Brushytop House

Designed as a weekend getaway cabin for a young family of four, Brushy Top House provides a simple, rustic, yet completely refined setting to enjoy the Texas Hill Country landscape.

The clients, both in the military, were eager to push the design envelope to create a space for family and friends to gather and escape city life without sacrificing their urban sensibilities. Rather than place the structure high on the hill where originally envisioned, the architect sited it lower, close to a stand of trees to create a foreground to distant views instant natural landscape and welcome shade in this drought-prone region.

The 2,200 square-foot, cross-shaped building is organized as three masonry boxes that flank a central glass and timber wing great room that rises to the south maximizing panoramic views of the valley and distant hills framed by the big Texas sky. The third masonry box is storage unit anchoring the structure into the northern sloping site. The 2 ½ car garage, required by deed restrictions, doubles as a dining pavilion, open to framed views to the east and west. A lattice screen provides sun control and privacy with rolling screens that open to frame sunsets — an integral ingredient — to family evening meals, while a large ceiling fan overhead provides air circulation on hot summer nights.

The house is centered on the main room that functions like a community plaza and feels like an ocean liner pilot house that navigates toward the south overlooking the waves of natural grasses in the landscape valley beyond. A simple, open kitchen living space is surrounded on almost three sides by panoramic views through generous glass protected from the unforgiving Texas sun by deep overhangs. Space economies keep the footprint small while providing ample space and amenities: extra wide hallways flanking the central space become light-filled galleries with bunk beds for overflow dormitories to accommodate larger gatherings or an afternoon nap in the sun. Sliding barn doors acting like horse blinders provide movement and control openings and privacy, views and sunlight. The interior walls are clad entirely in low-maintenance but warm and earthy plywood; concrete floors complement this simple palette. The house was designed to be durable and easily cleaned; in extreme circumstances a hose and leaf blower could do the job. Its Hill Country rusticity and pragmatism are refined with simple, mid-century furnishings, pulling the aesthetic gently back to a comfortable sophistication.


  • Olson Defendorf Custom Homes


  • Dror Baldinger AIA
  • John Grable Architects
  • Kara Van de Keift


  • Blanco, TX


  • Completed February 2013