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Artistic Collaboration Goes with the Flow

house painted like octopus in the sea
When downhill rainwater runoff plagued a family’s home in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, they plunged into a whimsical, colorful, underwater-themed response.
wide front yard stream and waterfall octopus painted house and mermaid sculpture
Local artists united to reframe a beige, boxy house into a gregarious octopus and elegant mermaid perched above a tumbling stream framed by native plants.
smiling man in tie-dye shirt in front of house painted like an octopus with a mermaid sculpture at front fence
“One of the sayings here in Bouldin Creek that I don’t hear a lot anymore was you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a local artist,” owner Joey Trevino told us on our visit in April and May 2023.
mermaid sculpture mounted on twirling post in front yard of house painted like an octopus
“And that’s becoming less and less true all the time as people are being driven out of art, out of Austin who are artistic and creative.”
house painted like an octopus with mermaid sculpture in front
“So I wanted to make an amazing house, but I also wanted to promote all these people so that they could stay here.” Innovative builder Nelson Rockwood served as general contractor to orchestrate the creative collective behind Octopus House. A large solar array on the roof powers the house during the day and charges PowerWall batteries to power it at night. Mural design: Mishka Westell. Painted by Aaron Flynn. Mermaid: Designed by Daniel Hornung and forged by Pyrology Foundry and Studio.
two women seated on wooden bench in garden
Rain Lily Design framed the architecture with water-wise plants and pollinator habitat. I met lead designer Heidi Choate (left) and owner Meredith Gresham (right) on Austin Home Magazine’s March 2023 inaugural “Great Outdoors Tour.” And oh my gosh, Heidi’s a bunny mom, too! Her sweet fluff resembles my cutie Jamie! So, bunnies hopped into our animated garden design, plant and architecture chat.
front yard narrow steam and waterfall bordered by plants
Design challenges included the narrow sloping lot and a drainage plan to avoid future flooding. Then, Joey wanted to vanquish water anxiety with a soothing water feature. Focal Point Features and designer Dan Johanson responded with a natural-styled tumbling stream and waterfall.
narrow front yard stream with wispy-leaved tree and one with red leaves
Heidi chose a native honey mesquite for its cascading form that gently shades understory plants like tropical sage. A Japanese maple adds its warm glow.
narrow front yard stream and waterfall bordered by plants
She wanted plants that complement the artwork, rather than compete with it. Most of the plants are native and all are very drought tolerant.
narrow front yard stream and waterfall (with fog machine) bordered by plants
“My focus was picking a lot of different textures, soothing different shades of green, and pops of color,“ Heidi said. Plus, they wanted flowers for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. She combined leafy bamboo muhly and sedges with seasonally blooming Gregg’s mistflower, frogfruit, ‘Katie’ ruellia, bulbine, and several salvias. I think she’s got native snake herb in there, too.
short leafy plants in bed above a front yard stream
“My favorite groundcover is frogfruit, which just spreads really profusely and it also blooms like crazy, so you’ll get lots of bees for that one,” she added.
low groundcovers around limestone flagstones
I love how she softened the gate’s flagstones with frogfruit. Nearby, bamboo muhly, rock rose, winecup, bulbine and white mistflower thrive with little maintenance or irrigation.
Vine climbing support against house wall and across wood slats over entryway
She’s training Texas wisteria over the entryway.
vine twining over wood slats over entryway accented with colorful nautical glass balls
“The idea over time is that the vines kind of grow in over the baubles, that you’ll be kind of walking almost into a garden as you come into the house,” Joey said.
carved wood front door inset with ocean scene stained glass
Door carved by Craig and Teena. Stained glass crafted by Jim Berry.
large quartz crystal glowing in stream bed sunlight
To accent with crystals, Heidi and Joey rocked out at Nature’s Treasures–a wonderland favorite of mine, too, for its eye popping collection of crystals, tumble stones, rocks and jewelry.
huge quartz drilled for a waterfall
They selected this showstopper for Focal Point Features’s backyard stream. “There’s something calming about the water,” Joey said. “It’s almost like looking into a fireplace. You just get drawn into it.” Gutters direct rainwater into a 4,000-gallon underground water storage tank to top off the streams and irrigate newly established plants.
wide of backyard with garden beds, designed stream and Bouldin Creek at far back
Designed elements transition into East Bouldin Creek that runs through the backyard.
two women and a man in front of life-sized stone sculpture of woman
Sculpture ‘Mother Nature’ oversees the dappled shade domain.
life-sized stone sculpture of woman
Sculptured by Stuart Simpson of Austin Carving, it started out as two tons of local limestone. Heidi dotted its base with Brazilian quartz and Moroccan geodes.
garden bed against fence and life-sized sculpture of a woman
Here, she works with part-shade plants including vining coral honeysuckle (hummingbird fave), soft leaf yucca, sedges, salvias, bamboo muhly, ming fern, river fern, oakleaf hydrangea and frogfruit.
colorful wooden bench shaped from a tree
A dead tree in the backyard inspired this colorful bench, crafted by Wade Burleigh. In the evening, Joey and his wife settle in with a glass of wine and listen to the water.
octopus painted on house and neon seahorse on upper porch
You’ll also spot the family on the upper porch, where a seahorse by neon artist Evan Voyles lights up the night. “So it was a wonderful collaboration for me,” Joey said.“My favorite part is working with all these artists. These people are amazing. There are so many artists in this town, craftspeople, and landscapers that it’s astonishing. And we should be celebrating those people.

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Thanks for stopping by! Linda