With Spanish, German and early Texas vernacular stylistic influences, the heart and soul of the house is of a contemporary Old World village.

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Vaughn-Dammann Residence

Westlake Hills, Texas - 3,100 Square Feet

The primary initial design challenge for this project was how to place a sensitive structure on a very steep slope. The lot had been overlooked by potential owners, builders and architects alike for years, all thinking is was unbuildable. Indeed, the property slopes 100 feet down from front to rear. Added to this scenario the need to design and build a septic system on a small lot with a steep slope and to fit within Westlake Hills confining height limitations, this project definitely had severe site constraints. The architect's approach was to segment the design solution into 4 separate structures, 2-2 story and 2-1 story. The main living area is actually a bridge that spans from one foundation to another. The end result is 5 levels of interior living area and 4 levels of exterior living area on a relatively small foundation for this size house. Even taking these steps to minimize the foundation there are 22 feet of fall under the footprint of the house.

In essence eclectic, with Spanish, German and early Texas vernacular stylistic influences, the heart and soul of the house is of a contemporary Old World village. The client couple, an artist and a professor, desired "wabi" elements, which is a Japanese concept which means "simple, not arbitrary or superfluous, and in tune with nature." They also wanted to experiment contrasting old, reused elements with contemporary, modern elements. A solid stone wall utilizing some of the site's ledge stone is 24 feet long and 30 feet tall and bisects the main living area and the master suite. An efficient and economical studio was placed above the garage and can double as an efficiency apartment. The kitchen is a study in the contrast of modern and old elements. The downstairs serves as a home office for the professor, complete with a private entry, elevated deck and wine cellar.

Verandahs, ramadas and an outdoor summer kitchen were used to provide outdoor rooms for enjoying the trees and viewing of the many deer that frequent the site, as well as provide sun control and to stimulate breezes. The extensive use of glass to take advantage of the ridge and valley views necessitated careful attention to passive solar energy design techniques.

Our client challenged our firm to incorporate several "found" items into the design and construction of their residence. The client provided us five objects. They brought us an antique iron bell from Mexico that we used on the exterior studio deck that visitors can use to announce their arrival. A pair of antique primitive doors was used in the large stone wall between the living and master bedroom areas. An old carved stone lintel was used above a fireplace opening as a lintel and an old brass lavatory was used on a glass ledge as the vanity in the powder room. Finally, the owners found some wonderful ceramic tiles that were inlayed into the stucco walls on the exterior at the doorbell and the interior in the kitchen around the banco. All of the objects add richness to the residence and encouraged inventiveness on our behalf. We look forward to integrating more found objects into our designs as a result of this successful experiment.

This home was selected by the American Institute of Architects for it's 1999 Homes Tour in Austin, Texas.

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Texas Vernacular Style

"The sizable German ethnic presence in Texas, particularly in the south central parts of the state, in the Hill Country,qv and in Medina County, has made a pronounced architectural imprint, especially on vernacular dwellings and churches. By and large, the peasant immigrants discarded their traditional German house and farmstead plans, in particular the lower Saxon and hill Hessian combination of human and animal quarters under one roof and the "Frankish court," a central German plan in which farm buildings are tightly grouped around an enclosed farmyard. They did so at least partly in order to conform to the customs of their new homeland..."

TSHA Online

Vernacular Style Church
Vernacular Style Church
Ca. 1890