This house could be in the Hollywood Hills,” says designer Chad Dorsey of a project he recently completed in Austin. “You walk into the entry and the view goes right through the living room and out to the pool. It’s very dramatic.” It’s so striking, in fact, that the owners selected it as the backdrop for their nuptials—a fitting choice as this renovation, which went from minor to major after a storm sent Texas into a freeze, expresses the couple’s shared vision. “We thought we’d paint the exterior, nothing too extreme, but the storm damage provided an opportunity to create what we really wanted,” recalls the husband. Chimes the wife: “And it showed us how well we make decisions together.”
With builder Teresa Duffin and her project manager, Kenny Torres, also on board, the couple enlisted Dorsey to update the interiors. “My clients wanted it to be livable, and they liked my ‘relaxed luxury’ style,” he recalls. Working with his senior designer, Georgia Bass, Dorsey began to reimagine the home in a more contemporary way while honoring the existing Mediterranean-inspired styling. To that end, one of the first tasks was replacing the living room’s series of French doors with a retractable design to enhance the vistas. Throughout, the team continued the transformation by embracing “timeless materials like natural stone and plaster walls to add texture and warmth without a lot of color,” Dorsey notes.
Since the clients frequently entertain, a key to furnishing the interiors was finding pieces that easily transition from place to place. “That way, if they need to rearrange a chair during a party, it will still look great,” explains Dorsey, who sourced items both online and on buying trips. Beginning in the living room—which serves as a pass-through to the kitchen and family room—he brought in an assortment of upholstered seats to suit the light and airy color palette. “The view out onto the verdant hills has a calming effect, and we wanted that to be reflected in the furnishings and to set the tone for the rest of the home,” the designer explains. Grounding the soothing space are darker elements like wood accents, black-painted doors flanking the fireplace and even an adjacent cocktail bar with midnight-blue cabinetry.
The dining room—notably one of Dorsey’s favorite spots in the house—retains a similarly easy spirit. “It’s comfortable for just the two of them on a Tuesday morning, but on a Saturday night it feels like your favorite restaurant,” the designer observes. Here, seating comprises not only chairs but also a custom chocolate-velvet-and-walnut banquette surrounding an oak dining table. Dorsey layered these against a backdrop of hand-painted metallic paper on one wall and a work by local collage artist Lance Letscher on the other. His collected approach “is authentic to us,” muses the wife, who shared projects by Los Angeles luminaries Jake Arnold and Kelly Wearstler, as well as memories of Italy’s Amalfi Coast, during meetings. “That’s the energy we wanted—not to replicate it exactly, but to have Chad put his spin on it.” Adds the designer: “The combination of materials—wood, metal, textiles, plaster, paint—creates a rhythm and a language develops.”
While there’s certainly a mix that ties everything together, each space retains a unique character. For example, the family room, dubbed the “record room,” serves as a laid-back, conversational area with vintage pieces in keeping with a turntable. The kitchen and husband’s study both nod to the couple’s openness for color with moody, smoky greens on the walls and cabinetry, respectively. And the primary bedroom invites relaxation with an intimate seating area and warmer tones imparted by a wood-paneled alcove for the bed, an idea repeated around the couple’s bathroom tub with espresso-stained oak paneling. “I love our bedroom suite,” says the wife. “Every morning the shades go up and there’s that view—the first thing I see—and the bathroom seems like our very own spa.”
It’s this unexpected nature of things that makes the couple’s first house as newlyweds feel like a true home. “Spaces don’t have to be new and perfect,” Dorsey explains. “It’s really about the subtleties of the design and creating different experiences.”