Paradise, Shared

Four Austin couples found their dream vacation spot — together.


In May, a story about a group of friends who share property together in a small Central Texas town began circulating online. It was furiously shared on social media and reported on by news outlets across the world. The story of the sprawling 10-acre site in Llano resonated with people not only because of its Matt Garcia-designed architecture and picturesque locale, but because who doesn’t want to live next door to their best friends?

Though the idea of the compound began nearly two decades ago, it came to fruition in 2011 after three of the couples visited another friend with property in Llano. On their way home, they noticed a “for sale” sign and pulled over. They agreed on the spot that this was the place.

Three hundred feet of the property graze the banks of the Llano River, and the topography imbues a sense of privacy. One of the owners, a retiree who splits his time between Austin and Llano, says, “When you’re alone in the cabins, you don’t know that there’s anything around you.” At night, he says, it’s so quiet that you can hear the small rapids just upstream on the river as you gaze into the dark Texas sky.

Tucked into the expansive landscape are four cabins that feel a perfect blend of solitude and companionship. Also on the property, which is jointly owned by four couples, is a spacious common building equipped with a full kitchen, living area, and plenty of space to commune.

Garcia designed the cabins with utility and sustainability in mind. Butterfly-shaped roofs of galvanized metal collect rainwater into 100-gallon tanks beside each cabin, so that the couples don’t have to rely completely on well water. The idea, says Garcia of Matt Garcia Design, was a cold exterior to help battle the Texas heat, but a warm, rustic interior, “a modern style, but still cabin-y.”

Cabin doesn’t quite describe it, says co-owner Melissa Segrest. “They are small, identical, [but] have touches of simple beauty and little bits of luxury throughout,” she says. “They feel much larger inside than they look.”

Each of the cabins boasts a queen size bed, a loveseat that doubles as a sleeper, a stand-up shower, a small kitchenette, and an outdoor patio. “They wanted something with an industrial feel,” Garcia says. “Still modern, but a little bit more no maintenance.” Details like unfinished concrete floors, plate steel stock shelves and inexpensive pipe-fittings for towel rods help create the desired effect. The cabins are a little less than 400 square feet, while the common room boasts 1600 square feet of room to stretch out and move around.

But just because the cabins are small in size doesn’t mean they aren’t luxurious. Garcia paid special attention to the materials used in the building, and says the finishes are some of his favorite elements of the project. “With the exterior, they can get the hose out and simply hose it down, and they never have to worry about painting or retreating it,” he says. “But the interior is a complete 180. We put fir plywood on the walls and the ceiling, so it’s an incredibly stark contrast from the outside to when you walk in.”

Segrest adds that when the couples are on the Llano property together, the common area has a strong social pull. “We always find ourselves there,” she says. “It’s perfect for cooking big meals for family and friends, hanging out and watching the sun set every night from expansive windows that reach all the way to the high ceiling.” Plus, there’s the expansive back deck, which “lets us all wind up the evenings looking at a night sky filled with stars you cannot see in Austin.”

The couples make it out to the property together at least three or four times a year, but far more often on their own. “Legally it’s like owning a condominium,” says one owner. “There’s some joint ownership and some individual ownership. But in this case you have to get along with everybody.”

And get along they do. Says Segrest ,“[We’ll] be hanging out here well into our ripe old age.”


Photography by Bill Sallans

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