A Lone Star Gem with Plenty of Local Color

When a contemporary artist with a penchant for old-world charm teams up with a designer known for putting a fresh twist on tradition, the end result is an instant classic.

Text: Eleanor Lynn Nesmith
Photos: Photography by Michael Hunter

Six years ago, Erin and William Tice relocated from New York City to Austin, Texas, and settled into a charming bungalow in a desirable neighborhood. They had no intention of moving anytime soon. “But two baby boys and two dogs later, we definitely needed more space,” says Erin Tice. When a historic 1940s central hall Colonial located three blocks away became available, they jumped at the opportunity and brought in local designer Kristen Nix and builder Carlie Bailey. “The house was structurally sound, and it had good bones and all the right ingredients,” says Nix.

From the outset, it was a true collaboration with everyone in agreement the renovation should focus on vivid cosmetic changes and better use of existing spaces. “I loved the fact that we could have proper living and dining rooms, while opening up the kitchen and den for a generous casual family space,” says Tice. The ambitious nine-month renovation transformed dated interiors into a showstopper that perfectly balances the designer’s modern sensibilities and clean lines with the homeowner’s traditional tastes and love of collections.

Living Room Before and After

To make a memorable first impression, Nix came up with a blue-and-cream checkerboard pattern for the central hall foyer floor. “Some clients might be afraid of a painted floor in a high-traffic area, but Erin and Bill weren’t worried about wear and tear and embraced the idea creating a patina,” she says. Large framed cased openings establish a gracious interchange between the foyer and sunny formal rooms along the front of the house. Music and art inspired the layout of the living room, starting with a baby grand piano anchoring one corner.

Tice worked in public relations before her children were born, but in 2018, she started painting full-time. “For the living room, I decided to commission myself,” she says. While she admits she is her own toughest critic, her 48×72-inch abstract painting above the sofa is undeniably the focal point of the gracious room. Furnishings and fabrics restored original architectural details, and a muted Aubusson layered atop a jute rug intermingle freely, regardless of age and style.

The dining room is another collaborative tour de force. “Erin loves to cook and entertain more formally,” says Nix. “The dining room is colorful, feminine, and Southern. It’s her domain.” A sage green lacquered wallpaper on the ceiling complements the sumptuous floral landscape wallpaper mural on the room’s long wall. An abstract painting by Catherine Booker Jones above the fireplace introduces a delightful, unexpected modern touch.

Dining Room Before and After

As design trends evolve and the way families live change, a home with solid architecture and classic details evolves and can become even better with age. Fittingly, a partial wall (actually added at some point) came down to create an open-concept family room and kitchen. Blue-gray grass cloth wraps the walls and ceiling, while heavy molding, trim, and the island are painted a unifying blue.

Design themes continue as the gracious stairway rises up, and natural light dances across the landing. The sumptuous master suite also echoes the essence of Tice’s aesthetic. “She definitely has a vision,” says Nix. “I just make it come to life.” She carried it out by confidently drawing upon an old-school pattern-on-pattern effect, outfitting the space in a Quadrille Arbre De Matisse print. “My husband did question why we needed a canopy bed,” says Tice. “I told him because I’ve wanted one since I was a little girl, and the room is large enough to handle it.” Simple white linens and a pair of white upholstered armchairs let the drama of the canopy bed and walls take center stage.

Through the process, Nix, Bailey, and Tice forged a professional bond, as well as a true friendship. “I guess you could call us the girl dream team,” says Nix. It was obviously a winning formula, and at the end of the day, the renovated home stands as a testament to the trio’s diverse talents and the art of collaborating.

Powder Room Before and After