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“The Big House got its name from its front elevation, so we always try to orient the buildings so you see that elevation first from the street or the clubhouse,” says Michael Smith, director of Humphreys & Partners Architects’ Dallas studio.
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Photos: courtesy IMPACT Developers
This article first appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Pro Builder.

Anyone can just put buildings on a site. We like to try to create a true neighborhood feel with every site plan and project we design.” That’s Michael Smith, studio director for Humphreys & Partners Architects, in Dallas, talking about Hermosa Village, a 238-unit apartment community in Leander, Texas, near Austin, that breaks the mold of high-density multifamily rental design and amenities.

Location: Hermosa Village, Leander, Texas
Acres: 19.29
Units: 238 one-level flats (22 buildings)
Density: 12.12 DU/AC
Unit size (range): 684 – 1,450 sf (one to three bedrooms)
Rent: From $1,000 per month
Architect: Humphreys & Partners Architects, Dallas
Builder: Cadence McShane Construction, Addison, Texas
Developer: IMPACT Developers, Austin, Texas
Interior design: Leslie Fossler Interiors, Austin
Landscape architect: PLACE designers, Portland, Ore.
Photos: courtesy IMPACT Developers

Defying Density With Apartments That Look More Like Townhomes

The firms’ Big House approach—a moniker it trademarked—is unique in making the 10 to 14 stacked flats per building look more like attached townhomes or even a single-family home, with individual entries into the ground-floor units. “For the density the developer wanted, [this design approach] made sense right off the bat,” Smith says.

Along the back of the Big House buildings, two housing types feature single-car garages with direct access to their living units, while the third type omits the garage, making space for an additional four units per building. Just five of the 22 buildings on the 19.29-acre site are of the latter type. The apartments themselves average almost 1,000 square feet, the largest being 1,450 square feet on one level—footprints that exceed the local norm.

That aspect, combined with the exterior’s Big House aesthetic, “makes the units feel like you’re living in a smaller home versus an apartment,” Smith says—a key element that has attracted move-down empty nesters to the multifamily development since the project opened in September 2020.

Hermosa Village multifamily rental buildings use a Big House concept in modern farmhouse style
Humphreys & Partners Architects has applied the Big House concept in various styles across 300 multifamily communities in 40 states, though Hermosa Village is the first project to feature a Modern Farmhouse aesthetic. “We started working on this community back in 2016, before this look became all the rage,” Smith says. “The concept perfectly suited the look, feel, density, and the number of garages the developer wanted to offer.”

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development kitchen interior
With high ceilings and an average of about 1,000 square feet of living space, the stacked flats at Hermosa Village live larger than competitive product. “We don’t design things that are just going to cost money without any return,” designer Michael Smith says. “It has to actually add value for the occupants and the community.”

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development garage access
Most units have direct-access garages along the back of their Big House. Private, covered entries along all rear elevations open to staircases that lead to the second-floor flats.


Hermosa Village multifamily rental development floor plans
Hermosa Village features three types of two-story Big House buildings with roughly the same footprint (above). Types I and II offer ground-level, direct-access garages serving 10 stacked-flat units, while Type III eschews garages so the design can accommodate 14 stacked-flat units. “Not every unit has a direct-access garage, but a lot of them do, and that’s a huge selling point,” Smith says. “If we ever do a phase two or a second project for the same developer, almost without fail they’ll either add more garages or go to 100% garage buildings because they tend to pay for themselves.”

Outstanding Amenities for Multifamily Rental

The other attraction is Hermosa Village’s amenities package. There’s the requisite pool, of course, but surrounding it is a plethora of activities rarely offered in rental communities: a community garden; a cornhole court, ping-pong table, and a human-scale chess set; an outdoor kitchen and dining areas; and an extensive clubhouse featuring both communal and more personal gathering areas, some of which open to common green spaces. “It was a fun project to work on,” Smith says. “We think it turned out pretty well.”

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development aerial view
Aerial view of Hermosa Village with its centrally located amenities.

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development site plan
To create more distance from an adjacent single-family development, Hermosa Village’s site plan extends setbacks along the back property line an extra 15 feet beyond what was required. “We don’t ever want to impose too much on our neighbors,” says Humphreys & Partners Architects’ Michael Smith. An early version of the design also called for a 23rd building of 10 units, but the developer opted for a community garden as part of the amenities instead. “We like to try to create a community feel in every site plan we design,” Smith says, “and I think it’s paying dividends.”

Hermosa Village outdoor pool surrounded by multifamily rental buildings in modern farmhouse style

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development aerial view of amenities, pool, and clubhouse

Hermosa Village's amenities package includes a range of outdoor living opportunities

Hermosa Village's amenities package includes a cornhole court and pingpong table
Amenities at Hermosa Village easily outstrip the competition. A resort-style pool is the focus of the centrally located amenities, which also include a generous clubhouse (top first and second images) with both large-group and more intimate areas (middle), and multiple game areas, including a cornhole court (center).

Hermosa Village multifamily rental development community garden and silo
The community garden and silo at Hermosa Village are also centrally located as part of the development's amenities package.