A Transitional Austin Home with a French Country Aesthetic


Transitional White Bedroom with Walnut Armoire

A custom chandelier fabricated by A. Tyner Antiques presides over a soothing palette of cream and beige. Travers & Co. fabric on the curtains and easy chair provides graphic interest amid neutral solids. An 1890s French walnut armoire from Shabby Slips in Austin lends mellow warmth and balance to the room.

Transitional White Stairway with Wool Runner

Conveying comfortable elegance, antique reproduction oak chairs from Objets in Austin flank a reproduction French buffet from A. Tyner Antiques in Atlanta. Black Sheep Unique in Austin provided the handmade Afghan wool runner. A commissioned painting by Austin-based Clare Stratton graces the landing.

Transitional White Bathroom with Marble Vanity and Tub Surfaces

Moving from rug to wood floor to Crema Marfil tile creates separation between bedroom and bath. The latter stone, as well as the contrasting Emperador marble vanity and tub surfaces are from Architectural Tile & Stone in Austin. The custom mirror is by Gentry Custom Frames, also in Austin

Transitional White Living Room with Beamed Ceiling

A custom abaca rug provides a down-to-earth anchor for antiques, including a Dutch heirloom chest from Transatlantique in Costa Mesa, California, a pair of elm Mouton-style armchairs from Carl Moore Antiques in Houston and a Louis Philippe gilt mirror from Jean-Marc Fray Antiques in Austin.

Transitional Cream Exterior with Limestone Hardscaping

A pool house-cum-guest cottage is the terminus for one end of the lap pool (the back door of the main house the other). Saw-cut limestone hardscaping modernizes the outdoor aesthetic, but its rectilinear geometries are balanced by loose “cottage garden” plantings by Curt Arnette of Sitio Design in Austin.

Contemporary White Kitchen with French Windows

Honed surfaces keep the expansive kitchen honest, as do quasi-industrial Cooper’s Draftsman Stools from Wisteria. The lanterns were custom designed by Karen Greiner and fabricated by Tipler’s Lamp Shop in Austin. The hood is also custom. Paints— Lamp Room Gray on the cabinets and Slipper Satin on the walls—are by Farrow & Ball.

Transitional Cream Front Elevation with Pool

“Luxury must be comfortable,” she proclaimed. “Otherwise, it is not luxury.” That apparently straightforward notion could have served as the mantra for this Austin-area home.

The redoubtable Coco Chanel was nothing if not pragmatic. “Luxury must be comfortable,” she proclaimed. “Otherwise, it is not luxury.” That apparently straightforward notion could have served as the mantra for this Austin-area home.

“They didn’t want it to be stuffy or too formal,” recalls Austin-based designer Karen Greiner of the clients who hired her to outfit the interiors. “They’re very understated, low-key, unpretentious people. Grand and over-the-top were definitely out. They wanted it to be comfortable, yet sophisticated.” Like Chanel’s little black dress, in fact. And Chanel would have been the first to explain that a dress’ comfort must appear deceptively simple. Therein lies its art.

The clients’ own pursuit of comfort began with the structure itself. “Stylistically, they asked for a family home with a French country feel,” says Austin architect James LaRue. “It might look pretty buttoned-up, but it’s very casual from a lifestyle point of view. The house is really only one-room deep, and there are lots of windows, which make it pretty see-through and airy for a traditional home. There is no formal living room, and the family room is wide open to the kitchen.”

LaRue kept interior details fairly uncomplicated: White-painted intersecting beams in the family room, a stepped cove ceiling in the master bedroom and arched doorways leading from entry hall to family room all exhibit clean, unfussy lines. Even the roof was designed to look approachably handmade. “It was our biggest challenge,” admits LaRue, who remembers that the owners originally asked for slate. “Instead, we tried to make it look like an old zinc roof, with staggered roof joints to make it look more authentic.”

Comfort also has to do with privacy, of course—something difficult to achieve on a one-acre, curved corner lot. “We tried to save as many trees as possible,” says LaRue. “And configuring the home in an L shape gave us a little more protection from the street.” The inside of that L embraces side-by-side swimming and lap pools, keeping them out of sight from passersby.

Builder Ford Strei, of S&W Construction in Austin, recalls the great care that went into the exteriors. “There is a lot of hardscaping—retaining walls, pools, patios,” he observes. The lady of the house and the designer both insisted on limestone, a ubiquitous local material. “Karen wouldn’t be talked out of it. We explored every option, but she was absolutely adamant that it was right for the home.” They settled on saw-cut Texas limestone, which imparts a cleaner look than the more common irregular stone approach, and then softened the straight lines with plantings. “She likes an English cottage garden look—more overgrown and lush than sculpted,” says Greiner.

For the interiors, Greiner blended custom upholstered pieces with timeworn antiques, which she worked diligently to keep quiet and muted for a relaxed effect. Though the husband requested more color, she says, “I prefer to do neutral solids on furnishings and bring in color in the art and accessories, which are things that are easier to change out less expensively down the line.”

The designer’s attention to the principles of comfort extended to the walls (a soothing ivory throughout) and finishes. When the wife was initially skeptical about her suggestion of honed, rather than polished marble in the kitchen: “I told her to look at houses in Europe that have been there hundreds of years,” says Greiner. “Over time, honed marble acquires a patina that warms to the home.” And it seems the designer was right; the residence wears it and the other exceptional materials throughout well, almost as well as the ever-reliable little black dress.