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DUST designs Marfa ADU for isolated desert living in Texas

US architecture firm DUST has completed an accessory dwelling unit for a family in Marfa, Texas, who decided to relocate permanently during the coronavirus pandemic.


The 1,300-square-foot (120-square-metre) building was added to a property in the desert city, which is located roughly halfway between Ciudad Juarez and San Antonio.

The exterior of Marfa Studio and a palm tree
DUST has built an accessory dwelling unit on a property in Marfa

Despite a population of only roughly 1,900 people, the town has established itself as an arts hub for the Southern United States, and is home to Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation and Ranch amongst other cultural institutions.

“With the onset of Covid and lockdowns, the owners decided to change up their life plans, packed up their belongings in Tennessee, and move full-time to Marfa,” said DUST, which is based in Tucson, Arizona.

The living room inside Marfa Studio by Dust
The interior features compressed exposed earth bricks throughout

The ADU is built from compressed earthen blocks, drawing cues from some of the local area’s vernacular construction techniques.

It encompasses a bedroom and toilet, which are private, and a more public lounge and patio where the owners can host visitors.

Marfa Studio in Texas by Dust
Concrete floors contrast the brickwork

“The impetus behind the project was a desire to build a new private primary suite for a couple to seek refuge when their children, grandchildren, and friends visit,” said the studio.

“The suite became a calm respite and a place to work remotely, full time.”

A double window above a desk in Marfa Studio
A long desk runs below the lounge window

Within the lounge, a long desk runs along an entire wall and faces a large window.

There is plenty of room for two people to set up a workstation overlooking the property’s cacti and shrubbery.

“The living and work lounge receives early morning light and offers a place for the owners to view the reverse sunset, as it opens to the east and allows for unobstructed viewing across a soft grass and gently sloping valley towards Haystack Mountain,” said DUST.

In the bedroom, a large skylight is centered over the bed, which the architects said is useful for letting off excess heat built up during the day. Additionally, it offers an opportunity for stargazing in Marfa’s clear night skies.

A bedroom with geometric print bedding
The main bedroom opens onto a private terrace

A full-height sliding glass wall opens the bedroom to a small courtyard, where the owners keep a vegetable garden and can relax away from their guests if desired.

The compressed earth bricks are left exposed throughout the interiors, creating a contrast with the simple concrete flooring found throughout the home.

Marfa Studio in Texas by Dust
The clients built the unit as a retreat from the main house behind

DUST is led by Cade Hayes and Jesús Robles, who founded the studio in 2007.

The team has completed several desert homes in Arizona, including a property with concrete walls made using volcanic residue, and a rammed-earth home in the Sonoran Desert.

The photography is by Casey Dunn.


Project credits:

Architects: DUST, Cade Hayes, Jesus Robles
Structural engineer: Dan Ray
Builder: E&C construction, Eric Martinez
Compressed earth block: Dave Moshel
Millwork: Architectural Surfaces
Millwork install: Jimmy Magliozzi, Laszlo Thorsen
Plumber: Trever Warren

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