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Wordy Wednesday: What is a Coffered Ceiling?

26 Jun
Coffered Ceiling in Bedroom: Redbud Custom Homes

Beautiful coffered ceiling in the bedroom: Project by Austin’s Redbud Custom Homes

There are many types of decorative ceiling treatments: coffered, tray, vaulted, beamed, and my personal favorite, popcorn-texture coated.  OK, not really.  My little cottage had popcorn texture on the ceiling when I bought it, and it was one of the absolute worst remodeling chores I did. I have very strong negative feelings towards whoever invented that stuff.

Fortunately, better ceiling treatments are in style now, and one of my favorites (really this time) is the coffered ceiling.  Basically it is a sunken panel on a ceiling, usually framed in fairly heavy beams. Right now it’s super-hot to do them in rustic or reclaimed wood, but they are often done in painted millwork in more traditional homes.

Originally, coffers were as structural as they were decorative, reducing the weight of a stone ceiling.  In fact, the earliest example of a coffered ceiling can be found from Roman times (thanks, Wikipedia). The style grew to become a symbol of craftsmanship and elegance over the years.  Unfortunately, in the last several decades we’ve largely ignored our ceilings in construction, to the point of even eschewing molding.

Adding some texture back in to a plain ceiling can be a very distinctive way to liven up your space (see some more ideas below). In addition to looking good, it can also help with noise, all those nooks and crannies can kind of sop up sounds.  Frankly, however, it seems kind of hard.  Anything involving the ceiling naturally requires a ladder and holding things over your head.  That said, I’ll probably try it in the house at some point; likely starting enthusiastically it in secret when Mr. Handsome is out of town.  Of course I won’t finish it and he’ll have to help when he gets back, he’s taller anyway. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Here are a few ideas we found on the interwebs if you think you might want to try it:

How to build a faux coffered ceiling

Traditional wood coffered ceiling

Ceiling panels – this looks easiest!

From This Old House – very detailed instructions

Some more examples in different styles:

Be sure to connect with us so you don’t miss anything!

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Austin Outdoor Living Tour: Surviving the Summer in Style

28 May

Ah, summer in Texas.  The heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes (how do those dang things live through a drought anyway?).  Austinites have learned to be creative about living outdoors, with pools, waterwise landscaping and of course, the Hot Sauce Festival.  This Saturday you’ve got a chance to see some more unique ideas at the 3rd Annual Austin Outdoor Living Tour.

This year’s tour features 5 houses, all with a different take on outdoor living.  From the uber-modern design on Winflo, reminiscent–to me anyway–of Palm Springs, to a classic Brentwood cottage fitted out with a breezy screened porch, you’ll get great ideas on how to make your home an outdoor paradise no matter what the temperature.

Austin Outdoor Living Tour

Saturday, June 1st


Tickets and more information

Here are a few things I”m dying to check out for myself:

The nifty ceiling treatment above the dining area, how cool is that?


This sleek concrete gas fireplace. P.S. love those chairs too!


The interesting multi-level architecture on this one, and how it relates to the outdoor spaces.


The custom concrete pots, infused with marble dust. Is that like extra-heavy fairy dust?


And finally, I’m dying to see how Mr. Handsome and I handle  hundreds of people wandering through our garden.  Yes, dear readers, this is the home of your intrepid reporter.  Please come by and say hello, we can’t wait to meet you!

Austin Outdoor Living Tour - Alegria

Austin Heritage Homes Tour 2013: Coolest Old Stuff in Town

1 Apr

Walls-LaRue House The common thread for our recent stories seems to be “old stuff”.  But between the Round Top Antique Festival and the Preservation Austin*Heritage Homes Tour (and of course the fact that you’re reading this on Red Chair Market) the theme is actually really cool old stuff.

So this upcoming weekend is a cool-old-stuff lollapalooza. Start at Round Top (see our tips from last week) then cap it off Saturday with a visit to some of the homes that may have originally housed those treasures. (See the deets and a chance to win tickets at the end of the article).

The theme for this year’s tour is Historic Austin Homes and Gardens, so I’m quivering with anticipation to see not only the architecture, but the grounds.  The 6 properties encompass a wide range of Austin history, with each home showcasing its own take on preserving the past while living in the present.

