On Common Ground

Longtime friends create a Hill Country collective with private residences and a joint entertaining pavilion where their extended families are hosted regularly.

The two families who own the sprawling 700-acre property in Bellville, in the Texas Hill Country, were clear about what they wanted to build on their land: a communal ranch with private residences and a shared clubhouse pavilion, easily accessible from the two residences so they could enjoy both a private retreat and shared entertaining.

The challenge for the team at Dick Clark + Associates was to create custom homes that individually addressed the couples’ different aesthetics and wish lists, while connecting the overall property with a unified design. Architect Kevin Gallaugher and interior designer Samantha Voges collaborated with the owners to bring their vision to life.

“There was much thought and discussion throughout the process of determining the overall site location and placement of each of the three new buildings,” says Gallaugher. “We hiked the property extensively on numerous occasions. Multiple potential sites for each building were considered, analyzed and tossed aside. The process extended over several weeks,” says Gallaugher.

While the general location of each building was determined some weeks in advance of construction, the exact placement of each building was finalized only as ground-breaking loomed and became imminent. Gallaugher explains, “There were programmatic and topographical criteria that determined the site location of each building, and the specific placement of each was tweaked and adjusted several times prior to being finalized. There were just so many options, and they all seemed good.” 

The three new buildings stand far enough from one another so that none can be viewed simultaneously, so cohesiveness between the three new buildings was not necessarily an overriding factor in their designs. “There were some consistencies of materials, but there were specific requirements of each building that were the critical determinants of the architectural aesthetic. Each building was conceived and designed to a specific program, site and location,” he adds.

The heart of the property is a 2,830-square-foot pavilion, conceived as sort of a rural boutique hotel for the owners’ numerous friends and family. Supported by an exposed steel structure, the building features frameless clerestory windows which give the roof the impression of floating. It houses four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a full kitchen and living area, and a screened porch adjacent to a swimming pool.

The space is perhaps an amalgam of both modern and traditional styles but has a Texas aesthetic, with stucco wall cladding accentuated with stone veneer accents and knotty post oak found throughout the structure. Standing seam metal roofing, exposed tube steel structural framing and frameless glass windows add a touch of modern.

The two houses are separate from each other physically, stylistically and programmatically, so the architecture was customized to the specifics of the individual occupants. “One couple’s artistic taste and preference seems to lean towards a more traditional aesthetic, while the other reflects a more modern, personal style. Luckily, there is enough wide-open space to accommodate everyone,” says Gallaugher, whose team was given free reign regarding style and aesthetic.

The larger of the two residences, a one-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,845-square-foot home, is approximately one mile from the pavilion, apart from the rest of the project, and was designed as a complete permanent residence. The north, south and east facing exterior walls are stained cedar board and batten siding, but due to the debilitating summer sun, all west facing walls are constructed of cinderblock (CMU) clad in stucco.

The home features a full kitchen, utility room, wet bar, dining room and a generous living area with a wall of swinging steel and glass doors that open to the peaceful landscape. A spectacular two-sided fireplace with a stucco hearth and stack bond firebrick seamlessly extends the length of the wall. “There is a very subtle aspect to this fireplace’s beauty: not a single firebrick was sawn or cut to fit the wall or the hearth,” says Gallaugher. “The size, depth and height of hearth and firebox were adjusted to fit both the vertical and horizontal dimension of the firebrick. We are very proud of that detail — an example of the difference a great builder like Mark Goodrich can make because this was not a simple thing to accomplish.”

The smaller of the two residences comprises a total of 1,218 square feet (conditioned area) and was conceived strictly as a weekend home, as part of a complex of existing buildings located near one another. These include the original farmhouse constructed in the late 1800’s, an old storeroom which was repurposed as a bunkhouse for the couple’s grandchildren, and a smaller storeroom that has been repurposed as an outdoor covered kitchen or cookhouse, complete with new outdoor kitchen equipment. Goodrich worked directly with the homeowners on the necessary renovations to the historic structures. The new home was designed to be compatible with the farmhouse vernacular, and while liberties were taken with the materials, the home fits beautifully with the adjacent rustic buildings.

Exterior walls are made from pre-finished corrugated metal siding, intended to withstand the elements, with post oak exterior soffits and standing seam metal roofing. The screened porch is framed with Ipe wood. Interiors are understated, intimate in scale. The home is clean and modern, but the forms and finish materials are based in tradition, from a rural stylistic precedent.

The farmhouse, which is used by the owners’ extended family, was kept largely intact. “There was some work done in cleaning it up, replacing some finishes, updating the kitchen, and revising door and window locations to clarify circulation to and from the new residence and other buildings within the compound,” says Gallaugher. The bunkhouse serves as sort of a “funhouse” that hosts sleepovers for their grandchildren and their friends.

“We largely tried to keep all finishes brutally simple, uncomplicated and low maintenance,” says Gallaugher. Interiors feature Ann Sacks subway tile walls in kitchens and bathrooms, flat panel mahogany cabinetry, Silestone® countertops, stained concrete floors, Emtek® cabinet and door hardware, stained wood walls, ceilings and soffits, and an unobtrusive lighting scheme. Most of the appliances are Subzero® or Wolf®.

“The goal was to use simple, beautiful, materials that require little maintenance so that the families can relax and enjoy themselves,” says Voges. “The design approach is minimalistic overall and celebrates the scenery at the ranch over fussy interiors.”

A series of outdoor rooms around each house accentuates the indoor/outdoor relationship of the architecture while weaving the native meadows and plantings into the overall experience. Surrounding the pavilion, caged rock gabian walls serve as landscape retainers and form intimate grassy lawns off interior spaces. There are various gravel paths and drives as part of the landscape scheme, which was a large component of the project. “I cannot overstate how critical the landscape design from Christine Ten Eyck’s office was to the overall success of the project,” says Gallaugher. “It is great exercise hiking from one structure to another.”


Dick Clark + Associates
512-472-4980  |  dcarch.com

 MG Construction Works
512-658-7556  |  mgconstructionworks.com

 Ten Eyck Landscape Architects
512-813-9999  |  teneyckla.com