An Interview with Cornerstone Architects

modern foyer austin

What are you up to this weekend? Well, for more home inspiration and ideas, the 2014 Austin Modern Homes Tour is this Saturday. Learn about new building materials, how to make the transition between outdoor and living spaces seamless and ideas on design as well. I caught up with Chris Davenport, one of the architects at Cornerstone to talk about their featured home at Ridgewood as well as the new trends in building in 2014.

1. It’s 2014! What new trends are you seeing as far as energy efficiency in building and designing a home?  

With more and more homes pushing toward the modern vocabulary, we have seen a great increase in the number of clients who long for informal, functional living.  Extra Dining and Living areas are becoming much less frequent in favor of putting the effort and resources into spaces the family actually enjoys on a daily basis.  This drive towards practical and flexible spaces inherently improves the efficiency in building and couples nicely with the new technologies and building systems that are becoming increasingly more effective.

Modern home austin cornerstone architects

2. When designing the home at Ridgewood, what was the major challenge you were dealt with and how did you solve it?  

Most of the homes in this established Austin neighborhood are conventional in their layout with a front yard, rear yard, and a house that spans across the width of the somewhat narrow but deep lot.  In our case, we wanted to be sensitive to the heat gain of a Western rear exposure and also take advantage of a potential corridor lake view to the North or Right side of the lot.  A neighbor to the West was also a concern as their residence would be clearly visible from the rear of our house and yard. A “Fishbowl” effect with neighbors viewing in from all sides was in direct opposition with our goal to establish an enjoyable outdoor / indoor entertaining space with a pool.

In response to this challenge we implemented a “Y”-Shaped floor plan that turned the view from the Major living areas to the North.   A large stone Fireplace wall was incorporated on the West side to keep windows away from the neighbor and the hot Texas sun.  The Living Room wing pushes far enough past the North side neighbor’s home that the view to the lake was captured upstairs, and a sense of a somewhat private entertaining space was created.  We also left all of the existing trees and kept the pool snug to the house to increase the sense of one’s own space.

modern kitchen austin

3.Designing on a cost-conscious budget, what are a few examples of how you are able to achieve this for the Ridgewood home?

A common strategy that we employed on the Ridgewood residence was the “bang for your buck” philosophy.  We encourage the Owner to prioritize the spaces and features that are most important to them and spend their money there.  For most clients this means choosing high end materials and fixtures in the public spaces while pulling back a little bit in the secondary bedrooms and private spaces that only close friends and family see.

The reality is that simple paint grade finishes and monotone color schemes can actually be quite sufficient in a lot of modern expressions. They take emphasis off of the walls and put it on the Owner’s furnishings and artwork.  To further reduce cost, left over granite pieces were used as counters, and cost effective porcelain or ceramic floor tile was selected rather than traditional stone.

modern bedroom austin

4. What does it mean to be a 5-star green home?  

In the case of the Ridgewood residence this meant appropriate site placement, large overhangs, thoughtful location of windows, efficient heating and cooling, good insulation, and sustainable materials and plants.  A myriad of selections and systems had to be carefully coordinated between the Architect, Owner, Interior Designer, and Builder.  We are pleased to be a part of one of the most organized and recognized green building programs in the country, and the entire team worked together to achieve the highest rating.

5.Cornerstone has a wide range of portfolio from traditional to modern projects, aside from aesthetics, feel and look; how is a modern design project different from a traditional one?  

While the traditional concerns of Function, Aesthetics, and Budget are still important, I find that my Modern clientele tend to come to the table with additional expectations that challenge the norms of the “Traditional Home”.  Whether it be incorporating the latest green technology, using space in an unconventional manner, or simply driving towards a unique artistic expression, Modern homes tend to be less based in traditional archetypes and are more a result of an explorative process to express the unique needs, character, and desires of the client and site.

modern foyer austin

This home feels so spacious and refreshing. See this home and more at this weekend’s tour!

Images by Andrew Pogue

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>


An Interview with Element 5 Architecture

modern home austin

I must say that Austin is truly multifaceted when it comes to design. Fresh from high doses of interiors inspiration this weekend with the Tribeza Interiors Tour, another great design event is coming up this weekend. Although decorating is my passion, one cannot deny that without building and architecture; well, a home will have no bones. I’ve been to the Austin Modern Homes Tour and they never disappoint. From each home, you’ll always take with you new ideas and learn from the best architects in town. I caught up with Nick Mehl of Elements 5 Architecture about their work at one of the homes that will be featured in the 2014 Austin Modern Homes Tour.

1. It’s 2014! What new trends are you seeing as far as energy efficiency in building and designing a home?

LEDs all the way! We’re seeing a growing interest in using LED lighting throughout and a growing interest in incorporating Smart Home technology – integrating lighting, wifi, computer networks, electrical outlets and HVAC controls into the design of the home.

living room modern home austin

2.”Modern, environmental designs on a strict budget,” I like that! What are a few examples of how you are able to achieve this {cutting costs, etc}?

Keeping to a strict budget is even harder than it sounds. It means we, as architects, have to possess the knowledge of how much each and every aspect of the design costs. Architects often rely on builders for that information, but our office has built many of our own projects. We work very closely with builders during the bid process and have learned (the hard way) the factors that drive the cost.

kitchen modern home austin

3. When designing the home at Daugherty, what was the major challenge you were dealt with and how did you solve it?

The Daugherty Residence was a challenge because, as with most modern designs, integrating the mechanical system is difficult with flat roofs, hidden structural beams and lack of attic space to run ducts. It sounds somewhat boring, but designing the mechanical system to work smoothly is something important for architects to consider.

4. Tell me more of how you designed the back patio.

The back patio is not completely finished, but I’m glad you like it so far. Our concept was for the living room to feel like a part of the back patio. Towards that end, we have a large wall of floor to ceiling glass and a ceiling that visually transfers from inside to outside. The patio itself features some really beautiful pavers that the owners found.

backyard modern home austin

5. Your firm is also keen on highlighting the natural elements unique to Austin, can you expound on that?

There are two aspects to designing with the natural elements of Austin. The most obvious is using materials that are found in our region – limestone, certain species of wood, concrete, steel and glass. Secondly, there are the skilled craftsmen unique to our region. We have a great source of skilled masons and stucco contractors. Integrating nature into our designs also helps tie it into the region, and there are some award winning landscape architects in Austin who work with a unique palette of materials.

dining modern home austin

Get your tickets here. The event is Feb 1st and starts at 11 am. See you there folks!

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Images by Atelier Wong