A Project in Pictures: A Remodeled Clarksville Bungalow

A Clarksville bungalow goes from blah to beautiful, and Austin Home has the before and after photos to prove it.

Michael Loeb loved almost everything about his Clarksville house when he moved in, in 2007. Loeb, an orthopedic surgeon who also is the team physician for Concordia University, loved the house’s proximity to the running trails around Lady Bird Lake, its location in a walkable neighborhood and its near-but-not-in downtown location. But, when it came to the home’s dark, incongruous layout, he often found himself thinking, What if?

In 2013 Loeb turned those what-if dreams into reality when he hired A Parallel Architec-ture and construction and remodeling firm Avenue B Development to renovate the home. At first he’d planned on doing only a small renovation limited to the master suite, but after waiting for the city to approve permits, Loeb decided to overhaul the entire house.

“The kitchen was something I’d originally thought of doing in a later project, but after the three months it finally took to get the per-mits approved I thought I’d do it all at once,” he says. “Now I can’t imagine not having done the entire project.” Loeb, A Parallel and Ave-nue B invited Austin Home to take photos of the house before demolition began in May 2013 to docu-ment the project.

More than a year later, the transforma-tion is striking and perfectly matched to the home’s older, serene neighborhood. In fact, aside from a new and cleaner landscape in the front of the home, a visitor might not at first notice that the house has undergone an exten-sive renovation. Scraggly trees have been cut back, and gravel and a modern white stone walkway have replaced the struggling grass. A new front door and windows also give some clues that the house has been updated. But neither the home’s original white-wood siding nor the 2,200-square-foot, three-bedroom footprint changed in the project.

The interior tells a different story, though. Smaller, dark rooms have been replaced by light, open and warm spaces with clean mate-rials and a continuous feel. By opening up the interior and rearranging it in a more efficient way, the renovation made the home appear much larger in feel, if not in square footage.

Loeb originally thought about expanding the home, but it had already exceeded the city’s impervious cover limits and floor-to-area ratio limits. Previous owners had added a hodgepodge of rooms over the years so the city made it clear the house’s footprint couldn’t expand any further.

A Parallel and Avenue B reorga-nized the space instead of expand-ing it. The older additions to the home had made it something of a lab-yrinth, with little natural light. While it was structurally in good shape, there was no master plan or flow to the home. Eric Barth and Ryan Burke, principals with A Paral-lel, removed walls, rearranged rooms and eliminated excess circulation to gain more space.

“It was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house,” says Burke, “and now it’s a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house, and in the end we got a larger kitchen, a larger dining room, a private home office, proper rear entry, a butler’s kitchen, a private walk-through closet and a full walk-in closet out of the renovation. [Loeb] didn’t have any of those things before. It’s funny—when people talk about new construction, they want a 5,000-square-foot house. But so often we can solve all their needs in two-thirds of that space by having an efficient plan.”

Jeff Bullard—owner of Avenue B, which specializes in reno-vating older homes in older, historic neighborhoods—and A Parallel have teamed up before, and the architect and con-tractor team knew how to keep the classic bungalow exterior while bringing a more modern layout to the home’s interior. Because the home wasn’t structurally damaged, A Parallel and Avenue B worked with the existing structure as much as possible. The living room already had nice natural light, so the windows in that space stayed. Some of the existing wood floors were refinished. While the kitchen remained in the same spot, the renovation stripped out the cabinets and trim and eliminated walls and drop beams to open it up.

One of the more significant changes that took place during the remodel was to change an older, flat-roofed section in the middle of the house to a gabled roof. That opened up the center of the home and also allowed space for a new air conditioning unit.

Throughout the house, the team added skylights and matched up sight lines and door and window casings to make the space flow evenly. The skylights allow more light throughout the house and add a more modern touch.

New materials help promote a modern—but warm—feel too. The kitchen cabinets are all made with vertical-grain Douglas fir. The wood panels that line the kitchen island also make up a bookcase at one end of the dining area. All the grain on those wood panels is sequential, which is a subtle but striking detail that draws the eye along the space.

The palette in each room stayed very simple, especially in the smaller spaces. White oak floors are a lighter coun-terpart to the warm fir in the kitchen and other spaces. In the bathrooms, understated white subway tiles run from floor to ceiling to give an elevated shape and again draw the eyes up. In the guest bathroom, the spare, white subway tiles and dark stone floors mark a huge departure from the previously pink-tiled space.

“To me, the most important thing about this project is being able to mix modern sensibility with something his-toric, and doing it in a way that really works,” says Barth. “So many people think you have to choose: a house has to be modern or it has to be historic. But we can infuse modern sensibilities into an old house.”