Down the River
Explore the Frio River retreat of one Austin family
by Lauren Jones
Photographs by Whit Preston and Paul Finkel
Shaded by live oaks and the pastoral backdrop of the Hill Country lies the modern-meets-Texas-traditional vacation home of former tech CEO J.R. Carter; his graphic designer wife, Anne; and their two young children. Located in the Frio Cañon development, a private community 160 miles southwest of Austin and nestled aside the Frio River, their tucked-away compound, which contains a main house, two guest cottages and a two-story garage/yoga studio, is the ideal getaway. Architect Tim Cuppett, who is also based in Austin, teamed up with Dalgleish Construction Company to make the family’s dream a reality.
The main house, which is modeled after a pioneer dog run home and features enclosed indoor-outdoor spaces that are comfortable even through the long days of summer, has clearly defined cozy areas and shies away from the popular open-concept floor plan.
“The initial concept of the project was to try and create a place that was drastically different from the experience you would get at home,” says David Dalgleish, the founder of the Dalgleish Construction Company. “If we replicated a suburban house on this property, the experience of going out there would wear off quickly.”
With two bedrooms, a bunkroom and two and a half bathrooms, the main house lacks a great room but makes up for its absence with other spaces “designed to emphasize the outside and recreational life,” says Dave Kilpatrick, a partner at Tim Cuppett Architects. The living room is awash in a rich navy, and an oversize Eames leather chair, bookshelves, a fireplace and dark wooden floors make it a room the family can escape to during overly warm days or come together in during the winter.
Thanks to a team adept at balancing contemporary architecture with layered and vintage-inspired design, the home at once feels both modern and comfortable. The kind of space that manages to stand out but is also loved by all. Some of the bolder choices include feminine floral wallpaper, black master-bath tile and the pairing of bright colors. These selections complement the daring lines of the home’s overall structure.
“Anne Carter set the direction for the interior development and wanted bold, contrasting colors and a mix of modern and traditional furnishings,” Cuppett says. The interiors play to the unique exterior of the main house, which is “clad in cedar with an eco-stain treatment appropriate for the rural setting with its rudimentary aesthetic,” Dalgleish says. The building itself has a contemporary shape but still ties back to history and the more subdued design of the development as a whole.
Furthermore, the buildings are placed on a diagonal, which allows the Carters to have a line of sight directly to the river. “When all is said and done and you are driving, the buildings look like they were original to the site and everything just popped up around it,” Cuppett says. The two guest cottages, which sit adjacent to the main house, have a sleeping loft and a bathroom and are in a casita style. Lastly, the multifunctional fourth building on the property, the two-story garage/yoga studio, is set amid the trees, and privacy is provided from slanted slats.
“It seemed odd that you could go to an isolated property and then shut yourself in a room to meditate,” Cuppett says. “What better place to be than outside?” The top floor is essentially a glass box where the Carters can escape for some quiet time.
The Carter compound, which totals 3,600 square feet of air-conditioned space on 2.7 river-front acres, is, for this busy family, the perfect spot for respite. It’s beautiful, serene and full of surprises.