the original home is a brick archway in front. The rest is a pleasing mix of new and old.
Most strikingly, the new home is now much taller than it had been. It has two full floors of living space and an unfinished third-floor attic for a planned future expansion. To ensure that the new, taller structure fit with the older, smaller-scale homes in the neighborhood, Webber designed enormous matching gables running two and one-half stories high, up from the front of the home and down the back. The gables accomplish two goals. First, they help the home read to passersby more like the one-story cottage it once was. Second, the gables’ dramatic massing, (complete with a sleek metal roof), provide an unmistakably modern flair.
To Webber, whose team leans toward ultra-modern styles in its new construction projects, this remodel was about providing the client with solutions that fit their needs (i.e., four small children and a desire to live in a greener more sustainably built home). It was not about experimenting with new forms. But in the end, Webber says the project has garnered more favorable attention than they expected from their clients, the design community and from neighbors.
“I have been very happy that this project has gotten so much positive response. It is more than I anticipated, frankly,” says Webber. “I think what most people appreciate are houses that are comfy and homey. And this is a pretty comfy house. It is a good, solid, beautiful house. It works on those merits alone. It is not trying to be anything bigger than that. As architects, we are always thinking that we want something to be bigger and more important. This one is an artwork, but it is more of a functional, cozy piece of artwork.”
An Open and Cozy Floor Plan
One might expect that an architect — given the opportunity to add modern flair to an older home — would normally be tempted to remove all existing interior walls to create larger, light-filled spaces. And to a degree, the first floor of this remodeled home offers a wide-open kitchen/family room arrangement, but many of the interior walls were left in place allowing for cozier, even some “strangely proportioned,” rooms that give the home a mix of public and private spaces, says Webber.
There is a small piano parlor in front that borrows space gained from an enclosed entry porch. There is also a smallish formal dining room accessible from the kitchen/family room at the rear as well as from the piano parlor through a set of French doors in front. Passing from the front entrance and its lovely Shaker-style staircase is a narrow hallway that easily could have lapsed into a dark space, says Webber. Instead, natural light from the dining room is allowed into the hallway courtesy of a 4 1/2-ft. set of bookcases that forms a half wall that runs the length of the hallway with light coming in over the top.
“All the way to the back of the house to the family room, we created this really permeable hallway with lots of openings,”
Webber explains. “That way, as you go down the hall, you feel like you are in public spaces. You don’t ever have to feel like you are going into the bowels of the house. And tucked into the middle of all of this is a guest bedroom-bathroom combination off to the side. By having its own sort of private doorway into the hallway that takes you to both of them, it feels just a little bit tucked away and private.”