By Carolyn Weber. The clients asked for a surprise house, and they got it. From the street, this 3,700-square-foot modern marvel appears to be a simple stone landscape wall with buildings tucked behind. The other side, however, reveals an indoor/outdoor home that opens up to a constant-level lake. "We began with the notion of the house rising up out of water," says architect Richard Archer.

The majority of the home is poured concrete with some touches of native sandstone, a metal roof and slick, lightweight metal siding that contrasts with the earthy stone. The home is completely integrated into the site, and a dam and a bulkhead were built along the lake to make it as low as possible to the water. "When you're in the guest bedrooms you literally feel like you're on the water," Archer says, "like it's just lapping up against the floor."

Archer specializes in sustainable modern buildings. In this home, he used vertical fins on the west side to shield bedrooms from the sun, metal siding to reflect the heat, and deep shady porches. "It's passively cooled with natural breezes and uses lots of natural light," he adds.

Photo: Paul Bardagiy Photography

The floor plan is divided into three distinct sections: the master suite, living, dining, and kitchen in one; two guest bedrooms and bathrooms in the middle; and the game room, garage, and boathouse in the third. "The bedroom wing is a two- story block that can be closed in the off-season," says Archer. "The master suite and living areas become a small house for the owners in the winter." The large outdoor rooms are just as important, as balmy weather allows the residents to use them much of the year. Covered porches with adjacent terraces span the length of the house, and a garden sits serenely in the middle of the plan. Category: Custom Home, over 3,500 square feet; Entrant/Architect: Overland Partners, San Antonio; Builder: Duecker Construction Co., Fredericksburg, Texas; Landscape Architect: Bud Twilley Landscapes and Courtyard Gardens, Austin, Texas