Tom and Amy Brown found a charming West Lake Hills house in 2015 for the next chapter in their familyâ€™s life, but the 1961-built home needed an update.
The last homeowner had lived there since 1982 and had made some changes, such as adding a wheelchair lift, enclosing a carport and adding carpet in the driveway.
â€śIt was very dated,â€ť says Paul Streeter, owner of Camelot Custom Homes, which did the renovation.
â€śA lot of it was DIY,â€ť says Nathan Quiring of Clayton & Little architecture firm, which created the design.
What made this project intriguing was its roots: It is one of about 100 homes in the Rollingwood and Barton Hills areas of Austin that were designed and built by Austinâ€™s A.D. Stenger. Most of these homes have some signature features including stacked limestone walls and peaked roofs with clerestory windows.
â€śHe definitely had a style,â€ť says Clayton & Littleâ€™s Bradley Wilson.
â€śWhat was appealing to us was that it was very untouched,â€ť Amy Brown said. â€śIt was a very cool design.â€ť
She liked the shape of the house, and its simplicity.
The look of the house fit in well with the neighborhood, which had other Stenger homes on the street that had been remodeled at varying points, but not in a way that would strip them of their notable design.
â€śWe knew it was going to be a big project,â€ť Tom Brown says, â€śbut we also enjoy these kinds of projects.â€ť Between Amy and Tom Brown, they have lived through four home renovations, including one in 2008 that they did with Clayton & Little.
This new project won a national award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for Camelot.
While the Browns, Clayton and Little and Camelot intended to keep the home design close to the original, bringing it up to current building code would mean that changes would have to be made. The front limestone wall had no insulation inside it, the roof needed to be raised and redone because it moved when you jumped on it, and modern wiring, plumbing and heating and cooling systems needed to be added. Then there was a beautiful large stone fireplace in the center of living room, which was one of the main design elements of the house and a signature of Stengerâ€™s.
Amy Brown fought to keep it â€” but in the end, no one could guarantee they could get it both working again and up to code. The stones of this fireplace, though, have a new life in the extended, now insulated, rock wall in the living room.
The problem of the fireplace gave them an opportunity for a larger living room that wasnâ€™t broken up by the fireplace. They extended the main level by enclosing the back patio space, where the kitchen is now. A large concrete-counter island separates visually the kitchen from the living room and dining area. Bar stool seating around the island often becomes the focal point for gatherings as well as the place for informal meals.
Amy Brown chose painted blue tiles like the ones she saw at Lucyâ€™s Fried Chicken on Burnet Road for the back splash that wraps around the L-shaped kitchen cabinets. The rest of the kitchen features simple, linear elements such as white lower cabinets with silver horizontal pulls and wood open shelving above.
They built on a new back patio that overlooks the heavily wooded, sloping lot and the new pool. The backyardâ€™s mature oak trees were a signature feature of the quarter-acre property, but the kidney-shaped pool was not. The apron around the pool was collapsing under its weight. It needed a more modern pool.
Because of the homeâ€™s lot, the house always had multiple levels, even though it looked like one level from the street. They took advantage of that when they added an additional 1,000 square feet to what is now 2,498 square feet. Most of it is at the back of the house.
Up five steps from the main living area are the childrenâ€™s bedrooms and master bedroom. Each of the two childrenâ€™s bedrooms has a full bathroom. One of those bathrooms also serves as the bathroom to the new family room that separates the childrenâ€™s rooms from the master suite. All the bathrooms have the same signature look with one-inch tiles and concrete counters.
The master suite is separated from the childrenâ€™s area by two steps and a hallway. The suite looks out onto the pool area below and includes a large closet and bathroom, something that wouldnâ€™t have been the norm for 1961.
Clayton & Little added architectural details by adding a wood slatted screen element that repeats itself in the back porch and the stairway to the garage and lower level. It creates interesting shadows when light flows through it.
The home originally had a carport and, to make it fit within building guidelines, Clayton & Little created a garage but without the door and no room for storing extras. Instead, the Browns have a whole storage closet under the stairs and an additional large storage closet under the back porch.
The Browns also gained a new lower level guest bedroom suite that provides an additional living space for watching TV away from the kids or for watching the kids in the pool from the air-conditioned comfort of this living space.
The remodel took about a year, and Wilson says with every structural problem they and Camelot encountered, it created an opportunity. â€śItâ€™s the old cliche about they are not problems, they are opportunities,â€ť he says. They had a problem with the roof and were able to raise it, which made a big difference in the kidsâ€™ bedrooms. They had a problem with the fireplace and were able to create a large open room that isnâ€™t distracted by the fireplace in the middle. The pool had problems, and they were able to redesign the terraced yard for a new pool.
â€śThereâ€™s always lots of surprises,â€ť Streeter says. â€śYou come up with a plan. You make it work.â€ť
And even though Amy Brown is still sad about the loss of the original fireplace, the new open living area that respects the stone wall and clerestory windows that were Stengerâ€™s signatures make this an inviting place to call home.