Green at Heart: A Traditional-Looking Green Bungalow

In this traditional-looking Austin home, green is more than skin deep.

| November/December 2005

  • Glass tile serves as a backsplash for his-and-hers sinks in the master bath. To the right sits the glass-brick-enclosed shower; its floor is made of halved river rocks.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • A rich palette of reds and golds inspires the McKaskles' warm, inviting master suite. The room is located toward the back of the house where the lot slopes slightly downward, so the view gives the impression that it's perched among the live oak branches just outside.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • After growing up in houses with formal dining rooms, Emily and Greg wanted a casual place to eat, so Barley and Pfeiffer added this dining nook overlooking the covered back porch.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • Tapered columns, exposed rafters, and a natural wood door surrounded by glass offer the warm and inviting Craftsman details the McKaskles wanted.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • The "Y"-shaped support that holds up the larger than normal overhang in front of the McKaskle residence is one of the only clues that this isn't a typically built home.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • Architects Peter Pfeiffer (back left) and Alan Barley (back center), along with project manager Paul Vetter (back right), stand behind Emily and Greg McKaskle.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • Lower level
  • Upper level
  • Tapered stucco columns add a Craftsman-style touch to the kitchen bar, while a runner points the way toward an office nook through the doorway. The floors are richly stained concrete.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • A dropped ceiling helps define the elegant yet compact and efficient kitchen at one end of the great room. The countertops are polished, sealed limestone.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • The locally quarried limestone, hunter-green clapboard, and red trim add to the natural feel of the house. A cast-iron light fixture illuminates the details.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • The same limestone used on the house exterior was chosen for the hearth and chimney in the great room. Exposed rafters help define the sitting area.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy
  • Barley and Pfeiffer architects uses these signature support columns for deep overhangs that have been carefully calculated to shade the house during the hottest part of the day.
    Photo By Paul Bardagjy

In the caliche and limestone hills of west Austin, where live oak and mountain cedar perch on the shores of Lake Austin like cattle drawn to water, Emily and Greg McKaskle and their baby daughter, Adeline, live in one of the greenest homes in town. You’d never know it by looking.

The McKaskles’ simple, compact, bungalow-style home was built in 2002 on a slight slope in a thick grove of trees just off a dirt road. Should you pass by the front drive (which is unlikely given that there are few other houses nearby), there isn’t much that would catch your eye. Oh, there’s a three-foot band of “D”- panel Galvalume metal under the roof eaves and an odd concrete column holding up a larger-thannormal overhang. But besides a few interesting Craftsman design details, nothing.

The McKaskle place begs an obvious question: What does a green house look like? Not so long ago, “green” meant rammed earth or straw bale walls covered in stucco. The rounded corners and earthy hideaways gave the impression that hobbits, rather than humans, lived behind the rustic wooden doors. A look at the McKaskle residence, on the other hand, suggests that a home with sustainable features can look pretty darn mainstream.

“A house doesn’t have to have a green aesthetic in order to be green,” says Peter Pfeiffer, FAIA, of Barley and Pfeiffer Architects, the Austin-based firm that designed the home. Pfeiffer and his partner, Alan Barley, AIA, incorporate environmental elements into their overall designs in a much more subtle way. Only when you take a close look do you realize how green their buildings are.

Cozy and comfortable 

In 1997 Emily and Greg knocked on the door of Barley and Pfeiffer Architects after reading about them in a local magazine. “We didn’t even know green building existed, but the article convinced Greg and me that was the way we wanted to go,” says Emily, a romance novel writer. The couple liked the firm’s philosophy of mixing sustainability with traditional design. “We didn’t even interview anyone else,” she adds.

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