When most people look at a house, they see four walls and a roof or a place to gather with friends and family. When Matt Risinger of Risinger & Company looks at a house, he sees all the construction details that go into the final product.
Words by Creede Fitch Photos by Leonid Furmansky and Joan Brook
The perfect wall house, or 500-year house as some call it, is the embodiment of Matt’s desire to build better. It’s a modern farmhouse that sits nestled behind a large pecan tree on a sleepy side street in east Austin. In this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, it’s a scene not at all uncommon. At first glance, it has a lot in common with much of the new construction seen in the neighborhood.
When you step inside, however, you start to see that there is something quite different about this home. Inside, instead of being greeted by the typical concrete floors, you find rough wooden floors that look like they’ve been there for decades. Where you would usually see white painted drywall, you see the exposed framing in its place. In the space between the 2×4 framing where one would typically find fluffy pink fiberglass, there is exposed white shiplap. It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see in a 1930’s bungalow that is ripped apart for remodeling, not in a house that is just two years old. The way a typical home is built you have drywall, baseboards and door trim to cover up any imperfections in the framing; however, here the craftsmanship is all on display, and it’s beautiful, simple and honest.
“The details are not the details; they make the product.” -Charles Eames
The exposed interior is a by-product of a building technique called the perfect wall system. Matt heard about the concept more than 10 years ago from a colleague in Boston. “The idea came from asking the question, ‘What would it take to build a house to make it last 500 years?’” said Matt. Since that profound discovery, Matt researched and waited for the perfect client to come along where he could make this project come to life. Two years ago, the dream home project came together with a client who was open to the idea, and an excellent architect, who just happens to be Matt’s business partner. Eric Rauser of Rauser Design was just as excited about the system and the opportunity it gave to create a unique and timeless space.
In a perfect wall home, the insulation is actually moved outside of the exterior wall of the house, and it sits on top of a heavy duty layer of waterproofing. Doing this provides better insulation and weatherproofing than the traditional technique, and while you could still finish out the interior with drywall, they let the function of the home dictate the form.
The rest of the house is just as minimal and transparent in its execution. The wood floors are actually structural tongue and groove lumber. Instead of using plywood subfloors and covering them with a finished flooring, the tongue and groove sits atop a pier and beam foundation system making it super efficient and workable throughout the years. These unique details bring a certain character and warmth into the space. The mid century modernist architect Charles Eames once said, “The details are not the details; they make the product.” The 500-year house is a perfect example of how all those details add up to make a whole: something that is not just beautiful to look at but something that will also stand the test of time.
Did You Know?
As a contractor who specializes in architect-designed homes, Matt Risinger prides himself in his craftsmanship and is constantly looking for ways to improve upon the way homes are built.
Besides building homes, Matt also hosts The Build Show on YouTube with informative building science and fine craftsmanship details for the professional building industry. He shares his passion of building with integrity and posts two videos a week to his online channel. Subscribe at www.youtube.com/mattrisinger for updates!