It was when the homeowners returned from a trip out of Austin and found a mushroom growing on their living room baseboard that they knew it was time to make a change. A house that the couple had lived in—and loved—for years had never been properly sited. Fern Santini, their Austin-based interior designer, who is also an old friend, recounts how the former house had been set on grade, askew, no less, which meant that when it rained, baseboards and walls were breeding grounds for mold and other inedible vegetation. The house was bulldozed, and a new residence was designed by Austin architect Mell Lawrence.
“My husband, Jerre, worked as the builder of the house, and Mell was the architect, who has worked with us for twenty years,” says Santini. “It was Mell who came up with the brilliant, genius idea of making the new house look like something out of England, since the homeowner is a real Anglophile.” Lawrence managed to evoke the atmosphere of an entire English village, though the house is only a single structure, with its brick exterior assuming a novel Flemish bond-like pattern. “We worked with the masons to add a textural quality to the bricks to catch light and create shadows,” says Lawrence.
Indeed, from the curb, and even when inside, the house appears to be three separate structures, though, ultimately, it is a single cohesive one. A “crazy roof line,” which is how Santini refers to the 23-degree pitches, imbues the house with a dramatic profile and effect. Jerre Santini and Lawrence collaborated on building the one-bedroom main house, which includes a glassed-in area that links the parts, while Santini configured the décor of the interiors. The new structure followed the original footprint of the old house. However, where there had once been a squat, dark dwelling with narrow windows, there is now an airy, high-ceilinged residence with expansive panes of glass for welcoming light.
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INTERIOR DESIGN BY FERN SANTINI
ARCHITECTURE BY MELL LAWRENCE
CONTRACTOR JERRE SANTINI
WRITTEN BY DAVID MASELLO
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN
This story appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of MILIEU