I got a chance to talk to Jacqui Schraad, Executive Director of Preservation Austin, to get a bit of scoop.  When asked which property most captured her imagination, she said the James Smith Homestead was her favorite trip back in time.  Built in 1841, it was herewhen Austin was a little burg called Waterloo (I apologize in advance if you spend the rest of the day humming ABBA’s Waterloo).

Here are a few more fun facts and secret details from Jacqui and her team of House Captains:

The Academy (Mather-Kirkland House), built in 1889

400 Academy This gorgeous example of Queen Anne style was built at the height of the Victorian era using granite left over from the construction of the State Capitol building. It was owned for a time by iconic Austin architect Sinclair Black. The current owners have occupied the house since 1982 and have undertaken major restoration work.

Keep an eye out for:

  • -The belvedere with amazing Austin views
    -The stuffed peacock in the dining room.  Apparently current owner had a flock of peacocks that she’d had for years when she moved into the house. They’d lived at Academy for a little while when the 5 widows that lived on the street came down all at once to tell them that they couldn’t tolerate the peacock noise. The peacocks had to find a new home and they found a stuffed peacock at Round Top that now resides in the dining room.

James Smith Homestead (Boggy Creek Farm) built in 1838

Boggy Creek Farm Built by James and Elizabeth Smith when “Waterloo” was just a village with dirt streets, log cabins and simple plank houses. Can you imagine?  Not even a TacoDeli.

The current owners acquired the five-acre farm in 1992 and have celebrated its history by turning it in to one of the few truly urban farms in the country.  They grow fresh produce which is sold on market days (Wednesdays and Saturdays) at their farm stand under the ancient live oak tree.

Fun Fact from the owners:
“We named Boggy Creek Farm in honor of the no-longer meandering creek that lies, forever encased in cement, behind the houses across Lyons Road. As a confirmation of the name choice, when we took the concrete lid off of the 150-year old hand-dug well, we discovered, etched in script on the lid: Boggy Creek.”

Hackett House, built in 1920

Hackett House Four generations of the Hackett family lived in this 1920 two-story Prairie style brick house (no, not all at the same time). As typical with the Prairie style, architectural elements of the home emphasize strong horizontal lines. Interior Arts and Crafts features include exposed wood beams and wood trim. It has been lovingly restored and updated to be a practical home for a modern family who also respect its history.

Don’t Miss:

The restored craftsman style trim throughout the home.  Oak and pine floors were intentionally not sanded, in order to allow the natural patina of the wood to remain.

PS: This house will be on the market soon!  Here’s your chance to grab a piece of Austin history.  Although you may have to fight me for it.

Dill-White House, built in 1893

Dill White House The current owner found all sorts of native and adapted plans like quince, spirea, narcissus and blue bonnets, as well as pecan, American elm and fig trees in the garden.  The original plantings have been enhanced addition of period-appropriate brick and limestone walks, paths and terraces.  The gardens are beautiful by day and breathtaking at night under the glow of the nearby Moonlight Tower.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For:

The original details including the dentil molding, brick chimney, flatwork and cogged porch brackets, the front and east sides of the house are completely original.

Brunson House, built in 1917

Brunson House A beautiful example of Craftsman style, this house has been lovingly updated several times, with each renovation being done with particular attention to historic detail.  The house retains all its original woodwork, doors, long-leaf pine floors, windows and shutters as well as the four light fixtures in the living room and the chimney.  Push-button light switches are still used throughout the house.

Don’t Miss:

-Woodwork restoration master craftsmen Bill Breaux and Janine Bergin will be at the Brunson House during the tour demonstrating the tools of their trade and the artistry involved.
-Unique elements in the landscape including: a wheel from one of the trolley cars that operated on S. Congress Avenue until 1940, a 5 light antique dragon post lamp that provides a wonderful ambiance at night and a teacup dog agility course.

Wells-LaRue House, Built circa 1850

Wells LaRue House

Owned by Austin architect Tim Cuppett, this house was featured in Country Living magazine a few years ago. Built in the classic single-story, “dogtrot” style first popular in the early 19th century, the house originally featured a center hallway open to the outdoors on both ends, and with a large room on each side.

The Ancestor Keeps Watch:

Don’t miss the portrait of Wayman Wells, the property’s original owner, in the master bedroom.

So now you’re primed and ready to go! 

