Charleston, SC Home Making Progress

Our design for a 2500 sf house in the Mt. Pleasant area of Charleston is coming along nicely. A recent site inspection at the framing stage was almost ruined due to rain but we managed to find a break in the weather long enough to inspect the work. James Richards of Gas Lantern Custom Homes is doing a great job and we're quite proud of this simple home designed in the Charleston vernacular style.

Recently Completed: Wilson Street Residences

The latest collaboration with developer Oam Parkash, the Wilson Street Residences feature two houses - a 2900 sf main house and a 650 sf secondary house. The two structures are separated by a courtyard with a tranquil pool and outdoor living area. The house is currently on the market and it is located in trendy South Central Austin.

Now Licensed in South Carolina

Since we have been commissioned to design a new custom home in Mt. Pleasant (suburb of Charleston) we are now licensed architects in South Carolina! Looking forward to doing more work in Charleston and elsewhere in this beautiful state.

Transformation of a 1960's Ranch Style House

Our clients bought the 1960's ranch style house for the amazing views of downtown. They had no idea that such a plain original design could be transformed so much. The second story addition contains the master bedroom suite and features mezmerizing views of the skyline. The stairway tucks behind the Living Room wall and receives natural light through clerestory windows facing north. While adding the addition we remodelled the downstairs, opening up the kitchen to the back deck and re-building the pool.

Existing house (above)

E5A Featured in New Book

Element 5 Architecture is proud to announce we are one of several contemporary Texas architects featured in a new book that hits the newstands this month. A long-overdue book documenting a state with a growing population, "Contemporary Texas Architecture" by E. Ashley Rooney displays the work of 34 Texas architects whose buildings embrace their region and place. These award-winning residences vary in style, scale, budget, and site, but they are all positioned to incorporate the Texas light, landscape, and local materials. More important, they are designed and constructed to deal with the prospect of climate change, including Texas-size hurricanes, tornadoes, heat, and drought. Readers will appreciate the regional rigor of these buildings sited on the Hill Country's arid escarpments, deep in the piney woods of East Texas, and in the insufferable heat of the southern coastal plain.


Cont. Tx Architecture.jpg

2nd Street House Completed

Our house that we have developed and is for sale (for some reason I have a hard time calling it a "spec house") just completed and it's on the market! Of course it took longer than we thought and cost more but in the end we're pleased with the product. Maybe putting it on the market the day before Christmas isn't the best timing but that's the way it worked out. The front house is 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, 2,000sf. Images are below...

The rear unit features 2 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and is 850sf. Images ae below...

Our Latest Project: Mid-Century Modern in the Hill Country

About 18 months ago Randi and Taylor approached us wanting a new house inspired by the concepts of Mid-Century Modern designs from the 1950's. The had purchased 10 acres of land near Hamilton's Pool about 20 miles west of Austin with amazing panoramic views of the Hill Country. It has been a long, rewarding process and the photos have just arrived. Taylor and Randi and their two kids move in this week and they are absolutely thrilled to see their dream house completed.

Element 5 Architecture is Hiring

We are looking for young, energetic professionals for at least one - maybe two - job openings as Intern Architect. Candidates should possess the following qualities:

proficiency in ArchiCAD

3-5 years of experience working in an architecture office

architecture degree from accredited university

knowledge of SketchUp, AutoCAD and/or Vectorworks would be helpful

Pay is commensurate with experience level.

Please send a resume and cover letter to

Why We Work in Multiple Genres

Many architects prefer designing in a certain style of architecture - in fact most appear to identify with one style or another on their websites and marketing materials. It gives your firm a clear identity and for the most part we tend to show modern architecture on our website. However, the fact is we work in many genres, depending on our client preferences, the neighboring context and even budget constraints. We feel that good architecture transcends style and a knowledgeable architect is able to work in many different styles and produce quality architecture. 

Tarrytown Residence

Tarrytown Residence

For a project in a conservative, established neighborhood in central Austin we designed a craftsman style house, with deep roof overhangs, awnings shading the windows and a large covered porch. The owners wished to have a very energy efficient home that fit into the style of the neighborhood.

Deep Eddy Residence

Deep Eddy Residence

Not all owners wish to fit stylistically into the neighborhood. In a more eclectic neighborhood in central Austin with a mix of traditional and contemporary homes, we desinged a modern home that conforms to the 2-story massing of the neighboring homes. However, the owners wanted a modern-style house that featured a large screened porch and roof deck facing downtown, towards the front. The house steps back from the street while ascending up a hillside.

