Monday, February 23, 2009

The Great Outdoors

As the weather warms up, most of us are spending more time outdoors. One of the things we loved about our house when we moved in a year ago was its large lot -- .60 acre. If there'd been much landscaping before, most of it had been removed before we bought the house. We were glad about that, because the only thing worse than putting in new landscaping is having to rip out the old stuff.

In our former home, we felt pretty confident about what plants would work well in that climate, and which ones absolutely would not thrive. Once we got to the Hill Country, we were excited to have more options. What we didn't realize was that the soil varies in different parts of the Hill Country. You can see gorgeous crape myrtles and other flowering plants and bushes in the cities of San Antonio and Austin. But once you get in the more rural areas, the landscape, though pretty, is a bit "scrubbier." Combine the scrub of our area with the extreme drought over the last year, and only those native plants and grasses are surviving right now.

We attempted to plant a few evergreens as foundation plantings last year, but once the drought hit, and water usage was restricted, most of those bushes didn't make it. We are realizing that xeriscaping is the way to go. Xeriscaping is landscaping with plants and grasses that do not require supplemental irrigation. Unfortunately, even xeriscaping requires a bit of water to get the tender vegetation going, and we're not allowed to do any outdoor watering with anything resembling a hose or faucet.

Until the water restrictions are lifted a bit, we're looking at putting in a bit of hardscaping. Hardscaping is masonry work, woodwork and other nonplant elements in a landscape.

You've seen photos of our media room, which started as an attached garage. When that garage was converted to a room, the previous owners built a detached garage with a limestone facade to match the house. The structure is about 10-15 feet from the side/back of the house. Possibly at that same time as well, the former patio was converted into a sun porch.

Now, we use the sun porch, but there are times when we'd like to hang out outside. What we'd like to do is create a walkway and stone patio, taking advantage of the back wall of the garage.

(Pics were taken before we moved in).

We'd like to create a separate patio space with a flagstone floor. Eventually, we'll build a pergola structure to cover the patio, but there's no rush to do that. You see the tree and its limestone planter. The tree will stay, and we're thinking it may have been planted in the planter as opposed to the planter being built around the tree, so while the planter will go, we may have to keep a smaller planter.

The stone floor will go from each corner of the garage and extend to the tree. You can't tell from the pics, but there's a slope between the house and the garage, so we'll create stone steps and a walkway for a seamless transition.

Eventually, we'd like to build an outdoor fireplace, but if we get impatient, we'll go with a stone firepit.

How are you spending your time outdoors this year?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hooked on Friday Cocktail

Since this is a Friday post, my friend, Julia, has Hooked on Fridays. What am I hooked on today? Well, I guess I'm hooked on the Friday Cocktail. Good friend, Amber, created the concept. She's taking a break from blogging, so I have her permission to continue the Friday Cocktail. I tried to turn it into a blog party last week. It was fun, but only two revelers showed up. Plus, I had a bit of an issue with Mr. Linky. I am only hooked on Mr. Linky when someone else uses him. :-)

So this week's Friday Cocktail is Loreena McKennitt. If you like Enya, you'll probably like McKennitt. Her voice is similar to Enya's, but her music sounds a bit more ethnic and incorporates more drums.

This song is called "The Mummer's Dance." I don't know what a mummer is, but not only do I love this music, I love the lyrics. Enjoy!

The Mummer's Dance

When in the springtime of the year
When the trees are crowned with leaves
When the ash and oak, and the birch and yew
Are dressed in ribbons fair.

When owls call the breathless moon
in the blue veil of the night
When shadows of the trees appear
amidst the lantern('s) light.

We've been rambling all the night
and sometime of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay.

Who will go down to those shady groves
and summon the shadows there
And tie a ribbon on those sheltering arms
in the springtime of the year.

The sounds of birds seem to fill the wood
and when the fiddler plays
All their voices can be heard
long past their woodland days.

We've been rambling all the night
and sometime of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay.

And so they linked their hands and danced
'round in circles and in rows
And so the journey of the night descends
when all the shades are gone.

A garland gay we bring you here
And at your door we stand
Here's a sprout, well budded out
The work of our Lord's hand.

We've been rambling all the night
and sometime of this day
Now returning back again
we bring a garland gay.

If you like the Friday Cocktail idea and would like to participate in the Friday Cocktail blog party, please leave a comment on this post. If we can get enough participants, I'll bite the bullet with Mr. Linky and make the margaritas. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home of the Week -- Westlake Contemporary

One of the neatest things about living in Austin is how artsy and unique the city is. Even some of the homeless have creative signs ("Will work for beer," etc.)

Austin can be an architect's paradise, because almost anything goes. Most people would think that philosphy is quite recent, but I suspect it's been around this funky city for a long time. This week's home is a pretty good indicator of how unique an architect might've been more than 30 years ago.

Situated on a wooded acre in the beautiful suburb of Westlake, the mls listing calls this home, built in 1978, a living sculpture. It is a stone and glass structure designed by John Watson, described in the real estate listing as a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.

The interior of the home kind of reminds me of the interior of the snail in the original "Dr. Doolittle" movie or a yurt. Outside, there's a pond, stream, waterfall and negative edge pool. Sadly, the photos aren't the best, but you can still get a great idea of the home and its surroundings.

In keeping with the uniqueness of the home, there is only one bedroom. Funny that the mls list touted the school district. It would be hard for a family with young children to share this house, in spite of its 2500 square feet. If you don't have to worry about accommodating children, this home can be yours for $1.5 million.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hamptons Showhouse

If you were like me this past weekend, you watched "Something's Gotta Give" for the umpteenth time. I think it's a cute movie, and Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton give flawless performances. Plus, if you're into great interior design, you've gotta love the house.

I'm not quite sure how, but I stumbled upon a Hamptons showhouse from summer 2008. The exterior is quite reminiscent of the home in the movie. (The first photo is the SGG house. The following two are the Hamptons showhouse).

The showhouse has a handful of living and home office areas. If you think that's over the top, wait till you see the bedrooms.

Don't these stairs remind you of the living space in the SGG house?

SGG living room...

The kitchen has some similarities to the SGG kitchen but completely stands alone as its own design.

Bedroom one...

Bedroom 2...
Bedroom 3...

Bedroom 4... Notice the nubby linen ceiling.

This space is listed as the junior suite. It looks like it was inspired by Tiffany's -- especially the blue.

This space is listed as the master suite. It's probably my least favorite bedroom in the whole home.
This is the master suite.

This space is the children's "study." For some reason, I can't really see kids studying here -- in the Hamptons.
This is the cabana.
The showhouse calls this space the art lounge.

As with most showhouses, this one utilized several designers to create the rooms. Do you have a favorite?