It is not an uncommon promise in hearts of the ambitious, good-natured public to reward one’s deserving parental guardians with the opulence of high living in grace for the years of unyielding, though at times tested, unconditional love. Once vocational success has been achieved and fortunes have been claimed, it will be time for mother to be wheeled to the luxury condo and spend the rest of her years tended to by the five-star obedience of personal chefs and pool boys. For most of us, the fiscal realities of middle-American adulthood compromise this noble goal and our illusory luxury condos are suddenly reintroduced as nursing homes or guest bedrooms. When the design and construction of homes is in fact your vocation, however, it pulls feasibility of such a kind bestowal in reach. Such was the case with Alex Finnell and his parents—Austin transplants Richard and Susanna.
Finnell, having freshly departed from architect firm KRDB, was eager to draft his debut project as a solo artist under his new company, Finn Design Build, on an improved living arrangement for his parents, in an aim to better accommodate their collective needs. For Susanna, having previously suffered an aneurism, mobility and accessibility were imperatives, and Finnell’s grandmother—also a Bouldin Creek Ranch occupant—is entering her 97th year, sharing like needs. In the interest of privacy, the Finnells had initially opted to construct a secluded, riverside property from scratch in a quieter part of town. “[It was] ultimately impractical,” as Finnell recounts. While gorgeous abundant trees sheltered the property and a discreet pathway made water engagements possible, the nonlinear topography posed an obstacle to accessibility. In turn, Finnell opted to, rather than capture the “privacy and drama” of his initial prospect, set up camp elsewhere and invent it all on his own.
LOCATION Austin, TX
Size 2,900ft2 (3,650ft2 including garage and unconditioned storage) Completion 2012
Program Multi-generational residence with integrated caregiver’s suite (4 bedroom, 4.5 bathroom) Awards LEED Platinum, Austin Energy’s Green Building Program 5 Star Rating (5 out of 5)
LEEDs Consultant Contects Landscape Design & Construction D-Crain Design & Construction
Interior Design Anne Breux Studio
Finn Design Build Dan Fields
Metal Cladding Berridge
Paint Sherman Williams ProMar Zero VOC
Cabinet Finish ML Campbell “Agualente”
Sliding Glass Doors Arcadia
Countertops Silestone & Caesarstone
Rainwater Tank Bluescope
Linear Trough Drains Quick Drain
Geothermal HVAC Bosch
Lutron RadioRA Lighting Controls Lutron
Solar Panels Lumos
“Positively electric” is how Finnell describes the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, whose food trucks, shopping boutiques, cafés, and cocktail taverns keep the district alight with steady foot traffic. Immediately, this may not seem like a particularly intuitive habitat for Finnell family lion and lioness, nestling cozily into their golden years after careers long lending their wisdom and esprit to the academic eminence of the University of Texas, Texas A&M, and the University of Nebraska. However, it is the singularity of the living quarters that Finnell himself developed in this buzzing environment that creates a functioning duality of the virtue of serenity and the hubbub of commerce.
Acquiring a vacant lot in this dynamic vicinage and wringing maximal use from the neighboring abodes, Finnell fashioned his unfolding structure into a rather unusual formation. Exhibiting the configuration of a “z-shape,” the Bouldin Creek Ranch shelters two separate—one frontal and one rear—courtyards occupying what would make both angular openings on the oversized letter “Z.” The length of the house run from north to south as Finnell illustrates, drawing shade over one courtyard and commanding sunshine simultaneously over the other, depending on the time of day. The front courtyard, which is enterable from the kitchen, enjoys the tranquility of a pond and breakfast area. Meanwhile, in the rear courtyard’s especially obscured street view, a pool was built and an elevated garden planted to encompass the perimeter.
Also noteworthy is the sensibly environmental-headed manner behind the project. Furnished with state-of-the-art green technology including a 100KW PV solar array, 2,500 gallon rainwater collection, a recirculating hot water pump, and a Geothermal HVAC with desuperheater hot water recovery, the home has been a magnet for praise from the green energy community. In recognition for its sustainable framework, it has received a five-out-of-five-star rating from Austin Energy’s Green Building Program and reached LEED Platinum.
“Warm modern” is the aesthetic Alex Finnell ascribes to his parent’s new dwellings, citing its enchanting clarity and light, cozy definition. “It is simple and inspiring. Warm modern.” Since the success of Bouldin Creek Ranch, Finn Design Build has been busily in the process of finishing their second project with a healthy queue of forthcoming projects growing.