All over the country, there is a renaissance in Mid-Century modern architecture. These minimalist designs marked a clear break from previous conventions. The homes of this era showcased open floor plans, liberal use of windows and extended roof lines for passive cooling. Two other traits emerged from this period-- "bringing the outside in" and allowing the needs of the family to influence the final floorplan. All of these elements are in evidence here. It is authentic and understated.
While there are other examples around town of Mid-Century modern you will not likely find one in such a venerable neighborhood as this stretch of Balcones Drive. The last small home here sold for $900,000, and current prices are over four-million dollars. It makes the $800,000 price of this home very reasonable.
The most striking feature of this small, three bedroom home (about 1,640 sq. ft.) is that it appears to be in almost original condition. How is this possible? It is still owned by the family that built it in 1956. The original blueprints have been found, along with detailed specifications, construction photographs and landscape site plan.
Enter legendary figure number one, the owner of the house--Dr. Lansing Thorne, pediatrician and one of the town's beloved doctors (his twin brother, Clifford, was also a pediatrician who lived on Balcones Drive). Dr. Thorne had a special gate built into the side fence so he could easily walk to the neighbors' home to treat their children.
Now, meet the architect, Roland G. Roessner, Sr. He was one of the pioneers of modern architecture in Austin. Like Dr. Thorne, he was a leader in his profession who also served as an educator at the University of Texas with a roster of students like Sinclair Black and Hal Box (who served as Dean of the UT School of Architecture). In the 1980s, UT established an endowment in Roland Roessner's name which has benefited architecture students in many countries.
More Details About The House
The design includes forward-thinking ideas that still hold up today. For example, there is a porch that overlooks the courtyard. The family used that spot for many special dinners on pleasant evenings. Today, it would make an ideal place to start weekend mornings with fresh coffee, or on a rainy day, you could curl up with a good book and take a nap.
Decades ahead of its time, there is an office niche just off the master bedroom--Dr. Thorne used it for his home study. Any current day homeowner can still use this niche today for a computer, printer and supplies. And there is this engineering marvel--bedroom 3 (see floorplan) is a flex room--it can serve as a regular bedroom, but one entire wall slides open. It is not a pocket door that opens--the entire wall disappears giving it a view out to the courtyard. A partition on another wall in that bedroom also opens--to the kitchen. During the day, this bedroom turned into the children's playroom (which left the main living room for the adults); Dr. and Mrs. Thorne could work in the kitchen while keeping an eye on the kids through the partition.
The house is pushed way back from the street and up on the flat section of the tiered lot. This adds privacy, and there are no stairs. A sprawling flat section of driveway in front and to the side of the carport is perfect for riding a bike or playing basketball. Go through a side door off the kitchen, and you see that it spills out to a quiet small yard area in back.
Here is a chance to own an Austin landmark that sits at the epicenter of one of the city's most cherished scenic drives. There is a rediscovered appreciation for small homes. Please, no novices--the home needs a complete refurbishing. You must have experience with this caliber of work, or you should be willing to have a professional oversee the refurbishing. It is shown by appointment only, and you need to contact your own agent to see the house. Hopefully, you choose an experienced agent. If so, ask her if the $800,000 price is supported by the lot and recent closed sales.
It is a tempting price, but there are several conditions required by the seller. Call for additional details if you are a serious buyer.The seller is represented by Stan Barron Properties, 512.626.4911.