Austin Heritage Homes Tour Tickets and Information

“Historic Homes & Gardens”
Saturday, April 6, 2013
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
$23 members / $28 non-members
$23 Children 12 and under

Have fun, and if you’re inspired consider joining Preservation Austin to help further their mission. Donate directly, or bid on a fantastic weekend getaway at the Prarie B&B (owned by Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell) in, you guessed it, Round Top!

*In case you didn’t know, The Heritage Society of Austin recently changed its name to Preservation Austin, to more accurately reflect their mission of preserving Austin’s treasured places.

Sneak Peek: Southern Living Showcase Home Austin (Lago Vista)

6 Feb
Fireplace in the living room.  Taller than my house.

Fireplace in the living room. Taller than my house.

We were lucky enough to be invited by interior designer Heather Harkovich out to Lago Vista (when are they going to build a bridge?) to get a super-secret sneak peek of the Southern Living Showcase Home. Heather was selected to do all the design work in the house–which is a huge honor–and she had the chance to show her efforts off to a few select luminaries.  You know me, a Select Luminary.

Wow.  It was easy to assume that the house would be a traditional Hill Country Tuscan, but this house belied all the stereotypes. It’s a bit hard to describe, but the interiors feel like a marriage of beach and barn, if the beach was in the Hamptons and the barn was in the French countryside.

The interior was done in mostly shades of white, with accents of beachy blues. The furnishings were beautiful, but I was completely smitten by the materials used throughout the house.  Whitewashed horizontal-planked walls in the living room, incredible marble tilework in the kitchen and baths, navy grasscloth in the study (swoon).

Here are pics of a few details you might miss if you don’t look carefully:

Guest bath shower ceiling

The shower ceiling in the guest bath. Both Mr. Handsome and I blurted out “how the heck to they get that up there?”

Living room interior windows

Interior windows reminiscent of a barn…although not many barns have chandeliers.

Marble mosaic in kitchen

The “entertaining” kitchen. The backsplash is marble mosaic tile. Gah.

Guest bed light fixture

This unique light in the upstairs guest bedroom made beautiful patterns on the ceiling.

Here are a few other things we noticed but forgot to get photos of:

  • An electric staircase to the attic, just push a button and it slides down!  No more jumping for that dumb string that’s always just a little too short.
  • An herb garden at the entrance to the house (on the left side). You can’t have your basil too close!
  • The lamps on the buffet in the main room are corbels bought in Round Top and wired by Austin’s Re-Works Works.
  • The “entertaining kitchen” concept.  I’ve noticed this in several high-end houses lately;  builders and designers are finally accepting that everyone is going to end up in the kitchen at a party.  So there is a super-sparkly one that is in the main traffic flow and has lots of counter space for serving, and there is a second catering/family kitchen for prepping and storage.

(You can read more about the design process here on Heather’s blog).

So, of course you want to go.  The official Tour opens this Saturday and runs through the 24th.

Southern Living Showcase Home

Tickets and Information

And of course you also want to go to the new Heather Scott Home and Design Store!  Here are a sampling of some of the wonderful things they have from the Market.   Now go get inspired!

green striped rug

Green striped rug

greywashed wicker cabinet

Greywashed wicker cabinet

Leather and chrome nesting tables

Leather and chrome nesting tables

Secrets of the Modern Home Tour Austin

28 Jan

The Modern Home Tour Austin is this Saturday! We’ve got some behind-the-scenes scoop for you direct from the curator of this year’s Tour.  Read on for a little history on Modern design plus a list of “Don’t Misses” to take with you.

Photo: Patrick Wong

1868 Drake – Photo: Patrick Wong

The Modernism movement started as a backlash against the perceived consumerism of the early 20th century. The excessive formality and ornamentation of the Victorian era (tassels anyone?) was stifling, and many artists, writers and architects began to create works that were simpler and more functional. At the time there was much gnashing of teeth over the departure from tradition, but the movement persisted through the 20th century and has inspired the architects and designers who are being showcased on this Tour.

I had a chance to chat with Ingrid Spencer, the curator of the Modern Home Tour Austin (among others).  As the former managing editor and current contributing editor for Architectural Record magazine in New York City, she has some chops.  I figured she would be a great person to give me some lessons on what Modern means today, plus I could ply her for some insider secrets to share with you.

