Renovating an Austin Home

When his wife, Amy, insisted on buying a 1950 wood-frame home in the Traverse Heights section of Austin, Texas, Frank Meyer began pondering how to build a pleasing straw-bale addition while meeting the city’s off street parking mandates and providing a yard for their Lhasa apso, Thumper Stein. People look at these shapes and say, “How did you come up with these?” says Frank, owner of Thangmaker Construction, which specializes in straw bale building. I say, “We got here because of the dog. If it hadn’t been for the dog, this particular design wouldn’t have evolved this way.”

Amy, traffic weary from living 9 miles south of Austin, jumped at the chance to buy the 1100-square-foot home an asphalt-sided eyesore, surrounded by a chain-link fence because she knew properties in Traverse Heights didn’t stay on the market long. She liked the windowed bathroom and the hardwood floors, and she told Frank he could do anything he wanted to make the home suit him. Because the house was within city limits, Frank had to contend with stringent rules and regulations when he planned his renovation. The previous owners had met Austin’s off-street parking requirement by putting their cars in the front yard, a space Frank and Amy needed to reclaim for the dog. The couple also wanted to save the property’s three live oak trees, which give welcome relief during central Texas summers. Their final results are stunning, and include:

  • A 500 square foot straw bale addition
  • Bamboo handrails, countertops, tables

Check out the May/June 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about Austin, including:

  • Smart Growth
  • Examples of Downtown Revival
  • Sobering Facts