In the search for a new home, sometimes practicality takes precedence. As designer Marcus Mohon discovered when beginning a largely cosmetic makeover on a residence in Austin, it wasn’t the architecture that most attracted his clients—although they liked the flow and bones of the house—but rather its large grassy yard, where the couple’s two young boys could run wild. So although Mohon usually keys his design off the architecture, his initial goal for this project was instead to accommodate the homeowners’ young, active family. “The Moroccan overtones are a by-product of learning their tastes as our relationship developed along the way,” he explains. Says the wife: “I wanted something light-filled and colorful that also reflected my cultural background.”
Mohon began by addressing the basics: replacing countertops, retiling bathrooms and covering every wall surface with his favorite Benjamin Moore Mountain Peak White. “It was the perfect color to unify the spaces in this large rambling house,” he says. Next, all agreed the kitchen, with its one narrow entry point and cramped work area, required reconfiguration. Mohon designed a new space that builder Brian Fuchs then executed, removing the upper cabinets on one side of the room and replacing an octagon-shaped island with an improved rectangular version. “The owners wanted everything to feel open,” the builder explains. “This included giving the kitchen more of a relationship with the family room.” To help achieve this, an existing arch was also eliminated to expand the opening between the two spaces.
Concurrently, landscape designer Ben Dozier was making changes to the grounds, which he describes as a natural amphitheater surrounded by trees. “All the shade was on the perimeter, and there was a huge sunny area in the middle, which we softened by balancing the turf and garden areas and by planting more trees,” he says. “Now, it’s an inviting, welcoming area with plenty of room to play sports.” Dozier also collaborated with the pool designer and builder, Craig Johnson of Johnson Custom Pools, to ensure the pool was integrated with the master plan for the landscaping and exterior spaces.
Contemplating the wife’s desire to incorporate an international aesthetic into the design of the interiors, Mohon aimed to weave in Moroccan accents without going overboard. “The challenge was to keep the texture, geometry and mood without looking theatrical or contrived,” he says. An example is the pattern on the family room rug, which incorporates a geometrical illusion popular in the area but doesn’t hail from that region. In the breakfast room, however, a banquette wrapping two walls is a more authentic interpretation of Moroccan design. As Mohon—who has traveled to the exotic locale—explains, “In that part of the world, it is common to have seating surround an entire room, with a table pulled up to one side.” The table in this case, composed of cool, clean-lined steel, interjects an unexpected modern energy. “It has a dynamic quality that prevents the room from feeling too tongue-in-cheek,” Mohon says.
Throughout the house, the wife’s love of blue drove the color scheme. “It became the through-line,” Mohon says. The designer added accent pillows and rolling ottomans in the saturated hue to the family room, where he rounded out the palette with mismatched gray sofas and an upholstered armchair clad in deep plum. Everything syncs perfectly with the blue-backed built-in shelves supported by metal legs. “They are like a pair of étagères,” says Mohon, who designed the display and added silver pieces from the homeowners’ collection. Similar tones of blue and gray repeat in the master suite, featuring dark draperies with a subtle midnight teal cast that imbue the bedroom with a romantic and nomadic tent-like quality.
Although there’s a momentary departure from the blue in the dining room, where two custom ottomans dressed in raspberry velvet add an unexpected surprise to the formal space, the blue through-line resurfaces across the hall on twin velvet chairs in what the homeowners have dubbed the “girl’s room.” The wife, who requested the personal sanctuary, explains, “I am the only woman in the house—even our dog is male—and I wanted one purely female space.” To accommodate her request, Mohon draped all the walls in her sanctuary in a wool sheer. “The curtains make it beguiling but still approachable,” he says, just as the gray cotton damask on the chaise is the perfect merger of comfort and elegance.
In this space and throughout the home, the design subtly pays tribute to the wife’s heritage while also reflecting “the more casual nature of life in 21st-century Austin,” Mohon describes. Perhaps more important, the house also perfectly suits the homeowners, who enjoy and live in every space. Adds the designer: “It’s fresh, comfortable and young.”