Homeowners Lanham Napier, former Rackspace CEO and chief executive of investment firm BuildGroup, and wife Dr. Dacia Napier, a radiologist and avid art collector and historian, wanted a relaxing family lake house they could use for entertaining friends and hosting events. But they also needed it to serve as an office and private conference space for business, and a space to showcase a world-class art collection. They called on Mark Ashby Design, Tobin Smith Architect and Dalgleish Construction to turn this 1960s Lake Austin ranch home into a modern and unique abode.
“The owner’s commitment to having their agent, architect, designer and builder selected and engaged at the earliest part of the project was crucial,” says Brent Harrell, Senior Project Manager from Dalgleish Construction, who took on the extensive remodel. “The first challenge was creating a very precise, detail rich, finished product on the solid but varied bones of a 50+-year-old home,” he says. “Significant elevation adjustment and realignment (leveling and straightening) were necessary to pull this off. Structurally, the removal of a wall in the kitchen area needed to support the roof, and placing a pool with a water surface area greater than the bearing footprint were the two greatest challenges.”
According to Harrell, the home has many important details knitted into a relatively compact space, making accuracy and precision a factor unto itself. The roof support was solved with very precise carpentry and a determined and skilled steel fabrication crew. The remedy for a pool extending over and past a rock precipice was a carefully designed and placed steel and concrete cantilevered slab.
“The house was originally built in 1968, and it was ‘Frenchified’ at some point,” says Smith. “Our job was to redefine the house yet again and give it another life. We initiated a major architectural transformation that maintained the structure’s slab and shell but dramatically redefined the exterior presentation and interior experience.” This expanded the home’s entertaining core, dramatized the stairwell and augmented outdoor living opportunities with projecting balconies, a double height screened porch and the cantilevered pool constructed by Poolscapes of Austin.
Inside, the space evokes a fine art gallery showcasing the Napiers’ impressive collection and additional works curated by Armstrong Art Consulting of San Antonio, and includes works by LeWitt, Cragg, Fischl, Hirst, Bourgeois, Dufosse, and many more, plus an Austin nod to Ellsworth Kelly. Except for the vintage furniture collection, including original pieces from Alvar Aalto, Edward Wormley, Roche Bobois and Karl Springer, much of the fabrics, rugs and cabinetry are bespoke, designed and curated by Mark Ashby Design interior designer Christina Simon, and handmade to stand as their own unique works of art.
In the living room, a gold Guido Faleschini sectional was re-imagined as two separate sofas and customized with a more modern and updated fabric, along with an original Alvar Aalto Boucle chair. Simon designed various rugs, custom knotted through Black Sheep Unique, as well as bespoke beds handcrafted by local artisans.
Simon also designed a custom leather-wrapped stair handrail made by a local leather artisan, as well as the unique record cabinet that hangs in the lower-level lounge, outfitted with original Ettore Sottsass custom veneer and built by Walker Restoration, who also crafted the built-in sofa. The adjacent “Cabinet of Curiosities” was designed by Smith who included open shelving and stunning brass cubes to display an assortment of natural and historical objects: special finds of an avid collector that extend beyond fine art.
A very special wooden feature is attached to a guest bedroom wall. “This is a vintage rosewood piece with its beautiful original grain,” says Simon. “We found it and restored it back to its original condition. Very rare, as you can no longer find rosewood as it is highly regulated. The piece was too large for the space, but we didn’t want to waste any of the beauty, so we wrapped it around the corner and customized it for the wall.”
In the bar downstairs, as well as in the super moody powder bath upstairs, the walls are decked in natural pyrite tiles from Ann Sacks, which give a striking mirrored effect. The powder bathroom also boasts a stunning charcoal-colored concrete basin. This, along with the pyrite mirror concept on the wall, was designed by Smith.
The entire kitchen is custom-designed by Bulthaup. “The finish for the cabinets is from their metallic collection. It is the Aluminum finish in the color Sand Beige, and so is the countertop,” says Simon. “The backsplash is made of warm quartzite to add more natural movement and beauty in contrast to the super structured German precision cabinetry.” The dining room pulls double duty as an elegant conference space with an enormous stainless steel pull-out white board wall to accommodate board meetings and presentations.
As a transition to back yard entertaining areas, a double-height screened porch is compact, yet it feels like a larger space. It was designed to provide a mosquito-free outdoor area to enjoy the special setting behind the home, with the pool, treetops and ravine. A neon sculpture by Tracey Emin and suspended light fixture by Santa & Cole bring art into the outdoor setting.
The back of the house opens to a quiet inlet off Lake Austin. Coupled with a multi-level plant and hardscape masterplan by landscape designer Christy Ten Eyck, the homeowners enjoy peace and privacy. With the four-bedroom, six-bath, 3,500+-square-foot home tucked in the treetops above this back waterway, Smith describes the deliberately unassuming front exterior, saying, “The house’s dramatic perch is concealed from the street behind an understated façade that provides little hint of the experience inside.”
Upon entry and at every turn, exquisite materials, furnishings and art were carefully curated, and the home thoughtfully reimagined for the homeowners’ professional use. But ultimately, it serves as a private getaway where relaxing family time takes priority.
Mark Ashby Design
512-524-1220 | markashbydesign.com
Tobin Smith Architect
210-326-6646 | tobinsmitharchitect.com
Dalgleish Construction Company
512-346-8554 | dalgleish.net