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In the living room of this Austin home, designed by architectural firm Curtis & Windham with interiors by Ariel Ashe of Ashe Leandro, the modern lines of a curvaceous Vladimir Kagan sofa, Gio Ponti chair, custom Lawton Mull coffee table, and Ruemmler pendant are balanced by the fanciful glimmer of an antique Murano mirror above the fireplace.

A Leafy Plot in the Heart of Austin Becomes a Sensual and Serene Escape

Design firm Ashe Leandro and architects Curtis & Windham embraced the natural beauty of the landscape.

July 7, 2024

When Ariel Ashe first received a call about decorating a home for a family of five in Austin, Texas, she did the natural thing: She Googled the address. “On the map, it looked like a city park right in the middle of Austin,” recalls Ashe, the cofounder of New York–based firm Ashe Leandro, of the stunning 8.6-acre property perched 300 feet over Lake Austin and heavily wooded with live oaks. The house she would zoom in on, newly built by Houston-based architects Curtis & Windham, offered a thrilling new context to work within. “We really designed the spaces around that landscape,” Ashe explains.

That, as it turned out, had been the prevailing philosophy throughout the project. Two years prior, when the owners—he, a software investor she, a land developer—enlisted architect Bill Curtis to build a new home from the ground up, there was one mandate: They couldn’t touch the trees. In Austin, where more than 41 percent of the city lives under leafy canopy coverage, Curtis quips, “You can’t cut a limb without someone there with you.” Not that they’d want to: The wooded plot had so charmed his clients, who had lived in the neighborhood since 2010, that they penned a letter to the previous owners declaring their love for the property the second it came up for sale. Dutifully, Curtis’s team worked within the footprint of the pre-existing single-story residence, built there around 1938.

  • The clean Scandinavian lines of a Frits Henningsen wingback chair offer a modern foil to the home’s classical architecture and reclaimed French oak floors from Chateau Domingue. Side table, Frama. Artwork, Zach Heinzerling. Rug, Alt for Living.

    Laura Resen
  • In the great room, a custom Elizabeth Paige Smith table made from surfboard material is surrounded by Gilbert Marklund–style Brutalist dining chairs. Windows are flanked by antique bronze floor lamps. Chandelier, Serge Mouille.

    Laura Resen

The new structure, just one room deep and with plenty of glass on the lakefront side, ensured that nearly every room offered natural light and sweeping views. The material palette drew on the vernacular of Austin, with pale, buff-colored brick that mimicked the limestone used in many local buildings; meanwhile, Georgian-style steel casement windows added a traditional note while simultaneously feeling crisp and contemporary. When Ashe joined the project, she carried the conversation from there, working to imbue what were ultimately new interiors with a rich sense of history.

Architect Bill Curtis took cues from Sir John Soane’s Dulwich Picture Gallery in London in designing the house’s ample paneling, which sets the backdrop for the living room. The plaster-like finish (Chateau Domingue’s Lime Wash) feels “painted over time, giving it a wisdom and maturity,” he says.

Laura Resen
  • In the entry hall, where floors are clad in antique cathedral stone from Chateau Domingue, a pair of circa-1958 iron-and-rattan chairs flank an 18th-century mirror and a Swedish Baroque console table; the pendant is from Jamb and the sconce is Courtney Applebaum.

    Laura Resen
  • Antique baskets from the Renner Project, a nearby shop, nestle beneath the staircase, which is clad in reclaimed French oak; pendant light, Rose Uniacke.

    Laura Resen

Ashe handled the selection of surfaces and finishes with great care. Floors were laid with wide planks of reclaimed French oak from Houston- based Chateau Domingue, a source for architectural salvage that also provided the stone cathedral floor installed in the entryway. Its sister brand, Domingue Finishes, is responsible for the Venetian Marmorino Plaster and Lime Wash paints that lend patina to paneled walls. “We tried to make everything feel a little bit less precious,” explains Ashe of these sumptuous touches.

“I love old houses—I’m an urban planner—but there are also issues that come with age,” explains the homeowner. “This place has that old feeling, while also being modern and fresh. It’s very tactile—I love walking barefoot around the house.”

Warm, rough-hewn woods tie together the entertaining spaces, including the dining room, where an oak table by Louise Liljencrantz is surrounded by Kaare Klint chairs for Carl Hansen & Søn; the chandelier is a 19th-century Swedish antique.

