Reflections on a Lake House

Reflections on a Lake House

Chris Perez
Nov 30, 2011

Name: Thomas Bercy of Bercy Chen Studio LP
Location: Austin, Texas
Size/Room: 5,600 square feet
Years lived in: 3

Today we present to you an impressive retreat set lakeside amongst the Austin Hill Country. This particular architectural marvel was made reality through Bercy Chen Studio LP, a home-grown Austin firm with international heritage. We had an opportunity to tour this expansive Austin modernist residence with chief architect, Thomas Bercy, at our side, giving us a peek at many of the features, including a remarkable hidden home theater setup...

The first thing that took us by surprise when touring this home was how unassuming it was. The property, with ivy cloaking the brick facade, nestles almost unnoticed beneath the trees. A stark contrast from the bold, open space that lies within.

Upon entering, we took off our shoes in a mudroom, entering a main living area. Thomas explained the goal of this particular remodel was to maximize the views offered by the unique location. What once was a standard home with many dividing walls and small windows, is now transformed into an airy, luminous space surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. A reflecting pool outlines the perimeter of the home, and it subtly blankets you with its soothing qualities.

The travertine that bounds the pool is also used for the flooring of the kitchen and living area. This combination leads your eye outward from the inside of the home past the double-paned glass, to the outside. Blurring the boundaries of inside and out is one of the Bercy Chen firm's key design principles, and it's done with great effect here.

There are a few other design elements the firm likes to incorporate into each of their designs. These points are evident in the details throughout the home. Thomas tells us that they like to think outside the box, and use uncommon materials in interesting ways. The use of copper, instead of granite, to line counters and vents is a great example of this.

Reflective surfaces are also used throughout the home, and are strategically placed to catch the glimmer and shadow of the water outside. Even the walls are covered in a plaster that diffuses light in a manner not too disimilar from polished concrete. Speaking of the walls, let's take a look at the feature wall which houses the home theater. This is a tech tour, by the way.

On showcase here are all the home theater essentials. Large flat-screen display, surround sound, media equipment and receivers. What's unique is the hide-away wall and cabinetry it is tucked behind. A simple pull on the custom-machined hardware changes the space from a home theater room to a place for thoughtful conversation. The house has a home automation system that controls various lighting stages for entertaining, or daytime reading. A Sonos audio system handles the duty of streaming tunes through all the main areas of the home, even up to the very unique second floor.

Formerly a standard attic, Bercy explained the space has been transformed into a space now dubbed, The Library. The interesting juxtapostion of red acetate and massaranduba wood reflects Thomas' fascination with technology, enjoying manipulating materials for creative new uses (his current obsession is with carbon fiber). The result is an ultra-modern space that connects to the outdoors, with light shining through a glass nook sculpted from the original dormer. Imagine how surreal it might feel to read a book here on a dark, stormy night.

AT Survey
Our style: Modern architecture with various ethnic and cultural inspirations

The inspiration for the space: The site itself which has amazing views to the lake. Certain aspects of Asian architecture such as the continuity between inside out and the use of water, and certain installation artists such as Donal Judd and James Turrell.

Favorite element in the space: The reflecting pool facing west. The water reflection creates an amazing pattern on the ceiling.

Biggest challenge in designing space: The project was a renovation of an existing structure.  We had to open the ground floor of the house as much as possible to enlarge the space and maximize the views to the lake. This required a structural gymnastic to insert a steel frame under the existing roof and floor.

What friends / colleagues say about the space: Not sure but hopefully good things!

Area where there is room for improvement/future projects: Right now we are converting the winter garden into an office which the client thinks would be much more usable in the Texas summer.

Biggest indulgence with respect to space: The custom endless swim jet, climbing wall, and solid 1/4" copper counter tops.

Best advice about organizing or incorporating tech into the home: Use a simple system that uses iPad as the master control. Don't over do it. Home automation should simplify your life not complicate it. As far as sustainability, you have to think long terms. Return on investment may seem mediocre based on current utility prices but these will most likely rise in the future. 

Favorite source for furnishings / equipment: Scott and Cooner and Threshold are the best for furniture in Austin. We get our equipment on the web.

Tech Hardware:

  • HD Displays in Living and Master Bedroom
  • Wall and Ceiling mounted speakers in Living room
  • Blu-ray & HD-DVD players
  • Satellite DVR
  • Sonos Sound System wired throughout house
  • Slingbox HD
  • Apple iMac 24"
  • Apple Airport
  • Apple TV (1st Gen)
  • Boston Subwoofer Amplifier

Sub Zero

B&B Italia
Team 7

Vola plumbing fixtures

Xenon, SLV, Foscarini by Recht Lighting

Additional Elements:
Green Roof by Avant Guardist construction

Thanks to Bercy Chen Studio

Photos by Chris Perez

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