February 19, 2024
When downhill rainwater runoff plagued a family’s home in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, they plunged into a whimsical, colorful, underwater-themed response.
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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
She wanted plants that complement the artwork, rather than compete with it. Most of the plants are native and all are very drought tolerant.
“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.
“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.
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.
She’s training Texas wisteria over the entryway.
“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.
Door carved by Craig and Teena. Stained glass crafted by Jim Berry.
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.
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.
Designed elements transition into East Bouldin Creek that runs through the backyard.
Sculpture ‘Mother Nature’ oversees the dappled shade domain.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Thanks for stopping by! Linda