“I remember when I walked into this house, I felt special,” Grappell says, gesturing to their East Austin home, where the couple has lived for ten years. “It seems weird to say it now, but when you are in a place that is really well-designed and built, you notice it. This house elevates us.” Her remark is an unintentional double entendre for the airy home's position in Swede Hill, a small neighborhood pocketed between IH-35 and the Oakwood Cemetery, that is—despite my elevator pitch—quite cozy. With its second story nestled in trees, allowing for tons of natural light to stream in, the house overlooks the neighborhood like a treehouse, from which Chris and Amy have watched their neighborhood change and develop in sync with the city. “I'm not nostalgic for old Austin,” Krager says. “Like any growing city, Austin is in its teenage years and there are things that you don't like that come with that—like congestion. But I love being here now, with everything that is happening: the restaurants, the opportunities, the people, the energy.”
The city’s evolution is a familiar topic: Krager's firm, KRDB, is wrapping up its "biggest and most ambitious project to date," a 40-unit sustainable housing development in East Austin called Sol. KRDB, centered around making modern homes affordable and accessible, applied the same sensibility to Sol, approaching a large-scale housing development in a way that first considers proximity, green space, and longevity. Grappell is also in the throes of her own work, developing a pilot for the HBO series adaptation of her 2010 film, Quadrangle, a documentary based on the personal history of her family, which screened internationally and won numerous accolades at Sundance and SXSW. “Austin has been a great place for us, and for our work,” Grappell says. “It’s a great place to do your own thing, to manifest work of your own.”
Inside their house, the couple’s style reflects an easy balance between their passions: framed movie stills and posters from Amy's films line the home’s walls, mixed in with colorful bits of personal ephemera ranging from a portrait of their beloved dog Blue to a tiny poster of Barack Obama. When they bought the house, they kept the original wood floors but redid pretty much everything else. They added a second story and opened up the entire first floor to create one big room, with the kitchen, dining, and living spaces all seamlessly sharing a space that extends outside to a big backyard and back porch, where Amy sits and writes in the mornings and overflow from their frequent dinner parties spills out.
“We wanted to live in a place where we are aware of time, place, and season, and this design affords all of that,” Krager says. “One thing that we really love about our house is that it is all used…we live and work and enjoy every part of this space.”