Casey Dunn

The Treetops House in Austin, Texas by Specht Architects blends modern design with historic roots.

The Treetops House by Specht Architects, is a renovation and major expansion of a suburban ranch house from the 50’s, located on the west side of Austin, Texas.

The original home was designed by Page Sullivan Page as a single-story mass with small windows, clad entirely in local limestone.  The challenge was to turn this into an open, bright, and inviting home with modern sensibilities while not completely removing all traces of what had existed previously.  The new composition is a contemporary, but also respects and reflects the time and place in which the original house was created.

Project Description

The Treetops House is a renovation and major expansion of a 1955 suburban ranch house that was very typical for its time and place—a sprawling single-story, fairly nondescript affair that had small windows, and was clad entirely in Texas limestone. Our challenge was to transform this into a modern house that was bright and inviting.

The Previous, Lime Stone Clad, Ranch House

“The project presented some interesting questions of preservation vs change, as well as a compelling story of dealing with a challenging (and ultimately rewarding) site. Part of our philosophy is that elements of the history of a place be retained and incorporated into any new design.  There are characteristics of almost any design, regardless of how banal, that embody memories and a sense of neighborhood.  We feel that preserving these adds depth to any new intervention. We largely maintained the entire limestone perimeter wall, and used it as a heavy plinth on which a new second level was added.  The new upper level features large frameless glass windows and is filled with light.  The interior was opened up to create double-height spaces that bring this light from above and into the center of the house.”

Scott Specht, Founding principal Specht Architects

The surrounding treescape provides a beautiful backdrop to the intimate interior spaces. Large overhangs provide shade at all times of the day, and the surrounding cladding of charred cypress prevents glare and adds a textural counterpoint. Other features include a large kitchen with countertop-height serving windows that open out onto a pool terrace and entertaining area, as well as unique built-in storage and display elements. Landscaping is entirely comprised of native grasses and other low-maintenance plantings.

The Layout

Inside the house, a double-height entry hall features stairs that lead up to the second-level main living space.  The perimeter of this space is made up of frameless glass is set atop a continuous planter wall that provides a green foreground to the treescape beyond. 

Large overhangs provide shade at all times of the day, and the surrounding cladding of charred cypress prevents glare and adds a textural counterpoint.  Other features include a large kitchen with countertop-height serving windows that open out onto a pool terrace and entertaining area, as well as unique built-in storage and display elements. Landscaping is entirely comprised of native grasses and other low-maintenance plantings.  The home owner is a collector of mid-century/vintage furniture- perfectly outfitting the space.