“The design of the home was based on Chip and Susan’s request for an organic, sinuous design with no right angles,” says architect Mike McElhaney of Jackson & McElhaney Architects. “They wanted a connection to the natural environment with no sharp corners.” This was accomplished with a modern but artistic touch, allowing both architect and builder to work with the cliffside terrain rather than against it, resulting in a sprawling but cozy home that is both understated and an interesting head turner for the neighborhood.
Jackson & McElhaney Architects knew the homeowners from a previous project, one that was to be situated at the bottom of a Texas Hill Country canyon, and while it ultimately didn’t pan out, Chip and Susan were impressed by their sensitivity to the environment including the natural contours of the land and the position of the sun. So, when the opportunity for a new build site came about, the groups were able to reunite on an exciting venture. “When we visited the site for the first time, the panoramic view was obvious and our challenge was to provide as much of the view as possible,” explains Mike, who worked closely with partner Robert Jackson. Electing to work alongside the cliff’s edge and not to jutt out too far from it created a “linear home layout,” says Mike, “so we did our best to give each room a postcard view of the Colorado River Valley as the home curves along the bluff.”
Starting with watercolor renderings, executed by Robert, and productive meetings with the homeowners that involved a free sharing of ideas and rolls of trace paper, Jackson & McElhaney were able to bring the vision to life. “Simplicity was the goal. Light-toned wood floors and smooth white walls and ceilings were used to create a museum-like environment in order to highlight the owner’s impressive underwater photography and the expansive views through the floor-to-ceiling windows,” continues Mike.
The eclectic shape of the home required a whole host of creative building solutions, but Dalgleish Construction Company was up to the task. “We were excited about the challenges presented with the terrain of the build site as well as the curvature of the home,” says David Dalgleish. “We knew that the challenges coupled with the fantastic clients and design team at Jackson & McElhaney Architects, as well as Alix Design Studio, would make for a great build experience and finished home we could all be proud of.”
For a project as complicated as this, it was important for all teams to be in sync. “There was a really close tie between the architect and the builder,” says Ben Dalgleish. “I think we all had a clear idea what Chip and Susan wanted…they said, ‘We trust you to do what we want.’” According to Ben, this trust freed the building team to “explore all the different avenues” when it came to extra special touches like sound-proofing the home from the noisy boats on the river or considering how the complex shape of the roofline would frame the views. Reed Critendon of Jackson & McElhaney worked closely with Ben and together they spent countless hours analyzing and refining the details of the home. By the time the project was finished, says Ben, there were “no surprises at the end” for Chip and Susan because they were involved with “every detail of the house.”
Thanks to Chip’s decisive “CEO-kind-of attitude,” says Ben, the team was able to stay driven and efficient. “That kind of support just fuels you to try your best,” Ben adds. This is a good thing, too, because of all of the complicated decisions involved in the building process. “With all of the flat, straight surfaces,” says Ben, “it was critical we didn’t have any materials that shrunk or expanded or changed levels of sheetrock — it had to be completely flattened.” The home “was like a geometric puzzle,” says Sara Swenson, the Business Operations Manager at Dalgleish Construction, one the company learned immensely from.
One effort that serves as an example of all the various talents working in concert is the positioning of the home’s master bedroom. According to Ben, Chip had relayed that the “view out of their window in the bedroom when they get up in the morning was paramount.” Because the team was laying out the foundation at the time, they were able to simulate this view for a trial run. “We figured out where the center of the bed [would be],” says Ben, “and erected a scaffolding out to the finished height...and built a little bridge out there.” From this unique vantage point, the homeowners were able to specify exactly the kind of view they wanted each morning while Dalgleish Construction spotted, assessed and eventually removed out-of-use power lines that would interrupt the landscape.
For Chip, Susan and all of the different people that touched the project, the whole process felt like an honest and stimulating conversation between colleagues. “They figured us out, they got us,” says Susan. “They really understood what we meant by ‘as few right angles as possible...the softness and fluidity of the result was as important to them as it was to us...That really was a beautiful thing to be understood so well.”
Notes of encouragement and appreciation were exchanged between the subcontractors and homeowners on the drywall and plywood with magic marker (“You guys rock!”), adorned with little hearts and rainbows, and Susan would even bring treats to share with everyone on the build site. This friendly atmosphere contributed to a project where everyone felt fortunate to be present, even when lifting a nearly 4,000-pound granite bathtub via a 150-foot crane onto its eventual resting place. “They put in an extra steel beam right underneath where the bathtub was supposed to be,” says Susan, “I wrote a note on that steel beam that said, ‘Thanks for the support!’”
Looking back, Chip and Susan had no shortage of stories that demonstrated the level of commitment from Dalgleish Construction, Jackson & McElhaney and Alix Design Studio. “Everybody felt that they were engaged in building a work of art as well as building a residence,” says Chip. The project is a “labor of love,” Chip continues, “Every single part of this house received that level of attention and detail from a deeply committed multi-functional team.” Mirroring Susan’s earlier sentiment, Chip was happy to express the team “got our aesthetic, they got us, and they got what we would care about.”
Dalgleish Construction Company
512-346-8554 | dalgleish.net
Jackson & McElhaney Architects
512-472-5132 | jacksonmcelhaney.com
Alix Design Studio
512-809-3670 | alixdesignstudio.com