Hamiltons Pool Residence

Hamiltons Pool Residence

One of our clients bought a large piece of land near Hamiltons Pool Preserve west of Austin with the intention of building a modest 3 bedroom home for the family and a recording studio for the husband who is a sound engineer. They have a true love of mid-century modern homes and specifically asked us to design an authentic MCM home, with a shallow pitch roof, deep roof overhangs, a carport and central courtyard. The house is still under construction and should be complete in July 2016.

Feature in Spectacular Kitchens of Texas

While our work has been featured in many magazines over the years, we are now featured in a book. Spectacular Kitchens of Texas (Signature Publishing Group, 2016) by Jolie Carpenter presents inspiring designs by 60 of the state’s top architects, interior designers, builders, and professionals specializing in upscale materials, finishes, and fixtures. The hardcover book includes new and re-envisioned residential spaces in a variety of styles, from classical to modern and everything in-between. 

The book can be purchased on Amazon here.

Anatomy of a Spec House, Part 2

Choosing the Perfect Window

Windows are one of the most important - and costly - parts of a house. Therefor we spend a lot of time researching, pricing and thinking of the aesthetics of our decision. When designing a spec house of course cost is a limiting factor. Early on we determined our design aesthetic would be "modern farmhouse" so that allows us to go with any window that has black window frames (which actually is more limiting then one might think). Since this house will be marketed to the mid- to upper-range market, our window selection came down to three types.

Vinyl Windows

The most affordable option. Very energy efficient. Overall a pretty decent window except when you have large units, then the frames tend to warp. A dark color frame tends to encourage warping in the summer. For those reasons we decided against vinyl.

Vinyl window by Jeld Wen

Vinyl window by Jeld Wen


A good mid-range price option. Very sturdy, thin frames that lend to a modern aesthetic. Not as energy efficient as the other choices. In the end we decided against aluminum because we thought the aesthetic wasn't as appropriate for a modern farmhouse.

Aluminum window by Milgard

Aluminum window by Milgard


Andersen makes a moderately priced window that's made of Fibrex, a composite material they developed that has 2x the strength of vinyl, performs better in extreme temperatures and is energy efficient and very durable. Since it comes in many colors (including black) and costs about the same as aluminum we decided to make this our window of choice.

Fibrex window by Andersen - the winner!

Fibrex window by Andersen - the winner!

Anatomy of a Spec House, Part I

We've recently embarked on a development branch of our company, where we will occassionally develop a piece of land in the interest of promoting better architecture in a typology that appears to be lacking good design. Our first attempt at this is to build a spec house in East Austin. With a speculative project, the strategy is to find the proper balance between affordablity and quality. This series of blogs will address the decisions we architects and developers make along the way and why we make them.

Part I: Choosing the Right Foundation

It all starts with a good foundation, and believe it or not there are choices. The cheapest and most common foundation for homes is the post-tension slab. It's cheap because there's very little rebar. The strength of the foundation relies on cables pulled in tension when the concrete is being poured. The problem with this foundation is if you ever want to make an adjustment - remodel a bathroom, add a bedroom, move plumbing - you risk compromising your foundation if you cut a post-tention cable. 

In a conventional slab foundation the structural engineer designs a pattern of rebar that reinforces the concrete. The rebar can be cut without compromising the slab but rebar is expensive. Slab construction is great for compact houses in Austin where the soil can be expansive because we can design a monolithic slab that keeps it's rigidity even when the soil expands and contracts.

A third alternative, and one we often use although it's less common, is the pier and beam foundation. Advantages are that it's quickly built and plumbing and electrical are installed after the piers have been poured, so there's an advantage to scheduling trades. The major disadvantage to a pier and beam slab is that it doesn't work for a garage foundation. So if you have an attached garage (which is common with inner city spec houses), this foundation is not ideal. Also, from a design standpoint, a pier and beam foundation needs to sit at least 30" above the ground which means steps up to the house wherever there is an exterior door.

In the end we went with a conventional slab foundation. It costs more than a post-tension slab but would allow for future modifications.

MX3 Selects Element 5 Architecture for Future Development

Elelment 5 Architecture is pleased to announce our collaboration with creative, inner city home builder MX3 Homes.  "Over the next year we are planning on building and selling, close to 60 homes", says MX3 Design Manager Kyle Cluck. In an effort to expand and improve their design capabilities MX3 choose E5A to design a portion of their homes - homes that appeal to the higher-end homebuyer. MX3 opperates mostly in central East Austin and is responsible for The Orchard, a neighborhood of modern farmhouse designs affordably priced and centrally located. 

E5A Opens Development Branch

We are very excited to announce a new endeavor for Element 5 Architecture coming in 2016. We are establishing Element 5 Development LLC,  a development corporation that will initially focus on small development sites in East Austin. Our first project is located on East 2nd Street, about 2 miles east of downtown. Our goals are to set a new standard for re-development in East Austin focused on quality architecture. Construction on our first project is expected to begin in January 2016 and will go on the market in summer 2016.





