Built:
1947-53
Alterations:
1960
Builder:
Genaro P. Briones
Style:
Faux Bois, Art Deco, Mexican Folk Art
Historic Status:
National Register of Historic Places, Austin Landmark

Description

Built over a period of 14 years, the Briones House is a uniquely crafted historic home in the heart of the historically Hispanic, rapidly gentrifying East Austin. The home features a variety of architectural styles along with a two-story porch overlooking East Seventh Street’s Green & White Grocery. To this day, the house remains the largest and most significant example of tinted concrete ornamentation in Texas.

Placemaking

Known locally as the Casa de Sueños (“House of Dreams”), the Briones House reflects curiosity, experience, and a deeper look into a style of architecture as unique as its builder. Born in 1899, Genaro P. Briones was raised by his uncle in New Mexico after being orphaned at the age of four. In his early teenage years, Briones and his family moved to El Paso, where he was introduced to plastering and bricklaying—skills he would later use in a professional setting. Briones settled in Austin in the mid-1930s, where he traveled frequently for work and eventually married local East Austin native Carolina Villareal.

When Briones met Dionicio Rodriguez during one of his out-of-state jobs, he was introduced to a style of building dubbed Faux Bois (“fake wood”), a technique in which concrete structures are sculpted and painted to resemble decaying trees and weathered wood. Rodriguez was a renowned builder known for his eclectic artisanal technique, and many of his projects are now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Faux Bois technique intriguedBriones so much that, when given the opportunity to build his own home in 1947, he began covering the façade with vivid collages of color resembling rustic wood. In the decades to come, Rodriguez would visit Briones during construction and offer advice, spawning a fertile artistic relationship for years to come. Other notable styles that inspired Briones were Art Deco, Mexican-American folk art, and stucco décor typical in Mexico. In addition to these influences, the home’s architecture incorporates sculptural elements, multicolored tiles, decorative planters, and a grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Briones and his wife lived in the magical home up until his death in 1979. Today it serves as a private office space but can be viewed through the pickets of the fenced property. To this day, the Briones House remains an integral and impressive example of Mexican-influenced architecture in East Austin. – Francisco Rosales

Architect's Description

Ian Templeton