Lauren and Drew Tate didn’t need to look far for help outfitting the house they purchased in Austin. Although its spacious, open layout was well suited to their young family, Lauren quickly turned to her good friend, designer Meredith Ellis, to infuse its lackluster interiors with some much-needed personality. While Ellis admits more is at stake when designing for friends, she says, “It’s also a bit easier because I know them. In this case, Lauren wanted her house to be rooted in tradition but also clean, classic and updated.”
Ellis relied on many of the lines she carries at her boutique showroom, James–from the Carolina Irving Textiles fabric used for the dining room draperies to the Sister Parish wallpaper in the master bathroom–to tie in timeless patterns in serene hues. “Knowing her and how much she loves softer colors, I chose blues and greens–all of them natural,” Ellis says. Incorporating tranquil shades via pattern was a strategic choice. “They have twin 4-year-old girls and a dog,” the designer explains, “so while everything is pale, we made it durable and livable–and prints hide the inevitable stains and spills.”
The soft palette formed a refreshing framework for the many antique and dark wood pieces passed down from Lauren’s mother. But before Ellis tackled the furniture plan, she went a step further to enliven the interior by bringing in more sunlight. “This was an old ranch-style house at some point,” she says, “and we were really able to brighten it and at the same time enhance the architecture.” For example, Ellis chose to paint the foyer and replace the solid door with a steel-framed glass one for an airier feel.
In the kitchen, she faced the hurdle of a cumbersome load-bearing wall between the cooking area and living room. Eliminating it would have required adding an unsightly support beam and losing cabinet storage space, so Ellis concocted a workaround. “The solution was to make it look intentional,” she says, “with an opening between the two areas lined with glass cabinetry above to allow light to stream through.” She then collaborated with the builders, project manager Mike Gomez and general manager Steve Strauss, to transform the adjacent living room’s dark brick wall. “Painting it would not have felt sophisticated enough,” she notes. Instead, Ellis opted for streamlined paneling on the wall and mantel as another way to “make the house feel lighter and bigger,” she says.
With a newly bright and open foundation in place, Ellis forged ahead by instilling the abode with a youthful environment elevated by formal accents. The dining room, for instance, exudes a casual aura with its faux bois wallpaper, sisal rug and lantern over a farmhouse table. However, it also contains an antique library table from Lauren’s mother, an ornate gilded mirror and a framed Gracie wallpaper panel. In lieu of Gracie enveloping all the walls, the panel adds a pop of color while maintaining an approachable vibe. A collection of blue pottery on the library table has a similar effect, toning down the mirror hanging above. “It’s the juxtaposition,” Ellis says. “I’m always playing with contrasting ideas.” The result exceeded the owners’ expectations. “We wanted it to be a usable dining room but it’s actually casual enough for every day,” Lauren says.
Throughout the house, clean-lined furnishings upholstered in artisanal fabrics in subtle tones and organic motifs underscore the relaxed yet sophisticated aesthetic. The fabrics also helped the designer achieve consistency. “While each room has its own personality, the home needed a cohesive flow,” explains Ellis, whose strategy was to pull a hint of color from one space and apply it with more influence in another. The teal on the study walls and cabinets, for instance, appears again in the dining room on the draperies and Gracie panel.
The twins’ bedroom is a more vibrant departure from the other living areas. “I always point my clients toward more sophisticated children’s spaces,” Ellis explains. “We wanted something their daughters could grow into that’s whimsical without being childish.” To achieve that goal, she selected a Penny Morrison fabric for the draperies, inspiring the beds upholstered in a complementary Stroheim check and the playful art. Her choices proved to be a welcome boon for the owners. “My husband and I tend to choose things that are very safe,” says Lauren. “Meredith really helped us feel comfortable with more color and pattern.”
In fact, Lauren is hard-pressed to name a favorite room. “No matter where you sit, you have a gorgeous view,” she says. “And although each room is different, Meredith managed to tie them all together.” That’s by design: “What’s so beautiful is that even though we used primarily subtle colors throughout, it’s still really layered and approachable,” Ellis says. “It really captures the owners and their loves.” Spoken like a true friend.