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What does a house built around a tree looks like inside? Take the Austin Modern Home tour

A giant, multiple trunk live oak tree in Barton Hills grew up around a 1,700-square-foot 1960s ranch home, but that home didn't stand the test of time. Builder and developer Brent Fannin of FIA Homes says that home, unlike others in the neighborhood, was in poor condition and ready for a teardown. 

Now a new mid-century modern-inspired home wraps around the tree's canopy with private spaces on each side of it and public spaces to the front of it. The home is designed on an angle to fit the tree and to take into account the tree's root zone to give it more space. 

"What's special about that lot was the beautiful tree around that house," says Megan Lin of Coxist Studio architecture firm. "It really became the pinpoint of how we decided to design around it. ... We even had to look at the arms of the tree and understand how to work around it."

A second master bedroom opens up to the backyard in this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

The tree sits in a backyard courtyard, but it's viewable from the street through a series of windows in the entry way and the living room that show off the grand tree to the neighborhood.

"Once you enter into the house, the first thing you see is the inner courtyard with this tree being embraced and highlighted," says Frank Lin, also of Coxist Studio.

The Barton Hills home is part of the virtual Austin Modern Home Tour happening March 6-7. Eight homes will be part of the tour, which offers both live question and answer sessions and recorded 360-degree videos. 

The second master bedroom on the first floor can be used as a bedroom or as a family room. It opens onto the backyard and pool area in this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

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The home offers four bedrooms, four bathrooms and 3,500 square feet of space. It was built as a spec home and recently sold. 

The size of the home could have been overpowering and out of place in the neighborhood, but Coxist Studio created tapered triangular rooflines that lighten up a traditional roofline and create a backdrop for the trees, Frank Lin says.

The Lins wanted the home to feel like it belonged in the neighborhood. "We really care about trying to build into neighborhood fabric something that keeps the neighborhood strong," Megan Lin says. "We want something new and fresh, but that feels like it fits within the neighborhood."

One of the greatest compliments a builder can get after being in a neighborhood for 12 months, Fannin says, is when neighbors say, 'This house really feels like it belongs here." That happened with this house, he says.

FIA Homes and Coxist Studio wanted this home in Barton Hills to fit into the ranch homes of the neighborhood but also feel timeless.  The home is part of the 2021 Austin Modern Home Tour.

The use of limestone was particularly important to helping this home fit into the neighborhood. 

The Lins and Fannin chose finishes that felt timeless such as the limestone, glass and steel on the outside and white oak floors and quartz counters on the inside. 

Even though the home is a nod to the mid-century modern style, not having it feel dated also was important. 

Steel slats in the living room window are angled in to give privacy from the street while bringing light into the living room and kitchen in this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

"Nothing turns me off more than looking at a structure that I know was built in 2015 because we knew what trends were going on then," Fannin says. "(This) homeowner is not going to have a home that they feel like they are going to have to update." 

The home is divided into zones of public verses private, but "they all live and are connected with each other," Frank Lin says.

Past feedback from other projects has been that people love a lot of windows, but they wanted more privacy. The front-facing public zone offers a living room with a limestone fireplace wall that sits between two sides of windows. One side faces the street and has steel privacy slats that Fannin figured out how to angle to provide the most privacy for the family while still letting in light. The other side faces the backyard courtyard with the tree and pool. 

Clerestory windows bring light into the kitchen while providing privacy from the neighbors in this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

The public zone also offers an open kitchen with Silestone counters and rift sawn oak veneer cabinets. Fannin always wants rooms like the kitchen to be functional, but the plugs are hidden throughout to not break up the beauty of the home's finishes. The kitchen also features clerestory windows that bring in light without the neighbors seeing inside.

Slats like those that are beside the living room window divide the living room and dining room spaces. 

FIA Homes and Coxist Studio chose materials that provide clean lines such as white oak, limestone and steel slats in this Barton Hills Home that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

The rest of the home's spaces are private zones. The home effectively has two master suites. The main master suite features a master bathroom full of textural elements, including fluted tile on the walls and diamond-shaped porcelain tiles.

"There's a lot more texture in the space.... it just feels like there's a softness with the texture, it's not all flat surfaces," says Megan Lin.

"The first thing anyone does when they get to that space is they touch it," Fannin says of the fluted wall tiles.

Diamond-shaped floor tiles and fluted wall tiles give the master bathroom texture and dimension in this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio that will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

You see in this master bathroom space how the home's architectural design gets carried out into the details. 

"From the initial design of this tapered triangle roofline that is the main architectural feature, from that big idea we really continued that echoing throughout the whole process, from the fluted wall to the triangulated floor tile up to the angle of the screen," says Frank Lin.

Fannin calls the other master suite the casita. It's at the other end of the house and features two walls of windows that can be opened up to let in backyard breezes. It can be used as a master bedroom or as a second family room or an office. Its bathroom is multifunctional with a door to the pool area and an entry from the living spaces.

This room is both Lins' favorite space. You can open up the window walls and "feel like you're in a pavilion," Megan Lin says. "Even with the doors closed, you still feel like you're outside. It's just an amazing space."

"You feel like you are sleeping outside," Frank Lin says. "You want to feel like you are engaging with nature."

Fannin's favorite space is the upstairs family room. "The family room is a fun place to be in the house," he says. It has the feeling of a treehouse. You can see down to the casita, into the living room and down to the pool area. 

Beside the family room are two bedrooms. Each has a bathroom, but the one closest to the family room also becomes the bathroom for that space, with a door to the family room and a door to the bedroom. 

The whole U-shaped design of this Barton Hills home by FIA Homes and Coxist Studio worked around the shape of the mature live oak tree that is the centerpiece of this property. The home will be on the Austin Modern Home Tour.

While the home might feel timeless, Fannin was smart about the mechanicals that keep the home environment comfortable. He used low-E, double pane, thermally broken aluminum windows; three Mitsubishi heat pump units; spray foam insulation; and Rockwool interior sound deadening insulation.  "The extra money spent on the mechanicals is well worth the expense," he says.

All of these things are hidden like the kitchen plugs. You know they are there, but you don't see the vents.

This home is also thoughtful about how people really live with built-in cabinetry in the pool bathroom, a mud room off the garage and laundry room beside it, and a mini-split heating and cooling unit in the garage that makes that space more useable. 

"We're trying to think of how people actually live in spaces and how they truly use it," Megan Lin says. "It just feels right. It feels like a home." 

Unlike some modern homes, this house does not feel stark and cold. 

 "We think of this as a softer modern and humanistic," Megan Lin says.

Nicole Villalpando writes about health, family and lifestyle for the American-Statesman. She can be reached at nvillalpando@statesman.com.

Austin Modern Home Tour

Eight homes on tour virtually with 360-degree imaging, plus live question and answer sessions. 

Various times, 9 a.m. March 6-4 p.m. March 7 

$40 per device

Tickets and information: mads.media/atxmod2021