The Latest of the Dogwood Trilogy

The Latest of the Dogwood Trilogy

Element 5 Architecture's latest Hospitality and Restaurant Design project is currently under construction as part of Endeavors  Phase 2 development effort in the Domain in Austin, TX.  The latest in the Dogwood Trilogy is just over 10,000 sf with a restaurant, bar, open air interior courtyard & patio bar at the main level and an open air patio bar, sitting area with firepit & interior media room on level 2.  The first Dogwood in Austin opened on West 6th street back in 2010.  The Dogwood Midtown in Houston opened in 2013 and the latest Dogwood @ the Domain is expected to open January 2016.

Read More

Images of Juanita Residence have Arrived

The photos for a new house we designed in central south Austin have just come in and we're pleased with the result. The design turned out very similar to how we imagined from the start. Trying to fit a 2200 sf residence on a small lot in urban Austin can be a challenge. We wanted to break up the massing into blocks of varying colors and textures. The left side property line is at an acute angle so we thought we'd emphasize that with a subtle collission of angles at the front entry. The stone wall seen from the outside continues through the house as does the wood roof eave which carries through the front entry to the back of the house.

For a small, compact house there is a lot going on and a pleasant mix of materials and interest. The house also has a nice view of downtown from the second floor balcony and master bedroom. The owners are having us design a roof deck that will be accessible via a spiral stair from the balcony. We'll let you know how that turns out.

Below you will find a gallery of images. You can also visit our Houzz page or our website for other recent projects. 

E5A Featured in Houzz Article

We did not see this coming (usually we do). Our work was featured in an article about innovative shower ideas on the nations leading home design website,  Here's the article if you would like to read it:

The featured shower is from a house we recently designed in the Seven Oaks neighborhood just west of Austin.

Rainey Alley Design Charrette

On May 26th Element 5 Architecture participated in a one day design charrette in the Rainey Street District. Our interest in developing under-used alleys in Austin promted the city to invite us to join a team of landscape architects and engineers to come up with ideas for the alley behind Rainey Street. The city has $300,000 at their disposal to spend toward the development of the alley and they hope to get more money from interest in the ideas that came out of the charrette.

Rainey Alley is an interesting dichotomy of scale. The west side of the alley has small homes that date back to the early 20th centruy that have all been converted into bars and restaurants. The east side is comprised of larger scale hotels - a run of the mill multi-story Homewood Suites and a very interesting and well-designed boutique hotel called Kimber Modern. There are a few vacant lots on the east side that will surely be developed into large scale developments over he next several years.

We were organized into four teams of about 2-4 professionals each team. Our particular team was made up of Nick Mehl, principal from E5A, landscape architect Eleanor McKinney (team leader), intern architect Jeremy Wahlberg of Delineate Studio and civil engineer David Venhuizen of Venhuizen Water Works. The teams all went their separate ways and re-joined late in the day to make presentations to the owners along Rainey Street. It's interesting the similarities that were shared among all of the teams' designs. Everyone seemed to agree that the alley could be a vibrant place for social interaction, with hotel patrons wanting to cut across tot he bars and restaurants and the bars wanting to focus more attention on the alley for expanded seating and entertaining. However, the first thing that we all saw the need for was consolodating the dumpsters and creating some sort of enclosures that would isolate the smell and visibility. Lighting would also be a crucial and unifying factor since most of the alley's activities would take place at night. Most designs featured a creative lighting solution that criss-crossed the alley and helped direct the eye towards points of interest.

The world's cities are full of examples of alleys being used as multi-functioning spaces. Melbourne, Australia; York, England; Marrakesh, Morrocco; San Francisco, CA; these are just a few cities that come to mind that have great examples of alleys that are both pedestrian friendly and serve the back of business needs. Austin has something like 500,000 sf of alleys in the urban core, many of which can be made multi-functional if given some direction and funding.

Report from the AIA National Convention, Part 2

The AIA Convention was held in Atlanta this year. Being the host city is important because it's often up to the local architects to organize tours of what they consider significant architecture in their city. I participated in a tour of a "modern" condo development in a fringe area of Atlanta, just to the west of downtown in an area of train yards and industry. 

While the development was an interesting study in urban design, the architecture was not what we in Austin would call "modern". There were some trendy colors and a modern mix of materials but nothing like what we experiment with in Austin. The development would be a pleasant place to live and promotes social interaction among the residents, however provocative architecture it was not. Sometimes architectural tours in other cities give me a greater appreciation of the high quality of design that comes out of our home town.

Remodeling and Home Design
Austin Architects & Designers