Project: Slim House – Redesigned the Back Yard
Architects: Matt Fajkus Architecture
Architecture Team: Matt Fajkus, Sarah Johnson, Michael Deere
General Contractor: A.R. Lucas Construction
Landscape Architect: Aleman Design Build
Location: Austin, Texas
Phase: Completion 2019
Photography: Charles Davis Smith, FAIA
Text by Matt Fajkus Architecture
Situated within a one-acre lot in Austin’s Tarry Trail neighborhood, the back yard of this existing 1933-vintage historical house was underutilized. The owners felt that the main drawbacks of the existing back yard were a general disconnection between each outdoor area and a general lack of relationship to the house proper. Therefore, the primary goal of the redesign was a scheme that would promote the use of the outdoor zones, with the pool as a centerpiece.
The first major design move was to frame the pool with a new structure as a backdrop. This cabana is perpendicular to the main house and creates a clear “bookend” to the upper level deck while housing indoor and outdoor activities. Under the cabana’s overhang, an integrated seating space offers a balance of sunlight and shade while an outdoor grill and bar area facilitate the family’s outdoor lifestyle. The only enclosed program exists as a naturally lit perch within the canopy of the trees, providing a serene environment to exercise within the comfort of a climate-controlled space.
A corollary focus was to create sectional variation within the volume of the pool to encourage dynamic use at both ends while relating to the interior program of the home. A shallow beach zone for children to play is located near the family room and the access to the play space in the yard below. At the opposite end of the pool, outside the formal living room, another shallow space is made to be a splash-free sunbathing area perfect for enjoying an adult beverage.
The functional separation set up by the pool creates a subtle and natural division between the energetic family spaces for playing, lounging, and grilling, and the composed, entertaining and dining spaces. The pool also enhances the formal program of the house by acting as a reflecting pool within a composed view from the front entry that draws visitors to an outdoor dining area under a majestic oak tree.
By acting as a connector between the house and the yard, the elongated pool bridges the day-to-day activities within the house and the lush, sprawling backyard. Planter beds and low walls provide loose constraints to organize the overall outdoor living area, while allowing the space to spill out into the yard. Terraces navigate the sectional change in the landscape, offering a passage to the lower yard where children can play on the grass as the parents lounge by the outdoor fireplace.