The owners of this house in the Texas Hill Country wanted to update the upper floor master bedroom and bathroom of their modest cabin. They asked architect Kevin Alter of Alterstudio Architects, in Austin, to design a renovation that provides views of the cypress-dotted landscape on an inlet of Lake Austin.
The original bathroom had just one tinted-glass window on the side of the house that faces the water. Alter says the homeowners knew they wanted to open up to the view by adding some windows. "We pointed out great opportunities," he says, including a full wall of glass that includes a sliding door in the shower. "It makes you feel like you're showering outdoors."
Austin contractor Joseph Zambarano worked with a commercial glass company to build the glass wall. "It's essentially a storefront-style window unit," he says. Alter did not want a visible header on the window, so, to prepare the opening, Zambarano added steel supports to the roof rafters. "We transferred the load down through the basement wall and reinforced the floor joists at that location to carry the roof," he says.
Alter chose a crisp, clean, modern design to frame the natural beauty of the setting. "People think of modern [style] as being quite harsh," he says. "This bathroom is stripped down and sleek, but withrich materials."
The bathroom has a glass shower enclosure, a cherry vanity with a stainless steel trough sink suspended between a mirrored wall and the tempered glass panel of the shower, and a heated floor topped with a warmbeige local limestone. Alter also added a skylight to balance the natural light coming in through the glass wall.
He says that modern design requires precise craftsmanship because "you do not have trim to cover up mistakes." Zambarano agrees, adding, "A lot of traditional systems have tolerances built into them to accommodate things out of square or that are not level. But with modern design, tolerances are critical for the design to work."
The contractor says that his background in creating sculpture and building custom furniture -- where he worked with a range of materials -- provided him with the skills required to build this unusual project.