Modern Extension

When remodeling homes of a significant historic nature, the expected outcome is an attempt to blend the new with the old to create an appearance of continuity. But for the renovation and addition of this home in an Austin historic district, Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects went for a completely different approach.

The home was built in 1894 by local builder Nick Dawson, known for many of the Queen Anne-style limestone cottages in the Castle Hill Historic District. At the time it was developed, W. 10th Street was considered a middle-class suburb of Austin, conveniently located along the newly constructed West Line streetcar route. While the home is not individually a historic landmark, it is a contributing structure to the historic district, and the neighborhood does have rules about what can and can’t be changed. However, since the addition was built in the back of the property and is not visible from the street, the team had freedom to explore and experiment with a bold modern design to contrast with the original construction.

“The homeowners wanted something more modern and open for the new spaces,” says architect Hugh Randolph, who transformed the property into a 4,183-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom home. “While we don’t have any set formula for our designs, we like to allow the particulars of every old house and each clients’ personalities to help shape the final outcome.”

Randolph recruited builder Risinger & Co. to take care of demolition and construction. The interior was totally gutted, but the exterior had fewer changes. The rock didn’t need much repair, and the wood shingles are original.

Numerous changes were made to look as though the updates were always there, while other changes are purposefully modern in their aesthetic. The living room appears original when, in fact, it is the combination of two smaller rooms. Inside, every wall was moved except for one, changing the rooms’ sizes and layouts to adapt to the homeowners’ lifestyle and needs. The restored floors in the main public space are the original long leaf pine. Aside from reutilizing as much material as they were able, new insulation throughout ensures energy savings, and strategically set windows allow a large quantity of natural light.

A steel catwalk on the upper level, and the new sunroom with large pivoting custom steel windows, offer a dramatic counterpoint. “The great views of the state Capitol and the UT tower inspired the large open windows,” says Randolph. Modeled after the mechanical qualities of old Victorian greenhouses and conservatories, the custom-designed sunroom windows were built by local fabricator Drophouse Design. The ochre colored framing adds a striking contrast to the traditional white wood elements of the original home. The green floor tile was selected to blend into the abundant greenery outside as well as to give a traditional element to the space.

The original staircase incorporated another new, modern element. Iron railings with glass balusters were designed to allow natural light to pass through as well as to provide a respect for the solid permanence of the old stone structure. While the front staircase railing did not exist at the time of the remodel, the team had access to old photographs and was able to rebuild to look like the original.

Randolph took advantage of the space under the stairs to add a powder room with a clever mirror swing door. “This mirror was used to allow the powder bath to blend in as well as to reflect the natural light in the stairwell,” he says. “We also thought that a mirror outside a bathroom added a fun element of whimsy.”

The new downstairs bedroom features cast-concrete walls fabricated onsite and a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that is a near continuation of the upstairs sunroom, and opens to a patio in the private backyard.

Recently featured on the AIA Austin Homes Tour 2018, Randolph says, “The renovation project was an exploration of preserving and celebrating the historic character of the original house. We do find that contrasting modern elements with the old is a powerful way to help create dynamic places.”


ARCHITECT   Hugh Jefferson Randolph Architects

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