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Buys ’50s home to fix it, falls for its indoor/outdoor mastery

In 1949, Wells Blackshear and his son Harold began designing and building their own home in South Austin, guided by the recycled 18th-century longleaf pine timbers and the existing old-growth trees on the property.

Cutting down the minimum possible trees, they built the home nestled amongst pines. According to his son, Wells had an innate sense of scale and proportion, envisioning the building in his “mind’s eye” and working without drawing, allowing the house to evolve during construction.

When Jay Billig purchased the property in 2014, the Bauhaus-inspired home was in need of repair. Wanting to preserve the original craftsmanship, Billig simply opened up the home a bit to allow light and views to be accessible from any point.

The upstairs studio has always been a rental and Billig removed a dividing wall to increase the experience of “living in a treehouse”. Borrowing from Frank Lloyd Wright, he painted the ceiling a lighter shade than the walls to give more feeling of space.

Downstairs the floor plan follows the slope of the hill and steps down over several levels despite being all of one floor. Huge windows cover the back wall so that the backyard appears to enter the kitchen and dining room.