Grand getaways: two larger-than-life custom vacation homes

These vacation homes are anything but the stereotypical beach shack or cabin in the woods.

March 23, 2012

Project #2: Respectful of nature

A covered porch offers respite from the Texas sun. Water for the pool and landscaping is supplied from an on-site, 10,000-gallon storage tank. PHOTOS: TRE DUNHAM/FINE FOCUS


More than anything, the owners of this home in Wimberley, Texas, wished to minimize their impact on the land and save as many trees as possible. That wasn’t easy given the hilly, rocky terrain; a successful collaboration between the builder, architect, and client made it happen.

“They wanted a house with good views that was kind of sheltered in the woods,” says Gary Cunningham of Cunningham Architects, Dallas. The clients’ admiration for the work of renowned California architect Richard Neutra inspired Cunningham to design a modern home with lots of glass. 

The 5,000-square-foot home is nestled into a bluff and has an L-shaped plan that separates the bedroom wing from the more public kitchen, living room, and dining room wing. There are essentially two boxes: one of glass and the other with an exterior of stained cement fiberboard. “The home starts out as one story, then steps down the hill to become a three-level house,” Cunningham says.

Roughly in the center of the home, beneath the main living areas, are a guest suite and a media room that doubles as a storm shelter. The roof deck offers expansive views of the surrounding area and is a favorite spot for large family gatherings. It also acts as a rainwater harvesting surface for an on-site, 45,000-gallon collection system that supplies all the water for the household’s needs.

“The clients didn’t want to drill a well,” Cunningham explains. Another 10,000 gallons of water are stored separately for the pool and landscaping.

It took the team six months just to lay out a half-mile road up to the property. There were many trees they wanted to save, including Texas mountain laurels and live oaks.

“The road up the hill to the site was a challenge,” says Grady Burnette of Burnette Builders, Wimberley, Texas. “Parts of it are fairly steep and there are some sharp curves in it. Getting massive pieces of equipment up there took some thinking and planning, and because there was such limited access, excavation was tricky as well.”

Slats in the living room’s fir ceiling conceal lighting and insulation for sound attenuation — critical in a home with concrete floors and glass walls. Sliding doors open to capture breezes for natural cooling. 



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