Laura Resen
  • A custom pine console by Rob Pluhowski holds books in the great room.

    Laura Resen
  • Just off the entry, a bespoke bar in the style of Blanche Klotz is a popular gathering space for a welcome drink; painting, Patrick Eugène.

    Laura Resen

In the kitchen, things skew more modern, with cabinets hand-painted a deep navy to match the sleek Lacanche range. That hue echoes throughout the home, including the husband’s inky-walled office, which, according to Ashe, “has the prettiest view in the whole house.” Meanwhile, in the wife’s work space—connected to her sun-drenched art studio—a Charlotte Perriand desk is lacquered in a slick petroleum, and the Rose Uniacke sofa sheathed in midnight blue.

Ashe chose Benjamin Moore’s Deep Royal for the kitchen cabinets—“it looks great with flowers of every color,” says her client—with a matching Lacanche range. Pendants, Rose Uniacke. Faucet, Waterworks.

Laura Resen
  • Ashe calls the vista seen from the husband’s custom Rob Pluhowski desk “the best in the house.” A fuzzy Frits Schlegel armchair and 1970s Swedish pine stool gather on a wool rug from Alt for Living. The painting is by John Roman Brown and the floor lamp is 1950s Italian.

    Laura Resen
  • Both homeowners’ offices boast decadent views across the leafy property. The wife works from a lacquered desk by Charlotte Perriand for Cassina, seated at a 1970s chair by Perry King and Santiago Miranda. The 1970s pine stool is by Krogenæs Møbler and the oak cabinet is 1960s French. Ceiling fixture, Paul Matter.

    Laura Resen

Given that the clients are also frequent entertainers, Ashe explains, “the space had to have good flow, whether that meant indoor to outdoor or room to room.” The first floor’s open plan made it all the more imperative that furnishings feel coherent. Ashe created unity through her use of warm wood and forged steel, choosing pieces that blend old and new, often with Scandinavian flair, like the 19th-century Swedish chandelier that shimmers above a rail-oak dining table by Stockholm-based talent Louise Liljencrantz and a fleet of chairs by Kaare Klint for Carl Hansen & Søn. The living-room bar—a custom creation with matching oak stools that has become a favorite gathering place—sits beside a portrait by Patrick Eugène, part of the homeowners’ contemporary art collection built with the help of advisor Meredith Darrow.

A Dmitriy & Co. bed in the primary bedroom is flanked by custom Rob Pluhowski nightstands and Gatto table lamps designed in 1960 by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos. Bedding, Matouk. Bench, Gallery ARE.

Laura Resen
  • When the clients requested two separate vanities in the primary bath, Ashe and Curtis designed a pair of marble counters on either end of the room, one of which seems to practically float in front of the window. The fittings are Piet Boon, and the pendants are Garnieret Linker. Tub, Ancient Surfaces. Vintage kilim rug, Apartment F. Antique stools, Gallery ARE.

    Laura Resen
  • De Gournay’s Erdem wallcovering envelops a nook in daughter’s bedroom, while a matching gray-green hue (Icy Morn by Benjamin Moore) coats the millwork. The lamps are by Danny Kaplan, and the custom bed is covered in a Rose Uniacke cotton velvet with Samuel & Sons piping. Bedding, Matouk.

    LAURA RESEN

After more than a year in the house, the family has seen the home come alive through the seasons. In the summer, birthdays are celebrated outside at a circular stone table, under lanterns and a big oak tree. At night, the lakeside fire pit is a favorite for after-dinner lounging. When temperatures drop, grilling happens on the screened-in porch while family and friends congregate around a fireplace in the living room. But from month to month, even as the landscape changes and evolves, the home’s best feature remains consistent: Those evergreen live oaks are always just outside the window.

  • Steel accents in the form of columns, pergolas, balcony railings, and casement windows lend a contemporary touch to the limestone-clad house.

    Laura Resen
  • Globe-shaped Serena & Lily pendant lights illuminate the terrace, where a stone Chateau Domingue table and BB Reschio chairs offer a spot to linger late into the evening.

    Laura Resen

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN VOLUME 13 OF FREDERIC MAGAZINE. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!