Architect Tim Cuppett Transforms – And Preserves – 1920s Home Near Hemphill Park
“We wanted to imagine the house as it wanted to be”
By Hannah J. Phillips
Photographs by Whit Preston
Where recent renovations in Austin often lose the architectural language of their adjacent neighborhoods, Tim Cuppett and his team approached this 1920s home with a different agenda. Situated in the quiet Aldrich Park area north of the UT campus, the property is blocks away from Hemphill Park and surrounded by stately homes mostly occupied by college professors. For Cuppett and his team, the goal was transforming the home to its former glory while adding modern functionality in the covered entry, kitchen and screened-in porch.
“The neighborhood feels like it’s from the ’30s and ’40s,” says Cuppett, noting the area’s large lots, substantial homes and masonry veneer. “We wanted to imagine the house as it wanted to be, respecting and restoring what it had been and improving the interior.”
On the front exterior, Cuppett’s team reconfigured original features like flat arched windows, which had been boarded up by the previous owner. Working with David Wilson Garden Design, Cuppett also added a planter across the front so the house would sit on a level plinth.
For the new covered entry, Cuppett followed on-site clues to discover an old closed window connecting the living room to the front porch. Adding a recessed entry allowed for the window’s restoration and created clean sight lines of nearby Hemphill Park from the living room.
“The original house is a flat white stucco box,” says Cuppett, “so we decided for additions to add rhythm and texture. You want additions to be complimentary, but also distinct rather than a perfect match: It’s interesting to see both the history and the evolution.”
The back exterior best showcases this evolution, with additional space to accommodate a bigger kitchen and screened-in porch. The clients didn’t want a bigger home, so the simple objective was an updated flow for a modern family. The expanded kitchen allows for more communal cooking while more leisure space in the lounge and sunroom creates more opportunities for family bonding.
“Everything else was just reconfiguring the interior to make it work,” says Cuppett.
For the interior, the team’s first step was revisiting the home’s schematics, restoring rooms to their original size and shape and then correcting the floorplan for circulation. Now, the rear entry flows on one side into the sunroom and into the dining room on the other, with the kitchen beyond. Meanwhile, the screened-in porch runs along the whole south end of the house.
“The coolest thing about this project that Tim did so well is the circle you can make around the house,” says Adriana Chetty, who leads interior design on the Cuppett team.
Chetty enjoyed the puzzle of building a story with the client’s existing vintage pieces in each room, adding contemporary elements to complement their collection without competing for focus. The sunroom illustrates this funky fusion of repurposed finds. Here, Chetty rewired original Verner Panton flower pot pendants to hang above the game table, positioning them to be visible from the exterior as well. Two recovered vinyl chairs add to the retro look of the owners’ mod green sofa, itself recovered in Perennials velvet.
“The clients are both teachers, so they encourage a lot of reading and play games all together in here,” says Chetty. To accommodate their book collection, she commissioned a third bookshelf identical to the owner’s existing shelves and installed all three as built-in units.
Since both the husband and wife also share a love of cooking, the kitchen expansion was a priority. Converting the original space into a small mudroom, Cuppett maintained a vintage vibe in the new addition with a marmoleum floor and handmade ceramic tiles from Artistic Tile. A Tim Cuddy custom island allows space for several cooks in the kitchen, lit by Nessen pendants overhead. In these, the clear top section and frosted lower spheres mitigate the glare from exposed bulbs, casting light on the ceiling to remove the need for down lights. Artemide wall sconces with articulated arms add to the old-fashioned feel.
Upstairs, Cuppett left the three bedrooms largely untouched, moving one wall for extra space in the master bedroom and adding a skylight in the hall for natural light.
“We did a little bit of fixup because closets had been added,” says Cuppett, “but we did not touch the cheese cloth and paper ceilings. We didn’t patch the floor and ceiling to make it look blended because we wanted the rooms to retain their original feel.”
For Cuppett, this blend of old and new is an important aspect of preservation in the broader context of Austin.
“I have a lot of respect for old houses where they have integrity,” he says. “We work in 2020 and life is different, but we always try to bring a house up to date while retaining the character that was there. We don’t have much of that here in Austin, so it’s important to hold on to that.”