One look at the roofline, and you’ll know why it’s called “The Mullet House.” Just as its namesake 1990s hairstyle promised “business in the front, party in the back,” the home presents a modest historic residence with a mod addition, perfect for social occasions, unfurling behind it.
The original house (i.e., the business part) was built by in 1938. It’s located in Clarksville, a central Austin neighborhood that was once the country’s oldest surviving freedom town—a settlement established by formerly enslaved people freed after the Civil War—and was founded by freedman Charles Clark in 1871. Because Clarksville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the small house contributes to the neighborhood’s historic fabric, it could not be removed despite its disrepair.
Clearly up to the task, award-winning local design firm Matt Fajkus Architecture preserved the front facade of the old house, salvaging and reusing some of its bricks and framing lumber on the main level of the house.
The story of the house unfolds from front door to backyard, beginning with an entrance into a compressed space finished with dark wall-surfaces and heavy antique furniture. As one continues through the home, the spaces get larger and more open, with much lighter colors and windows harvesting natural light.
For energy-saving reasons, the west facade has few windows but is broken up by brick arrangements and cantilevered, metal-clad boxes that indicate placement of an interior reading nook and the master-suite vanity.
The kitchen, living, and dining areas on the floor level extend to an exterior deck, creating a bridge that connects to the flat-roofed guest house at the edge of the lot, which measures a little over a quarter of an acre. (To further incorporate the home and its setting, a dead tree on the lot was also milled to construct the dining table.)
The staircase at the center of the three-story, 5, 296-square-foot house connects it both literally and thematically, culminating in a diagonal cant that breaks up the east facade and captures light and views while bringing the old and new sections of the home together.