Austin’s Bouldin Creek neighborhood includes a bevy of architectural styles, from the new uber modern homes to treehouse-esque abodes laying amid old-growth oaks to the eclectic, old school one-stories that are a true depiction of the city’s famous saying, "Keep Austin Weird."
For one couple, who were purchasing a vacation home in the area, they hoped to play into the community’s culture, tie in their love for their alma mater, the University of Texas, and make their spec build feel one-of-a-kind. Designer Christina Simon of Mark Ashby Design was hired in 2019 to complete the cosmetic updates, plus full interior design in only four months just in time for the start of football season.
What Is a Spec Build Home?
A spec build home is a new, move-in-ready home built by home builders across the country. These pre-fabricated homes are attractive to homeowners who don't want to wait on construction to move in.
The homeowners knew they wanted to be close to the bustling South Congress Avenue shopping district and were drawn to the home as it’s the ideal layout for entertaining. When you enter the South Austin Pied-a-terre, there’s a large courtyard, pool, open-concept living room, dining room, and kitchen, while the primary bedroom, which is now filled with varying tranquil blue tones, is lifted above the treetops.
For the designer, the directive was straightforward: infuse the home rich in colorful, textural pattern, plus include subtle pops of UT’s burnt orange. Furthermore, the clients wanted to invest and upgrade the home, which was easy to do with wallpaper, changing up the programming, and getting creative, according to Simon.
“We went in and pretty much resurfaced everything," she says, while a palette of blues, greens, terracotta, and leather complemented the bold orange accents.
While the home had plenty of charm, it needed a designer’s hand. In the kitchen, Simon and her team removed the upper cabinetry, trading it for open shelving and textured neutral tile, giving it a much-needed brightening lift.
For the bar, which was originally the utility and laundry area, she created a secondary entertainment space teeming with plenty of color through a blue-green tile backsplash, painted cabinetry, and leather hardware. Schumacher drapery conceals the stacked washer and dryer beyond.
In addition to a bright palette, art was an integral part of the design, and Simon enjoyed partnering with Alexis Armstrong Art Consulting.
“I went to her as she finds a blend of investment pieces that support young emerging artists but will have a retention value," Simon says. "She’s excellent at finding sculptural pieces and helping me with the right mix.”
The 3D birds, which immediately cue the playful nature of the rest of the home, are made from damaged LP records, while the ocean image was taken by Simon’s partner, photographer Clay Grier, while the two were in Italy.
“I love the orange-red trunks, and when they said they wanted a fun summer home, I immediately thought of it,” she says. An oversized Ian Davenport piece is a beautiful, elevated moment in the dining room, while a piece from Alexis Armstrong’s husband is included in the powder bath.
The couple’s desire for a funky, unexpected home was carried out through the unique art, as well as design decisions seen in the more private living spaces. The primary bath, which Simon feels underwent the largest transformation, was updated with natural oak and custom vanities, as well as hardware from J&L Hardware Studio, while the primary bedroom utilized both high-end and more casual pieces, including a custom bed upholstered in Kelly Wearstler fabric, wall-to-wall drapery, and woven pendant lights.
“The clients kept pushing to paint the walls, and they wanted to have fun in this space,” she recalls.
The guest bedroom, the space where burnt orange most shines, features a silkscreen custom-printed wallpaper from Austin’s Supply Showroom, which the clients say reminds them of Texas Longhorns, plus a custom rust-colored upholstered bed.
“If I could have any bed right now, it would be that one,” says the designer. Its color, texture, and classic shape anchor the room.
Completed pre-quarantine, the home has now become a peaceful and joyful haven.