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Breezy Spanish Colonial Home

A Spanish Colonial style dream house is a hidden treasure in Austin

Written by Helen Thompson
  • John Granen

    One look at the lazy Colorado River with the mist-covered Texas Hill Country behind it was all it took. Kim Granger knew she had found the ideal waterfront property for building her Austin dream house. And one look at houses designed by Paul Lamb was all it took to know she’d also found the ideal architect. "I didn’t even know who he was," admits Kim, president of a charitable foundation. "But I was driving around and saw a Mediterranean-style house I loved and knew that whoever did it had to be really talented."

    A couple of phone calls later, when Kim and Lamb met, he was as smitten by her five-acre property as she was. "I walked onto the site, and I couldn’t believe it," he recalls. "There was a view of the river and the hills beyond. It was a hidden treasure, right in the middle of town."

    In the dining room, shown here, substantial chairs in hand-blocked linen offset the Persian rug’s formality.

    Photography: John Granen

    Architect: Paul Lamb, Paul Lamb Architects, 618 Lavaca St., Suite 1, Austin, TX 78701; 512/478-7316.
    Interior design: Fern Santini, Abode, 4414 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX 78756; 512/300-2303,
    Lighting: Herb Schoening, Herb Schoening Interior Design, 2208 Sunny Slope Dr., P.O. Box 200925, Austin, TX 78703; 512/542-0033. Contractor/builder: Don Crowell, 5524 Bee Cave Rd., Suite J-1, West Lake Hills, TX 78746; 512/328-9974.
    Landscape design: Tait Moring Landscape Architects, 6707 Bee Cave Rd., Austin, TX 78746; 512/327-6616.

    Table: Raymond Hemza, Hemza Designs, 512/707-9987,
    Chairs ("Harley’’): John Saladino, 212/684-6805,
    Chair fabric ("Arabesque’’/Bark on Green Tea #2102/04): Rose Tarlow/Melrose House, 323/651-2202, trade only.
    Persian rug: James Powell Antiques, 512/477-9939.
    Mirrors; art; gilded French console table: owner’s collection.
    Wall finish: colored plaster.
    Chandelier: James Powell Antiques, 512/477-9939.
    Lamps: Abode, 512/300-2303.

  • John Granen

    As a native of California, Kim had grown up with Spanish Colonial architecture and wanted her new home built in the same style. For Texas, which was under the Spanish flag from 1716 to 1821, no architectural style could be more appropriate. Austin, like the rest of the state, is brimming with white stucco Spanish Colonial houses with red tile roofs. (More than any other states, Texas and California have America’s finest examples of Spanish mission architecture. California has more of them, but Texas missions are older.) "Kim was very specific about the Spanish Colonial style she wanted, and it seemed right for this site," says Lamb.

    Lamb took one design cue from California architect George Washington Smith, whose Spanish Colonial-style houses are now classics of the early 20th century. "He specialized in the surprise," notes Lamb. "When you approach his houses, you can’t always tell what’s going on beyond the facade." The architect’s instinct suggested that the Granger house needed the same subtle touch. Lamb used a courtyard as a centerpiece for the floor plan. A see-through gallery offers a view into the centrally located dining room and out to the rolling hills in back.

    The central courtyard of this new Spanish Colonial-style home keeps breezes moving from all directions.

    Landscaping: Tait Moring Landscape Architects, 78746.

  • John Granen

    Behind the composed exterior suggested by the symmetrical courtyard Lamb folded a wing on either side—one providing public spaces for entertaining, the other with a kitchen and bedrooms where Kim and her two sons spend most of their time when they aren’t swimming in their pool or hanging out in the backyard.

    Here, Kim Granger and sons Mackenzie, left, and Sean relax on red-tiled steps that stretch across the back of the house, providing easy access from porches and terraces.

  • John Granen

    Interior designer Fern Santini found her inspiration for the home’s design in its architecture. "The minute I stepped into the entry I was totally struck by the colors," she says. Creamy plaster walls lent a delicate luminescence to the interiors; earthy red-tile floors in the loggia enclosing the courtyard and dark-stained wood floors throughout the house offered a robust contrast to the graceful arches and soft light filtering in through the many windows. "It was important not to detract from the wonderful windows or from the light coming through them," Santini says.

    Santini selected furniture that ranges from crisply up-to-date, like the Saladino chairs in the dining room, to such 16th-century antiques as the cassone in the living room, where the old trunk doubles as a coffee table. Iron chandeliers with a hardy Texas character keep company with ornate French consoles in rooms defined by the simple grid of the big-paned steel doors.

    The rare Oushak rug shown here anchors the living room.


    Rug: Herb Schoening Interior Design, 512/542-0033.
    Sofa ("Knole’’): George Smith, 310/360-0880 trade only.
    Sofa fabric ("New Romance,’’ in "Marilyn Pleat’’/Platinum #8880B/02): Bart Halpern, 212/414-2727.
    Chairs; Greek cassone; candelabra lamps: James Powell Antiques, 512/477-9939.
    Fabric on chair in foreground ("Alhambra’’/Molasses #8639/05, by Larsen): Cowtan & Tout, 212/ 647-6900,, trade only.
    Fabric on pair of chairs ("Fenice’’ #5097-834, by Ardecora): Zimmer & Rohde, 866/627-6899,, trade only.
    Drapery ("Arcadia’’/Bronze): Rose Cumming, 787/434-2777,, trade only.

  • John Granen

    Steel French doors open onto the courtyard.

    Drapery ("Arcadia’’/Bronze): Rose Cumming, 787/434-2777,, trade only.

  • John Granen

    Santini opted for no window coverings in the master bedroom. Kim used her mink coats for the throw on the bed: "It’s nicer to snuggle up in them this way."

    Bedspread and skirt ("Charmeuse’’/Frost) Ann Gish, 212/969-9200,
    Throw: owner’s collection. Rug (by Barbara Barry): Tufenkian Carpets & Rugs, 800/432-9917,
    Chinese chest: owner’s collection.
    Mirror: Jan Showers & Assoc., 214/747-5252,, trade only.
    Upholstered chairs: Abode Inc., 512/300-2303. Chair fabric ("Albert’’): Schumacher, 800/332-3384, trade only.
    Pillow on chair ("Mistral’’/ Celadon): Archive, 360/830-0921. Bench ("Liam’’ by Mulholland Fine Furnishings): Abode, 512/ 300-2303.
    Bench fabric ("Bengaline’’/Ivory #251): J. Robert Scott, 800/651-4354.
    Coffee table: Jan Showers & Assoc., 214/747-5252.

  • John Granen

    The master suite's custom carpet quietly grounds chairs upholstered in scarf-weight wool challis. The chairs swivel to take in the view.

  • John Granen

    "What I love about this house," says Santini, "is that Paul was inspired by what Kim grew up with, but he didn’t copy it. Kim had a lot of emotion attached to her memories, and he was able to give her a house that was new and yet all her own." And with its Spanish accent, it’s pure Texas, too.

    Here, honed and polished Carrara marble turns the master bath into a showstopper.

    Tub surround; vanity; floor: Paul Lamb Architects, 512/478-7316.