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A Tall Order
By Helen Thompson | Photo: by Nick Johnson | April 13, 2017
Adults can go to summer camp too! At least, that’s the kind of second home an Austin family wanted for themselves and all of their friends.
Overlooking Horseshoe Bay, a house made of rock, glass and gray metal stretches down the face of a craggy hill and meets a two-story steel and limestone boathouse. The airy structure—with three boat bays, a screened porch, fishing dock, bar, outdoor kitchen and lounge deck—extends the rambling profile of the rugged yet elegant house from the shore and into the water. The effect resembles an outsized playscape, one created by a benevolent Hill Country deity with excellent taste who wanted to make the outpost even more beautiful than it already was. In reality, the retreat was designed by Austin architect Jay Corder, and it’s his response to an active Austin couple’s quest for a getaway that could multitask. “The homeowners wanted a place where they could entertain a lot of people,” says Corder, “but they also wanted it to be a place the family could use as a retreat.”
Corder worked on the project with Austin builder David Dalgleish, of Dalgleish Construction Company, who had been in on early debates about whether to renovate the existing ’50s-era two-story house and rickety stairs that went down to the water. “It was already a challenging job in terms of the site,” says Dalgleish. Everyone agreed to start anew, leaving the foundation as the footprint. This time, though, the house would be built to last. “It would be a family legacy place,” says the builder, “constructed from durable materials such as rough-cut Lueders limestone, metal siding, concrete and salvaged wood floors, and salvaged wood beams—and with an emphasis on detail.”
The design team—which included Austin-based landscape architect Bill Bauer—focused on two things for the indoor-outdoor getaway: the hillside and the water. How to navigate between them preoccupied the clients and professionals. “We didn’t want the route from the house to the boathouse—which is a 50-foot drop—to be so strenuous that no one would ever go from one to the other,” says Dalgleish. The problem contained the genius of the solution: “The idea was to provide stopping places with lots to do,” says Corder. That idea became the basis for a house embraced by porches and terraces, and wide limestone stairs with landings on the way down to the boathouse. At one landing there is a fire pit; another pauses at a grassy sward where guests can throw down a towel and have a picnic. There is even a putting green.
The heart of the main house is the second-floor living area—wall-to-wall sliding doors open the big, bright room to a screened porch with a long dining table in the middle and a seating area at one end. Clerestory windows, a salvaged wood wall, ceilings supported by salvaged wood beams and a limestone fireplace signal comfort. Interior designer Megan Glasgow chose furnishings accordingly. “Our selections had to endure high traffic, use and the elements,” she says. Sofas and chairs are durable rattan or covered in neutral colors. Tables are wood; vanities are custom metal; and countertops are foolproof Caesarstone.
The kitchen is also set up for entertaining, with seating for eight at the table and for five at the island. But there will be those for whom the water always beckons. For them, the boathouse offers an open invitation to swim, sun, boat, eat and sleep. The structure makes it hard to resist nature’s bounty—it’s the crowning achievement of what could best be called a vertical summer camp.