River Hills Residence / Miró Rivera Architects

Text description provided by the architects. Emerging from a sloping berm, the River Hills Residence embodies the laid-back ethos of Austin. The lakeside retreat overlooks a sweeping lawn shaded by towering native pecan and bald cypress trees. A path from the house leads to a swimming pool, guest cabin, and boat dock.

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The main house is comprised of two wings flanking a central courtyard and connected by a glass volume. On approach, the home maintains a low profile—an idea made possible by partially burying the two wings, which contain four bedrooms and a four-car garage, into the topography. Steps flanked by colorful native flowerbeds lead down into the welcoming courtyard, where windows provide a glimpse of the owner’s collection of art. Weathering steel is used in a variety of ways on the home’s exterior—as cladding, handrails, chimneys, retaining walls, and scuppers—complemented by treated ash wood. A path lined with Palo Verde trees leads to the ten-foot-tall, pivoting glass front door.

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The centerpiece of the residence is the 1,000-square-foot great room. Anchored by a sculptural charcoal limestone fireplace, the space physically connects the Corten-clad wings. Two walls of butt-glazed, floor-to-ceiling glass allow views from and through the main living spaces to the landscape, while deep overhangs protect the interiors from the harsh summer sun. Finished with acoustical fabric and bordered with weathering steel, a tray ceiling unifies and accentuates the living and dining areas. The floors are surfaced with wide planks of reclaimed long-leaf pine. The fireplace separates the great room from the informal media room, where the owner watches movies and spins records. Steel bookshelves are nestled into both sides of the limestone fireplace surround.

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Organized around a large island with barstool seating, the kitchen is illuminated by clerestory windows. Sliding doors allow the space to be opened up to an outdoor grilling and dining area. Overhead, a 17-foot-deep overhang defines the outdoor living spaces before turning upward to wrap around the primary suite, which appears perched on the southeast corner of the residence. Punched openings in the cantilevered ribbon create moments of lightness as well as glimpses of the tree canopies overhead.

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Finished with the same reclaimed long-leaf pine as the floors, the stairs are bathed in light from a clerestory window above a fluorescent artwork. The weathering steel handrails conceal LED strip lights. On the ground floor, the staircase frames a corridor lined with colorful canvases that lead to the children’s bedrooms and guest quarters. With south-facing windows framing views of a narrow canal lined with bald cypress trees, the bedrooms are bright and airy. Upstairs, the primary suite embraces a palette of gray leather, rich walnut, and dark basalt. The primary bedroom opens up to a private balcony, while the shower features a large window screened by hanging boughs.

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