A Hearth Under an Oak Tree

A Hearth Under an Oak Tree

Chris Perez
Feb 13, 2012

Name: Richard
Location: Austin, Texas
Size/Room: 2,056 square feet
Years lived in: 1 and counting

The paragon of Abode Modern Homes is also the home and home office of owners, Richard, and his wife and two children. The modern Austin one-story is a striking example of contrasts, showcasing a treasure trove of art, relics, Craigslist finds, and some vintage audio items...

True daily scavengers, Richard and his wife have have discovered numerous bargains through the likes of Craigslist and eBay throughout the years. Even the narrow lot upon which their home now sits was quite the find. An open lot which had never been built on, just a few miles from downtown, in hip and cool Austin, TX? Unprecedented!

In a city which proudly labels itself as "weird", Richard wanted his modern vision to blend in with the neighborhood. The one story building's frame and color present a muted color palette of soft hues and natural wood. A heritage oak lends the home a serene canopy, while the same peace and tranquility can be found with the water feature just outside the window of Richard's home office, providing a soothing backdrop of white noise, ideal for imbuing the mind with creative energy.

Like a kaleidoscope, the rest of the home harnesses light and radiates it back to shine across the floor-to-ceiling glass, sparkling and glowing onto the array of accessories and textiles. Wooly pockets filled with plants line both the interior walls of the home, creating an atrium, seamlessly blending outdoors with the indoors. This effect lends greatly to the open and modern design of architecture firm Alterstudio.

Richard likens watching people interact with the space, through the glass walls of the atrium to watching fish in an aquarium — as visitors and passers-by cling and attach to particular lounging areas and nooks.

Where others may stop at furniture, however, Richard continues the look into technology as well. A vintage McIntosh stereo system seated next to a modern LCD flat screen not only adds character to the decor, but also adds warmth and liveliness to digital sounds via an aux cable he connects to his iPhone.

AT Survey
Our style Classic Midcentury inspired, modern minimalist, with a touch of Mexican modern influences and Estate Sale kitsch.

The inspiration for my home office The office is designed around George Nelson's desks for Herman Miller. Our his/her desks are his designs, using the same walnut, both from the 50's, both found during many of our treasure hunts for classic mid-century furniture on Craigslist. One of them came from the quintessential 50's architecture gem, the Adam's Extract building, right before it was criminally demolished.

The other one belonged to a UT professor and somehow ended up in Seguine, Texas. It had a mysterious locked drawer when we bought it, and we had some suspense building fantasies about it's contents, until the locksmith opened up the empty drawer. We like to picture what it must have been like to work in those desks during the time of Mad Men, punching keys and getting work done the classic way. This room is the most tranquil, with the filtered light bouncing off the concrete wall and the sound of the water fountain muffling the kid's requests of the day.

Favorite element in your space The large floor to ceiling glass that looks out on the courtyard and runs the length of the living room. It's the hearth of our house, providing a dramatic inside-outside notion to our home.

Biggest challenge in designing my space We have a protected heritage oak that is close to 40 inches in diameter at the front of the property. As well as a lot that is a bit narrow having been subdivided in 1894. This provided a challenge to get all the rooms we wanted in a single story house that needed to be nestled under the canopy of pecan and oak trees. By decreasing the hallways and maximizing storage space not a foot of space was squandered.

What friends say about my space They often comment on the warmth, and how it draws people in and encourages lounging. Everyone loves the openness of the living area, and the set-up is perfect for an inside-outside party. When you look in from the outside during a party, it feels like something Julius Schulman would have liked to shoot in 1950's Palm Springs.

I also love the front porch. It is our take on the feel and appearance of an old country porch. We pass time at night greeting neighbors who are walking to restaurants. We're also proud of our elevated garden in the backyard. Once again a modern take on an old classic with plate steel making up the boxes for the garden.

Area where there is room for improvement We would like to invest in some window shades for the main rooms, and maybe acquire one of those old 70's stand alone open fire-places.

Proudest DIY (do it yourself) project The front water-feature. It was quite an engineering feat that happened organically during an onsite meeting with the whole family involved and throwing around ideas.

Biggest indulgence with respect to my space The mesmerizing large Sergio Garval painting is our "instant-home-kit". We move a lot, and as soon as we find the perfect space for our beloved painting we know we're home.

Best advice about organizing or incorporating tech into the home Regarding organizing: Let your wife do it. On the tech front: recycle! We brought Richard's dad's heirloom 70's McIntosh stereo system back to life recently, complete with full-size walnut speakers. It's a great thing when something old becomes new and interesting again, full-circle design appreciation.

Dream source for stuff Roche-Bobois, because we want a great set of Mahjong chairs more than anything right now. Anything that Patricia Urquiola designs we like.

Tech Hardware

  • Apple Macbook

  • Apple iMac

  • McIntosch stereo

  • Apple Time Capsule

  • Speakers mounted flush in the ceiling to hide them away


  • Miele cooktop and steam oven

  • KitchenAid refrigerator (with a custom walnut panel)

  • Asko dishwasher

  • Bosch oven and microwave

  • Hansgrohe Axor plumbing fixtures designed by all-stars from the design world


  • Knoll office desks by George Nelson

  • Knoll credenza buy George Nelson

  • Knoll Cesca armchair by Marcel Breuer

  • Knoll Saarinen Tulip chair

  • Cassina coffee table

  • Dinning room table was made for us in Bali on our honeymoon

  • Herman miller Eames Aluminum lounge chair and Ottoman

  • Molteni and Co. Clip bed

  • Ligne Roset Smala couch

  • Richard Schultz outdoor chairs and table

  • Vitra Panton chairs

  • Emma Gardner rugs


  • Wooly pockets

  • My favorite accessories are the paintings without a doubt. Some are even painted by my wife

  • A modern line of Rosenthal china including a Corbusier teapot

  • Georg Jensen flatware

  • My big Green Egg BBQ pit


  • Mooioi non random light

  • Flos Table T table lamp

  • Hidden cove lighting and lots of can lights

Organizing Tools/Accessories
  • Mostly built in cabinetry and shelving to keep the house as minimal as we can with kids

All Images: Chris Perez

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