Doodaddery: Not Modern

Doodaddery: Not Modern

Ingrid was quick to say that Modernism has many definitions. However, there are a few key elements that guide most Modern designs today. “Architecturally, Modernism is really more of a philosophy than a style.  It’s about letting the spaces speak for themselves and not crowding them with lots of doodaddery (OK, that’s my word) and adornments.”

Coming in to this discussion I had some preconceived notions about Modern style; the walls had to be blinding white, all the couches had to be low and black, and there had to be at least one very shiny lacquered surface that would immediately smudge with little fingers. But it turns out that I’ve seen a few too many ‘60s movies.

1615 Garden Street

Ingrid explained that one of the foundations of modern design is the desire to live more simply and resourcefully with less stuff. So Modern homes are designed to be exceptionally functional and any adornment also has a purpose.  Also inherent in the philosophy is a connection to the natural environment. This leads to lots of open spaces and windows, but also to the use of natural and common materials in uncommon ways.

Given that Modernism is an international style, it was interesting to hear how Austin has its own unique spin.  Integrating indoor and outdoor spaces presents a different challenge than in say, Boston, as anyone who has lived through the last few summers can attest.  Architects here have to be especially careful how they site a home so that the sun doesn’t blind the dinner guests. They’re likely to use native limestone as opposed to granite in Dallas, and they have to take in to account our voracious bugs.

So enough of the architecture lesson, on to some real examples.  This year’s tour features 16 homes that represent the soul of the Modern style. Ingrid gave your intrepid reporter the super-secret insider scoop on some of the elements you might miss if you were just casually tramping through, but are details that really make these homes special. See the list below (we’ve also provided a PDF if you want to print it out and take it with you).

Here are the details:

Modern Austin Home Tour 2013

Saturday, February 2nd  – 11-6

Buy Tickets Here

Note that unlike most tours, you can take pictures at this one (with a few exceptions).  So bring your camera to record some of the brilliant ideas for inspiration.

Can’t get enough Modern? The Launch 787 team puts on tours all over the country; consider a road trip up to Dallas for the next Tour on March 2nd, or maybe even plan a short vacation around the Tour in Seattle. If you like to mix up your styles but keep it local, they also put on 5 more tours in Austin, from the Lake Homes Tour to the Outdoor Living Tour; join their email list for details.

Download a pdf version to take with you! Secrets of the Modern Home Tour Austin 2013

Secrets of the Modern Home Tour Austin 2013

504 E Annie

Don’t Miss: The control deck

Check out how the office space looks like a control deck for the main house. Working in the office the owner can really feel part of the action of the house, yet at the same time secluded.

5002 Dolores

Don’t Miss: Garage door as art

“The glass garage door is backlit; the owners can change out the bulbs to celebrate the seasons.  Also check out the drawer microwave and countertop air switch for the disposal. ”—Michael Thurman, Thurman Homes

300 Academy Drive

Don’t Miss: Multiple opportunities to bathe outdoors

Check out the jumping platform from the roof in to the pool and three outdoor showers.

902 South Center

Don’t Miss: The balance of community and privacy

“This unit is the first of three residences in an enclave strategically positioned to allow privacy while still being part of a community. It fronts the street offering interaction with the south Austin community. The entry to the house is pulled back creating an urban front yard with a side screened porch to relax in the shade with a southern breeze running through—a modern day nod to a Texas neighborhood.” –  Cass Cheesar Architects

1868 Drake Ave

Don’t Miss: A hidden door and room

“See if you can find the hidden door in the bookcase that leads to a hidden room!”—Murray Legge, LZT Architects

2105 Goodrich Ave

Don’t Miss: Hidden power in the kitchen

“The kitchen features hidden plug strips beneath the upper cabinets, allowing for a sleek, continuous backsplash. Plus audio runs throughout the house. There are even built-in speakers in the master bath!”—Scott Turner, Turner Residential

1715 Giles

Don’t Miss: A surprise creek view

“The sliding doors lead to the most surprising element of the house—the framed view of the creek in the back. People expect to see a typical urban backyard, and are always surprised to face a view of untamed nature—as if the house is actually a portal to a little-known urban green belt.”—Francisco X. Arredondo, North Arrow Studio

212 W Live Oak

Don’t Miss: The rooftop fire pit

“Above the garage we put a gas firepit in the middle of a large but cozy roof top deck…this space becomes this luxuriously hip hang out during parties…hanging out by the fire, sipping cocktails and enjoying the downtown views.”—Tom Bates, Austin Modern Living

1615 Garden St

Don’t Miss: Custom touches on a very tight budget ($115/sf)

Inexpensive and sustainable, this house is study in economy, but the resourceful design makes it feel very high end. Notice the custom-poured and polished concrete counters, polycarbonate shelving in the bathroom and architectural shelving.

