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All The Right Moves
By Helen Thompson | Photo: by Dror Baldinger | April 4, 2018
Architects Patrick Ousey and Pam Chandler wielded both dramatic and subtle changes to big effect in an Austin renovation.
There is one specialty of the architect’s craft that rarely gets the respect it deserves. Renovation is a pet topic of DIY shows, but the rip-roaring redos briskly skip past the process of understanding dilemmas that the original builder left behind. To Patrick Ousey and Pam Chandler of FAB Architecture, problems are just the thing they’ve been waiting for. In fact, they kind of love them. “It’s the grit that makes the pearl,” says Chandler. The husband-and-wife team hasn’t intentionally made renovations their niche, but the two architects have worked their magic on many unlovable houses, such as a clunky 3,200-square-foot Hill Country-style residence in Austin.
The clients are a Houston couple who spent most weekends in the fieldstone-and- wood-sided building they’ve owned for seven years. While they loved its sturdiness and the verdant 4-acre site, they were also aware of the dwelling’s shortcomings. Their late-1990s ranch house was sited in natural splendor, but the engineer-designed four-bedroom, three-bath structure ignored its surroundings. That flaw was particularly irksome for one of the homeowners, an avid gardener.
The homeowners liked much about their house, including the new Paint Grip roof and solar panels they had recently installed. Because they were also concerned about sustainability, they opted to keep the facade. Ousey and Chandler softened the exterior with a German slurry technique, raking mortar across the limestone surface to make the building look more monolithic. Other of the house’s problems seemed subtle in comparison. “Nothing lined up,” says Ousey. The front-facing kitchen window wasn’t aligned with the three columns on the front porch; the entry was off-center, as was the fireplace. “Things like that drive me bonkers,” he says. Because the architects were preserving the facade, the misalignments couldn’t be eliminated, either. Or could they? The solution Ousey and Chandler dreamed up is one of those remedies that resolves more than one problem and does it with flair.
The pair opted to open the house to the outside with steel-gridded windows placed at strategic points throughout. Working with builder Royce Flournoy, the team gutted the interior of the house, rearranging rooms to amend functionality: The kitchen was repositioned from the front to the middle of the house, merging with the living room.
The architects moved the fireplace—now with limestone hearth, plaster box and Paint Grip flue—5 feet to the right, centered on the Paint Grip-covered stove hood on the opposite wall. “They act as bookends in the room,” says Ousey, satisfied that order reigns. The dining room is where the kitchen once was. The light-filled room features wood windows painted to emulate the steel and glass doors at the entry. “It allows things to settle down visually,” says Chandler.
Ousey and Chandler kept the furnishings quiet too, mixing high and low design such as the breakfast nook’s Saarinen table accompanied by four teal chairs from a big-box store. They are a counterpoint to the dining room’s high-style oak dining table and leather chairs. Chandler prefers natural materials, using chocolate leather Ib Kofod-Larsen chairs in the living room and a marble-topped coffee table. Textural rugs in the living room and bedrooms contrast with the structural suavity of the house’s interiors. “We love taking something that’s modern and pairing it with something else that’s less refined,” she says.
As far as refinement goes, the ceiling epitomizes how far that concept can reach. “FAB’s design was so precise,” says Flournoy, “that we had to replumb the ceiling joists and existing walls throughout the entire house.” Without walls, moulding and orange peel texture, there was nothing to distract from imperfections. The now-flawless ceiling directs the eye to the prize: the seasonal porch, a screened-in, steel-gridded glass box anchored by a wood-burning stove. It’s also air-conditioned, so that when the glass doors slide back, the size of the interior living area is doubled. “It’s the ultimate flex space,” says Chandler. The multitasking room adroitly addresses the homeowners’ desire for an environmentally friendly house. “The homeowners chose not to take this house down,” says Ousey, “but to bring it around to better uses. It’s the most sustainable thing you can do.”
Patrick Ousey and Pam Chandler Jonathan Davies, project manager
Tom Warenda, project manager
Texas Construction Company
Fulton bronze and brass lanterns by Hinkley Lighting, sconces in master bath, Waterworks faucets and fittings in bathrooms
Carol Piper Rugs
Turkish flat-weave rugs in master bath and office, Tibetan rug in living room
Front entry doors
Grand Openings Inc.
Doors by Western Window Systems on seasonal porch
Plumbing fixtures in master bath
Lambert & Fils
Pendant in dining room
Faucets in kitchen
Scott + Cooner
Table and chairs in dining room, sofa and Minotti marble-topped coffee table in living room, chairs in master bedroom
Pendant in dressing room and over tub in master bath
Stove in kitchen, oven on outdoor porch