Don and Lynn Dille's house feels like a modern take on an old-fashioned farmhouse. Set in a rural residential neighborhood off William Cannon Drive, the home is surrounded by native landscaping and set back from the street.
In fact, from the street, all visitors see is a driveway leading up to a garage that has a second floor that can be converted into an apartment. The house is tucked behind the garage and separated by a walkway. It's the ultimate in privacy while still maintaining that city address.
The Dilles chose to build this house with the future in mind: It's eco-friendly and energy efficient as well as a space where they can age in place. The house is part of the June 9 Cool House Tour, which is a partnership of Austin Energy Green Build and Texas Solar Energy Society.
The house, built in 2016, was a lifetime in the making for the Dilles. They took all the things they loved and hated about past homes in California, Virginia and North Texas to create something right for the way they live now and might need to live in the future. They also took on the challenge of trying to be as close to net zero in energy consumption as they could be, having minimal impact on the environment around them while still providing a comfortable space.
The home is accessible with wider doorways, level floors and bathrooms that can work with a wheelchair. The unfinished second story of the garage can be converted into a space for a live-in aide.
The space was also designed around the kids and grandkids coming over every Friday night for dinner and sometimes bringing friends. That meant a large dining room area to accommodate a large table with additional leaves between the living room and kitchen. It also meant having a well-appointed kitchen for Lynn Dille, who loves to cook.
The Dilles also fell in love with oversize rustic furniture by Stickley when they lived in Southlake, and this home's living room's dimensions had to fit with those pieces.
They also love modern and arts and crafts style as well as more traditional elements such as signature wood furniture pieces, quilts made by Lynn Dille and pottery picked up on adventures around the world.
Every piece of artwork, though, had to have a place, because they wanted to steer clear of a cluttered look.
That's also part of being eco-friendly — keeping the house the right size for them.
"There's very little that doesn't get used," Don Dille says.
The home's energy efficiency started with the orientation of the structure on the property by architect Joseph M. Bennett of JMB Architects. It avoids the harsh rays of the sun coming into the home while still providing natural light. That also meant adding large overhangs on walls where sunlight would hit more directly. It meant using clerestory windows (those above eye level) as well.
And while many people might add clerestory windows for light, the Dilles' windows are operational and create good cross ventilation from the high windows on one wall to the larger windows on the opposite wall. Often they can just open the windows to cool the house in fall and spring.
The Dilles were very intentional about keeping the house a comfortable temperature year-round. Builder A.R. Lucas Construction Co. used two-by-six boards instead of two-by-fours and used spray foam insulation. All of the ductwork and equipment is within the conditioned envelope of the house.
Instead of a more standard heating and air conditioning system, they have a mini-split variable refrigerant flow system, which means they can control different areas and the system does not need to kick on and off all the time. Instead, it gradually increases and decreases the flow of refrigerant as it needs to. They also have a whole house dehumidifier, to avoid the need to run an air conditioner just to control humidity.
Related: Keep your house cool this summer by taking care of your air conditioner now
They don't have to spend a lot of wasted energy on lighting because of the natural light available and because all of the lights are LED; there's a variety of options for how bright and which lights to turn on based on what is needed.
The home has solar panels that often put energy back into the grid instead of drawing it out. They have an option to add more if their energy need goes up.
Related: Is it time to go solar?
The home was a big project, and often the Dilles had differing views. They pulled in son Ken Dille, who is a graphic artist, to help with some of the design decisions and to design and build the cabinetry throughout the house.
While the goal was about getting close to net zero and using green techniques, the house also had to be a space where they would want to live. They could live entirely in the master suite, living room, dining room, kitchen and screened-in porch on the first floor, but the house has room for guests with a second floor with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a living space.
Often the guests are the grandchildren, who have cubbies in the staircase for toys and books as well as a "Harry Potter" closet that acts as both storage and a great hide-and-seek room.
Once outside, there is space to meander around the beds of native flowers in the front or raised beds of vegetables in the back.
Don Dille loves to sit in his living room and look out at the backyard and the wildlife that comes by. "It's just relaxing," he says. "I enjoy the peace."
Lynn Dille says she couldn't pick one thing as her favorite thing about the house. "It's so comfortable to live in," she says. "It just works."
Related: See past Cool House homes: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014