It was not love at first sight, definitely not! The closer you get to it, the more it grows on you, with its angular lines and tilted silhouette. There is something about the house that draws you to it. And this is not even the main house - it is a guesthouse sitting quietly behind the main house, belonging to television and documentary filmmaker Kerthy Fix, in Austin, Texas. The Hive, as it is referred to, is designed by architect Nicole Blair of Studio 512, and boasts a humble 320 sqft footprint, the maximum allowed on this-sized residential plot of land by the state of Texas.
We are not sure what caught our eye first - the structure or the surface. To create enough volume to fit a one-bedroom building, the walls of The Hive tilt from the slab, hugging the building’s setback planes, with an angled utility easement at the back, adding volume (read illusion and actual sense of space) where needed. Overall, the structure evokes the sense of a beehive. Blair compares it to, “The Vitruvian man with outstretched arms - his range of motion is circular, the widest at shoulder height, the narrowest at the ceiling and floor.”
If you observe the actions performed in each area of The Hive - sitting, sleeping, cooking, et al - you will realise how the indoor environment lends itself most dynamically to its functions, without being too in-your-face. By carefully tailoring the space in three dimensions, the rooms have been designed to suit the function, lending a delightful intimacy to an otherwise structured space.
Around the kitchen area, the walls lean outward for increased counter space. A large built-in desk with a cantilevered bookshelf is nestled into a spot with low ceiling height - to ensure an expanded view of the outdoors while seated at the desk. The shower is widest towards the centre of the body up to the head, and a narrow ceiling provides height and room for the rising steam. In the bedroom, the width broadens at knee height to fit a queen mattress and is widest at eye level. However, there is no sense of claustrophobia when you are standing, despite the limited floor and ceiling area. That is definitely a design feat.
From the first floor of the home, which is dedicated entirely to the living room and kitchen, an angular staircase leads inhabitants to the sleeping area. Windows and a large crafted skylight open up the space and give way to natural light as it pours into the bath and bedroom.
As small and tight as the place looks, The Hive comes fitted with almost all the elements of a full-fledged home. Also contained within the volume of its basic structure is a covered porch and private outdoor shower at the ground level. Imagine a closet with stackable laundry, a bath with walk-in shower and bench, built-in shelving and storage throughout…we are very impressed! There is also an exterior bike storage closet beneath the stairs!
It is one thing to make a crackling first impression, but the real brownie points get credited if you can maintain it! This small, 550 sqft home may seem minimal from the outside, with it stark angular lines and diligent reclaimed cedar façade, but its earthy interiors tell an equally attractive tale that piques your interest enough to make you want to continue exploring. The rooms, which are done in an immaculate palette of fall-like colours, draw heavily from Dutch and Japanese influences.
With an obvious appreciation for space-conservation, minimalism, and naturally occurring lines, Blair has also introduced a collection of hidden lighting, reclaimed-wood cabinetry and furniture, and Colquitt inspired light fixtures, to take the efficiency quotient of The Hive a couple of notches higher than the most regular city homes.
If there ever was a place in this world that could balance out and be able to celebrate the perfect marriage of art, architecture and design, it would be Austin, Texas. We are not surprised then to come across The Hive, a delightful imagining by local contractor and architect Studio 512, feeling completely at home here with the perfect balance of all three mediums.
Name of the project: The Hive
Client: Kerthy Fix, television and documentary film producer
Project: 550 sqft guest house behind the primary residence
Location: Austin, Texas
Architect: Nicole Blair, Studio 512
General contractor: Nicole Blair, Studio 512
Structural engineer: Jerry Garcia, Structures PE
Lot size: 6500 sqft
Year of completion: 2015