2021 AIA Housing Awards: LeanToo by Nick Deaver


Architect:  Nick Deaver

Owner:  Stephanie Archer and George Rislov

Location: Austin, Texas

Category: One- and Two-Family Custom Residences

When the owners of this project sought to return to the simple, curated life afforded in Austin, Texas, they found a lovely but small 900-square-foot cottage constructed in 1936 to call home. The original home was crowded by a stand of aged and leaning live oaks and faced limited development possibilities because of an underground utility easement. But the team’s approach, centered on an understanding of the landscape, delivered a 1,000-square-foot addition that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces.

“This is a modest single-family home with an interesting design and good energy performance.”- Jury comment

The home is located in South Austin in an artistic neighborhood replete with century-old trees, wooden bungalows and cottages, and avian pathways. For this renovation and addition, the team honored the original home’s historical importance while providing thoughtful growth. The original structure is painted white both inside and out to highlight its natural materials, such as lightly stained strip oak flooring.

“This home is a good neighbor,” noted the jury. “It responds to the size constraints of the site without overwhelming or overdeveloping it and respects the livability of the community. This is a modest single-family home with an interesting design and good energy performance.”

The team retained the room layout and details of the original house, and it meets the frameless glazing of the addition along its raindrop wood siding. A transition between new and old happens where the ceiling rises. It reveals the tree canopy and light, which illuminates honed soapstone countertops and a steel plate island box inspired by minimalist artist Donald Judd’s works.

In the surrounding landscape, wood and concrete terraces float above a pea-stone yard and a boardwalk. The home continues to relate to the neighborhood through a board-formed concrete wall that wraps the landscape and is a central element of the design. Repurposed galvanized metal clads the addition, evoking the humble structures found across Texas.

A municipal easement above a stormwater inlet removed a portion of the buildable area from the site, a conflict for adding the backyard addition. The live oak sitting in the middle of the existing easement also posed a conflict. However, the team negotiated a trade of air rights in the current easement for rights to a future easement when the pipe needs to be replaced, guaranteeing the addition and extended life for the heritage tree.

LeanToo, the team’s second project for the client, was delivered at just $240 per square foot, making it a cost-efficient endeavor tailored to its inhabitants’ needs. It has become a frequent destination for the owners, who regularly welcome friends and neighbors into their home. They have also embraced a more walkable lifestyle and recently became a one-car family.


Casey Dunn
Casey Dunn
Casey Dunn
Casey Dunn

Additional information

Project Manager:  Adam Melius, Assoc. AIA

Contractor: Moontower

Structural Engineer: Leap  Structures


Ceara O’Leary, AIA (Chair), Detroit Collaborative Design Center, Detroit, MI

Allison Anderson, FAIA, unabridged Architecture, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Kelly Beamon, METROPOLIS, New York, NY

Alex Salazar, AIA, Salazar Architect, Portland, Oregon

Roberta Washington, FAIA, Roberta Washington Architects, New York, NY

About the Housing Awards

The Housing Awards emphasize good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource. Recipients show the world how beauty, safety, sustainability, and comfort can come together.

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