It could have been the recipe for some Texas-size frustration: a homeowner with very classic, traditional, beautiful taste—and two kids, ages 6 and 2, whose tastes run more toward PB&J. But serendipity stepped in at the local preschool, where the young mom met Meredith Ellis, who also had a preschooler—and an Austin-based interiors business.
“We started talking design,” Ellis says. “Turns out, she’s a big fan of Bunny Williams”—who just happened to be Ellis’s mentor before the young designer launched her own business in 2008.
“Bunny taught me to always make sure there’s a conversation happening,” Ellis says. And that was exactly the problem in this 1930s Colonial Revival—the rooms did not relate to one another. So the first thing Ellis did was reshape the nook between the kitchen and family room, using it to connect the spaces, improving traffic flow and boosting sociability.
Thanks to a new banquette, guests can slide onto a cushioned bench or one of the skirted chairs ringing the Regency-style table and be part of what’s going on in adjacent rooms.
The homeowner’s favorite color, blue, takes a backseat to neutrals in the breakfast area, but it makes a splash in the family room, particularly in upholstery on dark walnut spool chairs.
To create a calm backdrop for the family room’s blues and hits of pattern, Ellis chose a celadon shade for walls. “It’s subtle, not a baby blue,” she says. Its watery vibe also meshes with the homeowners’ art, featuring wetland birds, a nod to the marsh ecosystem on the husband’s family ranch. “This art makes him feel comfortable—he’s not left out of the design,” Ellis says.
In the family room, patterned pillows and a throw layer in comfort and are a secret weapon against spills: These dry-cleanable wonders are good at catching—and hiding—messes before they wreak havoc on the sofa.
In the living room, a much different scene-stealer speaks to this guy’s roots. “He’s a fifth-generation Texan. He has beautiful family heirlooms. He also has mounts—because, yes, he’s from Texas,” Ellis says. “His grandmother shot that Cape buffalo in Botswana decades ago. It’s an important piece. So we built out the fireplace mantel and added an antique mirror. It gives
this keepsake—and the fireplace—prominence.”
Ellis again juxtaposed bold with calm in the dining room. Blue ethnic-pattern fabric matches the intensity of the luxe green on walls and silk draperies. Swaths of white counter the brilliant tones.
Upstairs in the master bedroom, the green ebbs to a soft sage hue. “It’s so soothing, so warm,” Ellis says. “And you can use this color with gray, blue, pink—anything.”
A soft sage green marries well with gray paisley draperies and an array of pillows in blue, pink, and white. The homeowner’s mirrored chest tucks in at the foot of the shapely canopy bed. Antique wood chests serve as nightstands.
It all adds up to a house that is colorful, but not shockingly colorful. “It’s key to use restraint,” Ellis says. “The most important thing is for people to be comfortable.”
“The 6-year-old is a total outdoorsman, just like Dad,” Ellis says. His room reflects that, featuring outdoorsy pieces handed down from grandfather to son to grandson. Rich blue paint lends a masculine backdrop.
Collected pieces on the chest of drawers form a vignette to intrigue any boy. “It all speaks to what’s important to the people who live here,” Ellis says. “I strive to create not just a house but a truly meaningful family home.”
Meredith Ellis' Tips of the Trade
“I love to use pieces that mean something to me,” designer Meredith Ellis says. “That includes items from my travels or my husband’s travels, inherited pieces like my grandmother’s chair, and my kids’ art.” She offers this advice for others looking to incorporate items they love into their rooms.
- Seek balance. “Nothing should feel overdone,” Ellis says. “Pair a collection of paintings with a simple sofa, for example.”
- Mix things up a bit. “It can be a mix of art, traditional and contemporary, or a mix of frames,” Ellis says. “Symmetry is important, but it shouldn’t be too perfect. Include something that’s a little unexpected.”
- Show off things that are truly meaningful to you. “I love to have someone walk into my house and know me just from seeing my rooms,” Ellis says. “They’re a true reflection of me. And they make it feel so good to be home.”
Photograpy: Amy Bartlam and Ryann Ford