Austin’s historic Hancock neighborhood–near the Balcones Fault, where east meets west and Blackland Prairie transforms into the Hill Country’s chalky limestone bluffs–is a region of liminality. Here street grids shift, and deep cuts in the earth give way to the city’s Shoal and Waller Creeks. Without knowing the underlying geology, you might guess the roads were jogging arbitrarily, but Constant House is well aware of its surroundings. In function as well as form, it’s a home that stands as a nexus between elements that typically divide.
That duality is apparent in the structure’s bifurcated design, which adds two stories of modern living to the rear of an existing 1940s bungalow. Approaching from the north, the cedar-paneled facade of the addition peeks over the existing structure.
Entering through the low-lying bungalow, visitors step into a continuous gathering space, where the vintage communes with the modern and common areas breathe into one another. A long, curving bar faces the kitchen, mirroring the orthogonal plane above, facilitating flow into the living room and on toward the stairs that lead to the addition’s second story.
As the midpoint of the path to the roof deck, the 450-square foot studio on the second floor is the organizing element of the home. Neighboring the primary suite, this space features millwork that houses karaoke machines and the instruments of the house’s musician owners. This room is where art, domesticity, and social life intermingle. Here and throughout, a muted mid-century palette of dark woods and white oak floors lines the interior. A skylight welcomes natural illumination, and expansive windows along the south wall offer dialogue with the limbs of the pecan tree directly outside.
A staircase opens circulation from the studio to the roof, which doubles as both garden and gathering space. The northern half is covered in planters, with a notch in the parapet wall to showcase vines and other greenery to passersby in the street, while the southern half features a gravelly surface, low walls, high railings, and a high top surface for entertaining. The views from this vantage point showcase the surrounding neighborhood, in all of its historic elegance and geographic variability. The tree cover overhead offers respite from the Texas heat.
The distinctive feature may be its addition, but true to form, Constant House was designed with an eye for coexistence. As a living space it’s multigenerational, providing comfort and privacy for inhabitants of different ages, housing not only the Austin musicians who own the property, but also their mother. The fault line it stands on marks a divide between divergent elements, but Constant House's innovation brings them together.
The Colby Company