502 Riley Rd

Don’t Miss: The influence of International Style

The design was inspired by a Modernist movement called “International Style,” which originated in Europe back in the ‘20s and ‘30s. The style was defined by three elements: the expression of volume rather than mass, an emphasis on balance rather than what you might think of as symmetry, and the lack of ornament.

6502 Grover Ave

Don’t Miss: The unique paint in the studio, full automation 

“The walls of the studio are “underpainted” with a metallic paint and then overcoated with conventional paint so the owner can use the studio walls to hang her work.  The home is also fully automated with technology that can be controlled from anywhere.”—Jonathan Chertok, Universal Joint

700 W Monroe St

Don’t Miss: The design for aging in place

It was designed for a family of multiple generations, so notice how accessible it is. This is really a house designed for people to age happily in. There are no stairs, and there is a suite designed for a live-in caretaker.

1844 Logans Hollow Dr

Don’t Miss: Sleek recessed baseboards

“Make note of the floor base that is recessed within the thickness of the drywall. I use this detail throughout the house. This detail is very clean, and in my opinion, very beautiful.”—Erik Gonzalez, Sago International

2008 Rue de St Tropez

Don’t Miss: The engineering marvels

“Aside from finishes, the entire house is made from recycled materials, including a light gauge steel stud and joist system, and there is an intricate engineered, heavy steel structure hidden inside the walls which is why we were able to achieve an open floor plan, and a solid stairwell which seems to float effortlessly. Because of this, the house had to be erected with a hundred foot crane.”—Jair Gonzalez

1801 Riverview

Don’t Miss: Impactful finishes

Notice the use of dark steel for structure and elements in this house. It’s not just structural….it echoes the exterior cladding and unites the design. And the red accents throughout really add a pop, without diminishing the Modern feel. Modern doesn’t mean you have to have a white box!

355 Cortona Dr

Don’t Miss: The secret kids’ space

“There is a have a hidden ladder inside the entry coat closet that goes down to a basement for an extra kid’s playroom. This room is ideal when you have three young boys who can go down there and wrestle and roughhouse.”—Mark Carlson, Cornerstone Architecture

The GoodLife Team Office

Don’t Miss: The mini-campus layout

The offices incorporate small Modern structures as conference rooms and outbuildings, but this type of structure is perfect for Austin. There’s long been a trend in Austin of having small cottages behind a house to use as a den or guestroom. The GoodLife Team incorporates them for their office use, and they work perfectly.

Inspiration on Steroids: The AIA Austin Homes Tour 2012

28 Sep
AIA Homes Tour

One of the houses on the Tour

If you love beautiful spaces, there’s no better place to get inspired than the AIA Austin Homes Tour.  Every year they present a dozen or so homes that represent the best of architecture, interior design and landscape design. It’s a great way to get ideas for your own home, or get to know local architects’ work better as you consider a new build or remodel.

It’s also a little voyeuristic, since you get to see inside real people’s homes.  I have to admit, I always wonder what those beautiful, spacious rooms look like strewn with shoes like my house is.  Honestly, it looks like a shoe store threw up in our foyer. And not even a very good shoe store.


Ah, the glamour!

I have a friend who’s house was on the Tour one year, and I’ve been back since for dinner.  With the exception of one or two toys in the living room, her house looked as glamorous as it did on the Tour.  It’s kind of annoying, and if she wasn’t so funny, bright and warm I wouldn’t be friends with her any more (love ya, LR!).

But anyway – this is definitely the place to be next weekend (the 6th and 7th). We’ll be giving away a pair of tickets on Facebook next week, so be sure to join us there if you haven’t already.  But, the tickets do sell out sometimes, so if you don’t want to wait you can get your tickets here.  See you at the Tour!