Something seems fated about the home designer Shazalynn Cavin Winfrey has made her own in Austin. She wasn’t even in Texas when the residence came on the market, but she immediately knew it was special. “I texted my husband, who was nearby, and said, ‘the minute you wake up, get in the car and go over there,’” recounts the designer, recalling how she fell in love with the property sight unseen.
Seated on one of the highest points in the city, the home had previously belonged to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, whose bishop lived there for more than 40 years. It had served as a parsonage, providing living quarters for the bishop as well as plentiful spaces for hosting parishioners and visiting clergy. However, the abode’s traditional hallmarks—white stucco, stacked stone, red-clay floors, terra-cotta roof tiles—resonated with the designer, who spent much of her life in the western part of the state and was anxious to find her way back. “There was something old-school Texas about this architecture,” she muses.
When Cavin Winfrey finally set foot on the property, she found a tangle of overgrowth. Taming the vast landscape included preserving its heritage trees, inserting a sleek swimming pool and updating the bishop’s four beloved terraces—with one perfectly positioned to soak up the area’s golden sunsets. Interior design decisions were similarly predicated on natural light, with the floor plan preserving outdoor access from virtually every room and hallway. From there, a family room was captured for a daughter’s bedroom, the dining room was swapped with the living area, and an upstairs apartment kitchen was converted to a closet.
Meanwhile, the kitchen was reconfigured for both beauty and functionality. Here, the influence of Cavin Winfrey’s former culinary arts career is evident in the custom private-label cabinetry as well as the layout. “Most professional kitchens have a galley style, and that’s my preference,” the designer shares. “I think zones are important, and keeping the working area and serving area separate.” One end of the space features an entertaining station complete with a refrigerator in Kelly green—a hue repeated on a lacquered china cabinet that anchors the opposing breakfast nook. The color choice is a nod to the bishop’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations but is also a direct response to the natural surroundings. “I believe a house will tell you what it should be,” explains Cavin Winfrey.
Verdant hues also appear prominently in a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, which the designer clad in handmade ceramic tiles. Teamed with patterned selections adorning the stair risers and running up the kitchen backsplash, the tile assortments have the added benefit of appearing original to the house. “It was a tribute to my Southwestern roots,” she describes, “that 50 years ago, materials would have been made and sourced locally with indigenous qualities.”
Complementing the spaces are favorite pieces that have followed Cavin Winfrey and her family from place to place. “I can’t think of a single item in this house that doesn’t fit better here than it did anywhere else,” she expresses. In the dining room, a raw-crystal chandelier from a previous residence illuminates a backdrop of scenic wallpaper bedecked with fanciful creatures. And an inherited collection of Staffordshire figurines feels right at home atop twin étagères tucked into the window niches. Adds the designer: “These pieces are about our history and the ancestors who have helped deliver us to this place.”
It was much the same case for the couple’s eclectic collection of art. “Truthfully, I only purchased one new piece for this home,” Cavin Winfrey reveals. Framed textiles—originally from the Lakai Uzbeks in Afghanistan—hang in the primary bedroom, conversing with a mix of Southwest-style and other vibrant rugs throughout the interiors. In a daughter’s bedroom, art pops against sketchy grid-like walls underscoring the designer’s deftness for combining scales and patterns. While in the entryway, a small landscape of her native New Mexico suspends above seven tortoise shells, and a cherished angel figurine poses within a niche retained during the renovation.
The residence is a sacred vignette of sorts—one that honors Cavin Winfrey’s story as much as that of the bishop before her. “There has been a spiritual journey in arriving to this home,” the designer notes. “I know this place has a history, a divinity, and those are my touchstones.”