The W Hotel in Austin, at the heart of a downtown block packed with eclectic boutiques and entertainment options, boasts swank restaurants and swish bars for guests and locals seeking minimal, modern flare. But at a three-bedroom residence on the 32nd floor, high above the city, the quieter vibe created by Nancy Bulhon for a philanthropist and her husband is more modern meets traditional.
“Urban glamour,” the designer calls it, referencing the unit’s vivid red walls, richly textured fabrics and a stunning collection of Venetian glass. It’s a drastic change from their former house, a classic, six-bedroom Georgian—and it’s exactly what they had in mind. “We wanted to move downtown for ease of lifestyle,” says the philanthropist. “We wanted to be able to walk to meetings and events. Plus, we really didn’t need all those bedrooms.”
Designed with the family—which includes two daughters in high school and two sons in college—in mind, the condo’s open living plan boasts multipurpose rooms that cater to a more casual, urban lifestyle: long, cozy living room sofas are wide enough to convert into overnight crash pads for the kids’ friends; an office area in the master has hideaway desks concealed in a built-in; and the guest bedroom has occasional-use Murphy beds for the visiting boys.
The dining area, originally aligned in the building plan to nestle up next to floor-to-ceiling windows, now bisects two living areas, one with a gorgeous view of Lady Bird Lake and the rolling hills to the west. After all, why waste the view on a formal dining area they’d use once a year, especially when the outdoor limestone deck comfortably seats over eight? Instead, plush sectionals covered in ruby-colored cotton chenille offer a welcome spot for reading and conversation; a more casual den for watching television is on the opposite end.
The home, however, wasn’t always so inviting. When the couple purchased it, the raw space was all concrete floors and exposed metal framing, “pretty bare-bones condition,” says Bulhon. But she began working on it right away, before the clients moved in, devising a way to soften the look. “The residents didn’t want a hard-edged modern aesthetic,” says Bulhon, who had already designed other properties for her clients, which included the classic Georgian, as well as a rustic ranch. “They’re not glass and chrome people.
Classic touches give the place a charm reminiscent of the Old World, while a dose of glamour keeps it current. Dining chairs covered in blue silk velvet and backed in a paisley print surround a glass-topped table, where a traditional chandelier hangs overhead. Carpets in the living areas, one with medallions, feature Greek key motifs.
Red walls complement dark-wood flooring and offer a lively contrast to the green views from the windows; the panes can be completely covered with large-scale, floral-patterned draperies.
The bold crimson palette continues in the open kitchen, where leather- covered barstools line an island—a perfect spot for dining on room service. Colors are more subdued in the master, where luxurious tones of plum, lavender and pale green complement an Etruscan-style bed and a Louis XV-inspired seating area. The deep windowsills in the bedrooms are converted with cushions into lounging spots—or mini- observation decks (if you can handle the bird’s-eye view).
From this perch, it might be easy to forget the bustle of the hot spot below; except, of course, for the number of amenities available, like the fact that the music venue ACL Live at The Moody Theater is attached to the building. “It’s convenient taking the elevator to a concert,” says the woman of the house happily of just one of the many reasons she and her family won’t be checking out any time soon.