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From Infill Lot to Urban Oasis: Home Design That Maximizes a Compact Site

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From Infill Lot to Urban Oasis: Home Design That Maximizes a Compact Site

Elevated creativity makes the most of a tiny tree-filled lot to create a light-filled, modern farmhouse in this award-winning design in Austin

By Michele Lerner August 11, 2023
Modern farmhouse home on a compact infill lot in Austin, Texas
Designer Traci Kelley of Kelley Design Group, in Austin, opted for a mix of black and white for the home's exterior, so the dark-colored garage contrasts with the bright white of the main house. | Photos: Cate Black Photography
This article first appeared in the July/August 2023 issue of Pro Builder.

Designing a 2,700-square-foot home for a narrow infill lot measuring slightly more than 7,000 square feet, with several large trees to preserve, required some architectural gymnastics. But designer Traci Kelley, owner of the Kelley Design Group, in Cedar Creek, Texas, succeeded in creating a light-filled home with a flexible, open-concept layout for this spec house in an Austin, Texas, neighborhood. The house sold as soon as it was completed, and the project won a Platinum award in the Single-Family Production Detached Home 2,501 – 3,000 square feet Built for Sale category in the National Association of Home Builders' 2022  Best in American Living Awards, as well as Best in Region–South Central.

High-Contrast, Modern Farmhouse Style in an Urban Setting

“The goal was to make the home feel like a private oasis even though it’s in a busy neighborhood,” Kelley says. The two-story home’s aesthetic is transitional modern farmhouse, characterized by steep rooflines and a bright, white exterior with black-trimmed windows and doors. An adjacent carport creates a connection to the house from the contrasting, dark-hued garage, which features natural wood doors to soften its look and which limit visibility into the garage from the street.

“We turned the house 90 degrees, which is unusual on such a small lot, but that gave it a nice façade,” Kelley says. 

Project Specs: Urban Oasis

Location: Austin, Texas
Lot size: 0.1681 acres
Total built footage: 2,700 square feet
Bedrooms/bathrooms: 3/3.5
Designer: Kelley Design Group, Cedar Creek, Texas
Builder: CKN Capital Group, Austin
Interior designer: Etch Design Group, Austin
Photos: Cate Black Photography

Crafting a Flexible Floor Plan and Light-Filled Interiors on a Small, Infill Lot

Inside, white walls and plenty of glass combine with the natural warmth of wood used for the floors, ceiling beams, and staircase banister. The fireplace, a focal point for the great room, is surrounded by a paneled wall that adds depth and interest and leads the eye up to the wood beams overhead. 

Entryway and staircase in a modern farmhouse design in Austin, Texas.
The two-story foyer sets the tone for this transitional home with white paneled walls, a black-trimmed glass door, and plenty of natural light. Wood banisters add warmth to the white-and-black modern farmhouse, and a contemporary-style chandelier adds pizzazz to the foyer’s light-filled upper level.
Living room in a modern farmhouse-style home in Austin, Texas
Details such as the paneled wall behind the fireplace add interest and provide a focal point for the open floor plan. 
Living room view to the pool in a modern farmhouse-style home in Austin, Texas
The open floor plan, expansive use of glass, and added height from cathedral ceilings make the interiors of the 2,700-square-foot house feel even larger.
Open-plan living in a modern farmhouse-style home in Austin, Texas
Cathedral ceilings with wood beams and black-framed floor-to-ceiling windows showcase designer Traci Kelley’s transitional architectural style. 

“Austin has a lot of young professionals, but I try to think of flexible, multigenerational use wherever possible when I design a home,” Kelley says. As such, she put the primary bedroom on the main level to accommodate older buyers seeking one-level living or parents who want privacy from kids upstairs.

The three-bedroom, 3 1/2-bath home has an open floor plan for entertaining, with tall windows in the great room that frame views of the swimming pool and mature trees outside. Patios—both covered and uncovered—and balconies provide opportunities for indoor-outdoor living with some protection from the hot Texas sun.

Pool and outdoor living space in a modern farmhouse design in Austin, Texas.
Kelley sited the house to preserve tall trees for privacy and included glass walls and a glass-enclosed balcony for extra interior light. The primary suite is set off from the rest of the house and clad in the same dark siding as the garage, bookending the main structure.

“The kitchen opens to the living and dining areas, but it still has a cozy feel and slight visual separation from those rooms and the foyer,” Kelley says.  The great room has windows at both ends to make it easy to see the pool from the kitchen without creating a “fishbowl” effect, and a powder room is located on the pool side of the kitchen instead of near the drop zone, so people don’t have to walk through the kitchen with wet feet.



Lower floor plan of modern farmhouse style urban infill home in Austin, Texas


Upper floor plan of modern farmhouse style urban infill home in Austin, Texas
Floor plans courtesy Kelley Design Group

The family entrance and drop zone are accessible from the rear of the carport (see plans, above), and employ a bold, hexagonal-patterned floor tile to create an attractive transition into the main house; it also contains the laundry room. 

Laundry and transition to main house in a modern farmhouse design in Austin, Texas
Tiled walls and floors are practical and low maintenance, while ample cabinetry provides practical storage in the laundry room (above, left), which also functions as the family entrance to the home. The drop zone (above, right) connects the carport to the kitchen and provides a stylish transition into the main house. 
Kitchen and butler's pantry in a modern farmhouse-style home in Austin, Texas
The open kitchen (above, left) features a sleek, modern design with contemporary pendant lights over an island with seating and storage. A mullioned glass pocket door links the pantry (above, right) and kitchen and ties in with the black-trimmed windows in the rest of the open floor plan. 

Upstairs, Kelley designed each bedroom with a wall for a bed, and the bedrooms all offer plenty of light as well as privacy. A central loft has a wall of glass, and the flex room leads to a covered balcony with access to an uncovered balcony, both overlooking the pool. 

Bedroom balcony in a modern farmhouse home in Austin, Texas.
The second-floor loft, a flex space between the two upper-level bedrooms, has glass doors to the covered balcony overlooking the pool.
Main bedroom and bathroom in modern farmhouse design in Austin, Texas.
The main suite (above, left) is located on the first floor in a wing off the kitchen and features a raked ceiling and private, covered patio. The luxurious main bathroom (above, right) includes a freestanding tub, glass-enclosed shower, and natural light from a side window.

Michele Lerner is an award-winning real estate journalist in the Washington, D.C., area.


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