The clients owned a lakefront property but sold the house because they were not using it enough throughout the year. They hoped to bring the waterfront home by building an outdoor living area and pool adjacent to their primary residence. The existing property, however, was sloped and did not have access to the scenic views beyond their backyard because the land had settled relatively low.


“They had land adjacent to the house, but it was a number of feet down and it wasn’t graded flat; it was all sloping,” says Ed Richardson, partner at Clark Richardson Architects in Austin, Texas. “The house sits at the top of the hill, and so this was a place that you could be next to the house, and it has a really nice view to the hills beyond.”

“The design idea became rooted in the thought of grading the area and making the space an extension of the home, allowing the residence to flow out into the yard and the view beyond,” adds April Clark, partner at Clark Richardson Architects.

Working Together

Providing a minimal limestone plinth helps transition from the high deck attached to the house to the lower areas adjacent to the pool and pavilion. The architects expanded an existing stairway at the house and connected it to a pool deck. The use of dropped steel planters allows the project to meet the guardrail code requirements while eliminating the visual obstruction of a steel guardrail.

“It really is directly connected to the house,” Richardson explains. “There was an existing stair off the balcony that we made into a two-sided stair that flows down, but it’s right by the house. The project was not something that was intended to be distant, but instead connected to the existing outdoor spaces.”

The volumetric diagram of the project consists of a spatial triad. A limestone plinth connects the ground plane between the home, pool and covered gathering. A floating steel canopy rests gently on the ground on top of minimal steel points, and the stained Douglas fir soffit provides a visual warmth. The raised limestone volumes of the fireplace, grill and perimeter walls frame the views while also creating privacy from neighboring properties and concealing the functional elements.

“They had some general ideas about the kind of pool, the size of spaces and basic functionality,” Clark notes. “But we typically go through a structured programming exercise with clients, and we ask things like, ‘What would you like the space to feel like? What times of the year do you anticipate using it?’ We help them imagine different scenarios that might take place in this new space, so we can then design for that use to function in an elegant way.”

A pool and a spa topped the wish list of the clients, who also sought a wood-burning fireplace as opposed to a gas one. They wanted to be able to load wood into the fireplace and have an area to entertain both family and guests while watching big sporting events on the TV above the fireplace. A simple outdoor kitchen and grilling area with a sink opens the pavilion to a covered dining area.

“The structuring of the pool helped act as a retaining wall that worked in concert with the other outdoor spaces, so we could just grade around it,” Richardson says. “The floating steel canopy had a fairly substantial cantilever—that was something we had to think about with a structural engineer, how to make all that work together seamlessly.”

The broad roof provides shade during the summer months as well as protection from inclement weather. Built-in flush heating elements help keep the space comfortable during cooler months, and the partially shaded hot-tub portion of the pool can be used year-round. Functional elements such as the pool equipment are tucked away from sight behind the partial-height limestone volume that houses the fireplace and grill.

Functional Space

The biggest challenge became coordinating the architectural languages of limestone-clad volumes and the wood underside of the steel canopy. Site-finished steel panels act as necessary accents to call out areas of importance such as the living room space and outdoor kitchen, Richardson notes.

“The honed Lueders limestone we used is a local stone material,” he says. “You’ll see it a lot in the Austin area; it’s pretty common for pool copings, so the idea of taking it and turning it up a wall into a volume was something that was compelling from a design perspective. We looked for materials that had an organic feel to them—such as the limestone masonry—with a lot of subtle color variations that are richly varied.”

The architects chose materials that could be functional for outdoor use but would also weather beautifully over time. The locally honed limestone, for example, attains a patina that matches the tone of the earth and varies in appearance depending on the weather. The oxidized steel panels will patina as well, helping to register their age as they increase in visual complexity following the project. The weathered ipe will silver and give contrast to the warm Douglas fir stained soffits at the pavilion, Richardson explains.

“We looked for a way to make it warmer and more welcoming [by using] materials that can be outside and that can weather [the elements], but also weather in a way that’s beautiful,” he says. “I think the steel panels are a great example of that. They weather into a variation that I think ends up being quite beautiful over time, [and they experience] those subtle kinds of differences in tone that we welcome.”

The pavilion complements the simple stucco volume of the home but also brings new materiality to the property through its use of limestone and steel elements. The newfound space provides the homeowners a place within their property to observe the exceptional hill views, which are most striking at morning and afternoon twilight, Richardson notes. The graceful simplicity of the project—seamlessly transitioning between uses in a unified spatial and aesthetic whole—might be its most important characteristic.

“It’s been a really functional space for them, and they use it all the time,” he says. “The pool was obviously a fantastic [and] functional element for their kids, but overall the project has really acted as an open-air expansion of their house. It’s a whole other kind of living space they can have connected to—but outside of—their home. And because of Austin’s temperate climate, they can use it almost year-round.

“While talking with them recently, they noted that they’re using it consistently at the end of the day. They’ve got these great sunset views from the space every night after work. We’re just excited it’s been such a meaningful, functional space for their family life.” QR

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