When I tell people who haven’t been to Austin that the terrain is extremely hilly with cliffs overlooking the Colorado River, most folks just don’t get it. Texas is so flat, they say. Lance Thompson with Thompson + Hanson was hired to make sense out of a difficult but stunning lot. The steep terrain—combined with issues like rocky outcrops with little to no soil and deer munching everything in sight— proved daunting. Clearly, the payoff was worth it. The home features a beautiful view overlooking Town Lake, or as it is now called, Lady Bird Lake.
Lance felt that the steep ascent to the top of the site would be best tackled by designing “planters” of stone that blended in with the natural stone on the lot, so he created areas to fill with soil for the plantings. In the front and more public part of the design, the plantings consist of Mexican wiregrass, green agave, trailing rosemary, boxwood, fig ivy and Italian cypress. Since deer are so prevalent in the area, Lance chose plants that were deer-proof.
This strategy worked naturally with the idea of the public area being a little “wilder,” then transitioning to a more formal design closer to the house.
The steep driveway made of Belgard pavers leads to a flat spot at the top of the lot. The change in design and plant material is visible immediately. The walkway and terraces are made of Jerusalem stone—a light limestone that is more refined than the natural stone but blends beautifully.
Lance also designed more formal spaces for his clients to enjoy. The two clipped boxwood parterres flanking the walkway are centered on a pair of beautiful windows in the front of the house. One window provides stunning views from the home’s dining room, while a long, wide gallery leading to the master suite features the other front window.
The refined design closer to the house has a plant palette consisting of boxwood, Burford holly, viburnum, Asian jasmine, Italian cypress, holly fern, olive trees and seasonal color.
The back of the house has a view of downtown Austin through the study window and also overlooks Lady Bird Lake. As the house is situated on a cliff, there was little opportunity for landscaping in the back. The main outdoor space for the homeowners is a lovely terrace off the back. The terrace, also constructed of Jerusalem stone, is flanked by a small lawn panel with plantings and clipped hedges on one side and by the study on the other side. The outdoor living room has a beautiful kitchen, dining area, multiple seating areas and an infinity pool that literally drops over the edge of the cliff.
Despite a difficult lot, both the architect and landscape architect used the challenging elements of the site to their advantage to connect the inside of the house to the outside. By using carefully planned sight lines, maximizing the gorgeous views and working with the natural terrain, they achieved a stunning result—a home that is a carefully integrated partnership between indoors and out.