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Airy Taleby Helen Thompson | Modern Luxury Texas Interiors magazine | July 9, 2012
It all started with a modest request: “I wanted some new windows in the front of the house,” recalls Patricia Dziuk of the Tuscan-style house she and her husband, Tim, bought in 1999 outside Austin, nestled hillside. The husband and wife—she is a psychologist and he’s a surgeon—had lived there happily for 12 years, but dissatisfaction with a lack of view from the windows nagged at them. “I felt like I was cut off from the outside,” she says.
Because the 3,800-square-foot, stucco-and-stone builder house sits on a precipitous slope, it is what some architects refer to as “upside-down.” Living and dining room, plus kitchen and master bedroom are at ground level, which is technically the second floor. Guest bedrooms and the media room are below.
That’s when architect Patrick Ousey and his wife, architect Pam Chandler, came into the picture. They’d been recommended by the homeowners’ landscaper, Curt Arnette. The pair had suggestions that would address the problem windows, and while they were at it, update the tired Tuscan exterior, including removing turrets and hunky stone columns, replacing the Italian-theme windows with steel-framed window walls and redressing the façade and roof in more-contemporary materials. At that point, Patricia mentioned that she had come to dislike her kitchen cabinets, which were faux-finished to look like denim. “I thought I’d scream if I had to look at them any more,” she says. As sometimes happens, one change snowballed into another, and eventually turned into a total renovation.
Ousey and Chandler turned their attention away from the outside to focus on the inside. “We mentioned that the fireplace would look better in the middle of the living room wall,” Ousey recalls, “not angled into a corner at the end of the living room.” That’s easy enough to say if you are an architect, but the suggestion seemed both drastic and liberating to the homeowners. “They were surprised that moving a fireplace was easy to do,” says Chandler. Maybe the couple was more than surprised; Ousey and Chandler didn’t hear from the Dziuks again for a year.
The couple, though, was mulling over their architects’ advice. “I realized that I had gotten tired of the whole house,” says Patricia. Even the furniture, it turned out. “We had reached the point,” she notes, “that we knew we had to proceed with a complete renovation. We didn’t want our home to look ‘remodeled,’ where there were obvious places where the old part ended and the new part began.”
Without changing the footprint, Ousey and Chandler began a major transformation of the house. “Our goal,” says Chandler, “was to bring a sense of authenticity by erasing clichéd elements and replacing them with something timeless.” Key changes were also made to simplify and anchor rooms.
Complicated barrel vaulted ceilings were replaced with sleek drywall, and moldings and trim were eliminated for a seamless effect. On the main level, cherry floors were replaced by fumed white oak, a process that opens the grain and grays the wood.
The new palette is subtle, but sparkle has its say. Calcutta Gold mosaic tile bookends the main room, sheathing the fireplace on one side and the counters and walls in the kitchen opposite. They are a counterpoint to the white lacquered oak cabinets rising ceiling-high in the kitchen and to the velvet gray plaster-walled stairwell behind the fireplace wall.
Most of the couple’s furniture was reassessed, too. “In our selection of furnishings,” says Chandler, “we wanted to bring a sense of complexity, as if the Dziuks had been collecting over a lifetime.” Chandler reinvigorated some of the homeowners’ furniture—the dining room table got a lustrous black lacquer finish; four barrel chairs were reupholstered—and brought in new pieces such as the dining room chairs and the living room’s bespoke sectional sofa.
“Our clients were willing to let this transformation take the time it needed,” Ousey says. The result was a dramatic shift from worn-out to wow.
“It all happened organically,” says Patricia, about the decade-long process that revealed how they really wanted to live. “We let go of a house we loved. But I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of this one.