Transparency in Texas

A moving wall of glass at the back of the house provides long views of the surrounding Texas Hill Country landscape.
Transparency in Texas
Two architects tackle renovating a home to make it seem bigger while working within its original framework.

A family loved the views from the home they had purchased in Austin, Texas, but they didn’t love the house. The windows and doors were small, the rooms were dark, and the ceilings were low.

Enter Clark Richardson Architects and a gut renovation that included copious amounts of glass to frame the views, unify spaces, and blur the boundaries between the indoors and the outside.

Natural daylight pours into a combined dining and den area through a picture window flanked by fenestration.
Natural daylight pours into a combined dining and den area through a picture window flanked by fenestration.

“The house had this amazing view, but the floor plan was not dialed into the site, which is at the back end of the house that sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Austin,” explains Ed Richardson, co-principal of Clark Richardson Architects with his wife, Amy Clark. “It has these beautiful, almost 180-degree views of the hills and the other side of the river. But the existing house was really obfuscating the view. And it was chopped up – a dark sitting room that had a fireplace, a kitchen that was not oriented to the view at all, a dining room that was poorly defined, and a media room tucked into a dark corner. So, the biggest thing we did was really about unifying all those spaces.”

The natural landscape can be seen from throughout the house, starting with a hinged door at the front of the home and ending with a moving wall of glass at the back. “The views are really just wonderful,” Richardson says. “The windows can be open almost all year long to this view. That’s something we wanted to celebrate.”

“The views are really just wonderful. The windows can be open almost all year long to this view. That’s something we wanted to celebrate.” Ed Richardson, co-principal, Clark Richardson Architects

A 90-degree configuration of multi-slide doors provides uninterrupted views and a seamless connection from the inside to the outdoors.
A 90-degree configuration of multi-slide doors provides uninterrupted views and a seamless connection from the inside to the outdoors.

One challenge was to make the home seem bigger while working within the limitations of the original framework. “We couldn’t have built a new house this big on this lot. So, we had to accept this 9-foot ceiling height and work with it. Part of how we did that was to have this very horizontal space that had a lot of glass, which is where the Western Window Systems window wall comes in,” Richardson says. “Because we had all that openness, it doesn’t seem like you’re in a room with low ceiling space.”

The 8-foot dining room ceiling is even lower. “But it all works together by having a lot of transparency out towards the view,” Richardson adds. “I think it’s that connection to the outside as you’re walking through all these spaces that ties it all together.”

The entrance of the home has a meditative, Zen Garden-like vibe, enhanced by a hinged door and floor-to-ceiling glass.
The entrance of the home has a meditative, Zen Garden-like vibe, enhanced by a hinged door and floor-to-ceiling glass.

To further capitalize on the views and create a seamless flow from the interior to the backyard space and into the landscape beyond, Clark Richardson Architects utilized a 90-degree configuration of Series 600 Multi-Slide Doors connected to the window wall. The open corner configuration leads the eye to the outdoor deck with its panoramic views of rolling green hills in the distance and the sparkling waterfront below.

“The homeowners were really interested in this oblique corner slider, which is about turning that window wall around a corner, but also kind of opening in the corner to the kitchen that was at an oblique angle to the outdoor space,” Richardson says. “That corner slider really makes the space. It’s amazing when you open it up and can see all the way from the kitchen to across the property.”

“That corner slider really makes the space. It’s amazing when you open it up and can see all the way from the kitchen to across the property.” Ed Richardson, co-principal, Clark Richardson Architects

A window wall connected to an open-corner configuration of multi-slide doors creates a moving façade of glass that opens to the backyard deck.
A window wall connected to an open-corner configuration of multi-slide doors creates a moving façade of glass that opens to the backyard deck.

Richardson says this part of the home is his favorite. “That window wall stretches across two-thirds of the home and it’s this beautiful orienting device when you’re walking through," he says. “You feel it throughout the house, the landscape beyond.”

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