When we went searching for a place to build this year's Cooking Light FitHouse, Spanish Oaks, a low-density development in the Texas Hill Country, just 15 minutes from downtown Austin, seemed like a great, well, fit. The community is adjacent to 15,000 acres of nature preserve and offers recreational trails amid groves of Spanish Oak and Texas Mandrone. Environmental fitness was key in the site selection, construction, and design of the 3,500-square-foot house, built by the development's master builder. We also strove to enhance mental and spiritual health by making the interior tranquil, organized, and comfortable.
Whether you're remodeling or simply looking for great ideas, this year's FitHouse is full of products and techniques you can use to make your home more healthful and beautiful.
The expansive dining room window offers views of an outdoor meditation deck and garden. The solid walnut table is ringed by six upholstered chairs comfortable enough for extended dinner parties. A patterned wool rug softens the hardwood floor and offers a bit of soundproofing. The native stone in the fireplace surround contrasts with the mantel's display of locally produced art. In the corner, a floor lamp made from coconut shells complements the recessed spotlights and overhead fixtures for a mix of directional and mood lighting.
Whether you're in the mood to curl up with a book or simply relax after a long day, the living room's comfortable sofa and plush chairs beckon. The small club chair is filled with Inego fiber, a sustainable material produced from corn. The dog's pillow is made from fabric once used in the tents and bedding of nomadic Turkish tribes. The side table nestled next to the armchair is a stump reclaimed from the bottom of a local river. Tucked beneath the square-legged console table, a pair of ottomans provides storage for throws or games; their tops flip open to reveal built-in trays.
Having ample room to maneuver, as well as storage and counter space, is every cook's wish for a dream kitchen. This one boasts 35 cabinets, 18 drawers, and nine open shelves―all in an efficient 175-square-foot space. The heat-, stain-, and scratch-resistant countertops are made of a natural quartz aggregate. The recycled glass tile backsplash adds an eye-catching iridescent focal point to the room and ties in the kitchen’s color scheme. A glass-fronted upper level was added to the dark-stained maple wall cabinets to lend height to the already spacious room and provide display space for antique glassware or flea market finds. Lights above and below the cabinets, plus recessed and overhead lighting, ensure that a cook never has to strain to see a spice or a spatula.
Sleek and hardworking, the appliances in this kitchen are energy efficient. A near-silent, generous-capacity dishwasher sits next to a built-in refrigerator that features adjustable shelves and a temperature management system, which keeps foods fresh for a longer period of time. The highlight of the microwave/electric oven combination is a patented convection system that offers six settings for precise baking and browning. In addition to being comfortable to stand on and easy to clean, hardwood flooring adds warmth and literally underscores the natural feel of the room.
Rise and Shine
Two Austin furniture designers created the ringed pedestal dining table and saffron-colored chairs in this sunny breakfast nook adjoining the kitchen. The maple sideboard has plenty of space to keep table linens and dinnerware handy. On the wall of the niche above it hangs a pair of abstract paintings by another local artist. Ample windows here and in the rest of the home have a "low-e" coating to mitigate heat from the sun.