High Ridge Ranch - Burleson Design Group, the Hill Country Architect


By Steve Habel.

Photography by Cole Hairston.

A Wimberley ranch offers look at the past - and future - of the state's indigenous and reclaimed materials.

Wide open spaces broken by hills and ravines, washes and canyons:  this is the Texas land that sits in the triangle defined by Austin to the north, San Antonio to the south, and desert (a whole lot of it) to the west.  The region surrounds the once-sleepy village of Wimberley, an area hard up against the Devil's Backbone.  The outcropping of rock and boulders and wilderness could have been the site of an Old West movie, once upon a time.  it is here - on a 43-acre plateau roughly five miles west of the town - that Dana Foster and Storm Lippman have built a beauty of a home and ranch.

Called High Ridge Ranch, the home is designed to capture the elements of the site, most notably the dramatic view and prevailing southeastern breeze.  The home evolved from a weekend getaway.  "We are recent empty-nesters, so we were interested in a home that was more modular in concept so that we could use only what we needed," says Foster, a retired registered nurse from The Woodlands area near Houston.  "Above all, we wanted a home to be a casual place for our family and friends to gather through the years."

The home's three components provide privacy and comfort for the ranch's many guests.  A main house includes the owner's suite and the primary gathering place.  A dogtrot connects the bunkhouse, containing two bedrooms and a living area, to the main house.  The Bird's Nest, an aptly named efficiency apartment, sits above the two-car garage.  A south-oriented courtyard connects the three structures while letting in souther breezes and sunlight.  The primary outdoor room, the dogtrot connects the south yard with the north.

"The house has two axes," says architect Rick Burleson of Burleson Design Group in Wimberley.  "The great room and kitchen are aligned with a particular hill to the north, and a cross-axis connects the mater bedroom with the bunk house, going across the dogtrot.  A gable to the north is unexpected upon first encounter, creating a nice surprise once inside."

Burleson's design work is shaped by three elements - clients, climate, and land.  "I believe it is important to start from scratch to create the best design," Burleson says.  "Each Hill Country site is unique, and the magic of good design can only happen with a clean slate and an open mind.  The best design is always heavily influenced by the location on which it's built.  This maximizes a home's ability to be comfortable (inside and out), enjoyable and efficient."

Burleson says his clients were interested in having a well-designed home and did not have too many preconceived floor plan ideas.  "They collaborated with us in a very positive way and did not impose their will, but provided many inspirational goals which we endeavored to meet," he says.

"Armed with magazine clippings and our top-ten list, Rick listened to all of our wants and wishes," Foster says of their first meeting with the architect.  "Many meetings occurred at the home site with Rick (who always had his compass in hand) to assure that the exact view was captured."

One particular idea from Foster and Lippman that was a starting point:  a porch with transom windows above.  The plan was ultimately shaped by the views to the north, the solar path (minimize western exposure), prevailing breezes (from the southeast), and the desire to accommodate guests with the proper level of community and privacy.

"The exterior is shaped by the climate and the history of the region," Burleson says.  "Long overhangs protect the walls from sun and rain.  The metal roof resists penetration of heat into the attic, and simple agrarian forms fit to the land to reinforce the sense of a home in the country that is very different than a home in the city."

The house is a classic Hill Country style, using limestone, cedar beams, and a metal roof with wide overhangs to provide shade for the porches and dogtrot.  Native Texas stone and board-and-batten siding are appropriate to the region, tying the home's exterior to its surroundings.  Green-design features like unventilated, insulated attic space and on-demand water heating also ensure a decreased impact in the land in the form of reduced energy consumption.

The main house's interior embraces a natural, rustic palette with stained concrete floors, reclaimed barnwood walls, pine ceilings, and cedar beams.  "This was the first project in which we incorporated large quantities of reclaimed barnwood," Burleson says.  "Use of an aged material gives the house a wonderful character and a sense of history."

"In general, Texas was our influence for furnishing the home," Foster says.  "We spent the months during design and construction traveling Texas, looking for the perfect piece of furniture, that special knickknack or artist that could capture our spirit as well as our love of Texas."

"The home is just as we dreamed it would be - casual, comfortable and the perfect place to enjoy our family, friends, and the beautiful scenery found only in the Hill Country," Lippman adds.  "Rick is an incredible visionary who made our dreams a reality."

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