A reimagined dance studio connects to the soothing rhythms of Hill Country and provides a dreamy stage for less-is-more living.
When you first walk into parenting guru Carrie Contey’s new living room, about 20 miles west of Austin, you sense immediately how this building began as a dancer’s dream laboratory. Great expanses of windows open the loft-like space to the outdoors, bringing light, breeze, and the green of the surrounding tree-covered hills into the room. Boundaries between inside and out feel deliberately porous. Such openness has a physically energizing impact—as if leaping like a dancer or maybe gliding like the turkey buzzards just outside Contey’s windows is within the realm of possibility.
This home is all about possibilities. In 2005, Austin Community College dance department chair José Bustamante, wanting a studio where he could experiment with video projection, collaborated closely with Austin architect Rick Black to create a choreographer’s playground. Brainstorming during sometimes seven-hour meetings that lasted through dinner, Black and Bustamante laid out a plan for what would become a 1,620-square-foot dance studio with 21-foot ceilings downstairs, and a wide-open kitchen/dining/living area with one bedroom and two baths upstairs. The upstairs walls are movable wooden panels that open to overlook the dance studio below.
“The inspiration for the project was to provide space that dealt with the sense of gravity,” says Black, who, like Bustamante, saw this as an art project as much as an architectural one. “That seemed interesting to José from the point of view of a dancer—the sense of weight and hovering.”
Like a dance posture, the 1,170-square-foot upstairs living space cantilevers out from the building’s sturdy metal frame—achieving a striking balance between gravity and flight. A butterfly roof lifts the structure upward and funnels rain to a 10,000-gallon water tank. Handsome custom-made steel beams and window frames anchor the roof, while the clean sparseness, high ceilings, and expanses of windows make it float.
It feels like more than chance that Contey, who bought the house from Bustamante last November, should now be the steward of such a balanced creation: helping families with young children find their own equilibrium is her life’s work. With a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and a specialty in prenatal and perinatal psychology, Contey launched her coaching practice in 2004. At the time, she supported parents in their early years of raising children through one-on-one and small-group meetings in her south-central Austin home. Over the past decade, Contey has developed her practice into a broader form of parent coaching, creating an online community that spans the globe, and her comprehensive program for new parents, Evolve, has taken off.