Helen Thompson | Austin | Published in Modern Luxury Interiors Texas Fall/Winter 2015
An urban couple discovers that the grass really is greener on the other side.
Just after they got married in 2011, Laura and Robert Griffith noticed that something was missing. The newlyweds were enjoying the postcard version of the urban Austin lifestyle: They resided in one of the city’s swankiest downtown condos, a 56-story skyscraper that overlooks Lady Bird Lake two blocks away. “We moved downtown in 2004,” Laura says. “We liked everything about it.” Except for one thing : “We missed having a yard.” So, in a reverse-trending about-face, the couple made the decision to sell their downtown aerie and buy a house.
The Griffiths had done their homework and knew exactly what they wanted and where: “A modern three-bedroom, 3 1/2 bath house with an office and a three-car garage,” says Laura, who is in charge of talent acquisitions for Kony, a leading enterprise mobility provider. The pair also wanted to live in central Austin, near veterinarian Robert’s animal hospital.
As luck would have it, Laura found a house before it went on the market in one of the city’s most desirable older neighborhoods. It was as if the real estate fairy had eavesdropped on the Griffith’s conversations. The outdated 1930s-era cottage had been completely reconstructed and expanded by its previous owners. Now contemporary inside and out, the dwelling had three bedrooms, an office and 3 1/2 baths. Recognizing the rarity of finding an updated house in an older neighborhood in a super hot real estate market, the Griffiths bought the house immediately. Although the exterior was perfect, the couple knew they needed to customize the interiors and enlisted interior designer Robin Colton, who had helped them with their condo.
“Laura and Bob entertain a lot,” Colton says. “The architecture of the house is timeless, but it was my job to sway the interior design a new way.” The previous owners had two young children and had decorated accordingly, and the Griffiths expected something more grownup. “I needed to put their stamp on it,” says Colton. The straightforward floor plan of the 3,500-square-foot stucco, wood and glass house reveals a progression that encourages guests to come in, make themselves at home or venture into adjacent spaces. “It’s a great space for parties,” says Colton, who capitalized on what the house offered. A foyer became a sitting room; a few steps up are the living and dining areas. The kitchen is next, providing a stopping-off point for visitors before they make a beeline to the screened porch, with its comfy seating and television (Robert’s favorite hangout). The master bedroom is discreetly tucked to the left of the living areas and looks out onto the backyard and a magnificent pecan tree.
Colton faced the battle of opposites. She had redecorated the couple’s condo several years earlier, and the Griffiths wanted to repurpose many of the pieces they had so recently purchased. “It was a very serene condo,” notes Colton about the couple’s former residence, a retreat from the theatricality of the urban setting. The Griffiths’ new neighborhood is peaceful (there’s even a little stream across the street), so the revised goal was to amp up the drama. Colton made the attitudinal shift seem easy. “I added inviting textures for people to sit on,” she says, “and materials that reflect light to make the rooms exciting and kinetic.”
The designer wastes no time getting the message across. In the sitting room, the ceiling got a fresh coat of high-gloss paint. “I wanted to make the room take your breath away the minute you walk in.” Colton injected more sparkle unobtrusively: a cowhide rug with the metallic splatter and linen draperies with a hint of twinkle. A strategically placed dry bar welcomes visitors into the living and dining room, where a velvet-upholstered sofa and chairs invite sitting down. Gleaming in front, the resin coffee table is like a big stone washed in silver. Although the master bedroom is out of public view, it offers the same textural luxe with a velvet-upholstered and tufted headboard, a silk carpet shot through with metallic threads and a fluffy Tibetan fur bench.
But the crucial element in the entire relocation process was the yard, that thing that Laura and Robert had missed so much in their previous dwelling in the sky. Miraculously, the new house had come with a bonus: a yard - and a nice one at that - designed by landscape architect Robert Leeper, who is known for stylish, low-maintenance environments. Colton added a pool, patio and fire pit, celebrating the additions as if they were rooms for relaxing, eating and entertaining. Not coincidentally, the Griffiths use them as an extension of the residence. “It’s where we spend most of our time,” Laura says. “The yard is our favorite part of the house.”
Art in office, sitting room and living room
Pendant in dining room
Birdie's Nest pendant in living room
Headboard in master bedroom, bedding, decorative pillows in master bedroom and living room, all draperies, dining room chairs, dry bar in living room
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Kira Tibetan fur bench in master bedroom