The Willow Houses

Willow House West and Willow House East may be separate residences, but they’re very much of a pair. What affirms their relationship–from both the standpoint of design and the perspective of casual passersby–is not only the proximity of these neighboring residences, or their shared material palette, but also their use of space. From the way each interior spills onto its lawn, to their shifted positions on their respective lots, the Willow Houses celebrate and integrate with their environment, while also displaying consideration for one another.


Austin, Texas







July 2023

The Willow Houses

The Willow Houses: Made for Each Other

Flatroofed, prismatic forms. Consciously designed outdoor space. Whether viewed from the street or within the fences that designate each lot, the connection between these houses is subtle but significant. They lend a sense of unity and style to the neighborhood they’re a part of.

Sharing Material

The Willow Houses draw from the same material palette, though each articulates it in different ways. Willow House West plays to darker tones, with terracotta tile composing the majority of its exterior. Willow House East also integrates terracotta–the tiles that cap the parapets on each volume of the structure, and which clad the exterior of the penthouse at its apex, are reddish brown–but there white stucco is the most prominent, lending the home a lightness that provides a point of contrast to its counterpart. 

Both structures incorporate cedar, a naturally rot resistant wood that composes Willow House East’s doors and forms the structural beams that undergird the pergolas of both homes. More commercialized species have to be injected with chemicals to achieve the durability and resilience inherent to cedar, and even after the treatment, cedar outperforms them. As an added benefit, when left unstained, cedar changes color over time, gradually turning silver–a graceful, natural sign of aging.

Apportioning Space

The way each structure communicates with its site is what creates symbiosis between the individual elements of this pair. As the volume of each residence approaches the shared property line, it steps down from two stories to one. The resulting space generates a sense of openness and clears an airy conduit for sunlight to filter between the properties.

Despite the proximity of the urban lots these structures sit on, thanks to their positioning, they retain privacy. Willow House West is shifted toward the back of its lot, while Willow House East is shifted forward. In essence, the residents of each home can enjoy their outdoor spaces, while maintaining a sense of separation from their neighbor.

Living Outdoors

At both residences, communication is lively between the indoors and outdoors. What’s inside continues to the outside, with the exception of ceilings and roofs, in effect creating outdoor rooms where inhabitants and visitors can gather and socialize. This flow is an homage to Latin American design, where interior habitable space is often dense, but provides near seamless access to courtyards. In the case of the Willow Houses, the frontage of the outdoor space is maximized and includes all of the essentials, including outdoor kitchens.

Willow House West

Willow House West was designed with privacy but also interaction between its residents in mind. An entry corridor separates an accessory unit from the rest of the house, running down the center length of the property, from the carport to the back fence, between the main house and the pool. It’s a structure perfect for intergenerational living, a space for parents and other friends and family to live close, but at a modicum of distance. As a pandemic-era design, this separation was also influenced by remote work considerations. Even in times when the accessory unit isn’t serving as a guest room, or a space for relatives, it makes for an ideal office setup–a place where the primary residents can migrate to get away from the house and work, while still remaining at home.

The main house’s entry leads on the left to a bedroom, which features its own separate entrance. To the right, the kitchen flows into the dining space and into the living room. These downstairs areas, from the bedroom in the main house to the one in the detached accessory unit, mark clean delineation between private space to the south and public space to the north. 

The north end is also where the house spills out to the pool, with all of its communal features. Floor-to-ceiling windows span the length of each story, looking onto a courtyard centered around the water, which is capped to the south by an open-air bar. 

The second story is the place for family living. There sleep two smaller bedrooms and a generous primary suite, with ample closet space. The primary suite has its own balcony that looks onto the pool, but second-story, outdoor space is not limited to the owners. Willow House West also features an outdoor roof deck with an adjacent bathroom.

Willow House East

The initial concept for this house was a rectangular prism, with the narrow end of its volume facing the street, but because of a large heritage tree in its backyard, in contrast to Willow House West, the scale to the rear of Willow House East increases. 

Inside the walled exterior of the property, a long entry courtyard introduces visitors to the concept of outdoor rooms and opens, on the right, to an interior entry corridor. Past a coat closet, a powder room, and stairs to the second floor, the corridor ends at the dining room, which opens on one side to a guest suite that doubles as an office, and on the other to the kitchen and living area. The transition to the outdoors begins with Willow House East's screened porch, which looks onto a pool that runs adjacent to 28" heritage pecan, and ends at an accessory pool house that includes an entertainment center, half bath, and plenty of space to lounge.

Upstairs features three bedrooms–a primary suite with two closets and a spacious bath at the north end, and two secondary bedrooms, with a shared bath, to the south. At the top of the stairwell, in the hall that connects these spaces, a door opens to a roof deck that sits above the first floor’s guest suite, but the gathering space doesn’t end there. The stairwell jogs up another floor and ends at a penthouse, which provides access to a second level roof deck.


Construction: The Colby Company

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