An Interview with Element 5 Architecture

modern home austin

I must say that Austin is truly multifaceted when it comes to design. Fresh from high doses of interiors inspiration this weekend with the Tribeza Interiors Tour, another great design event is coming up this weekend. Although decorating is my passion, one cannot deny that without building and architecture; well, a home will have no bones. I’ve been to the Austin Modern Homes Tour and they never disappoint. From each home, you’ll always take with you new ideas and learn from the best architects in town. I caught up with Nick Mehl of Elements 5 Architecture about their work at one of the homes that will be featured in the 2014 Austin Modern Homes Tour.

1. It’s 2014! What new trends are you seeing as far as energy efficiency in building and designing a home?

LEDs all the way! We’re seeing a growing interest in using LED lighting throughout and a growing interest in incorporating Smart Home technology – integrating lighting, wifi, computer networks, electrical outlets and HVAC controls into the design of the home.

living room modern home austin

2.”Modern, environmental designs on a strict budget,” I like that! What are a few examples of how you are able to achieve this {cutting costs, etc}?

Keeping to a strict budget is even harder than it sounds. It means we, as architects, have to possess the knowledge of how much each and every aspect of the design costs. Architects often rely on builders for that information, but our office has built many of our own projects. We work very closely with builders during the bid process and have learned (the hard way) the factors that drive the cost.

kitchen modern home austin

3. When designing the home at Daugherty, what was the major challenge you were dealt with and how did you solve it?

The Daugherty Residence was a challenge because, as with most modern designs, integrating the mechanical system is difficult with flat roofs, hidden structural beams and lack of attic space to run ducts. It sounds somewhat boring, but designing the mechanical system to work smoothly is something important for architects to consider.

4. Tell me more of how you designed the back patio.

The back patio is not completely finished, but I’m glad you like it so far. Our concept was for the living room to feel like a part of the back patio. Towards that end, we have a large wall of floor to ceiling glass and a ceiling that visually transfers from inside to outside. The patio itself features some really beautiful pavers that the owners found.

backyard modern home austin

5. Your firm is also keen on highlighting the natural elements unique to Austin, can you expound on that?

There are two aspects to designing with the natural elements of Austin. The most obvious is using materials that are found in our region – limestone, certain species of wood, concrete, steel and glass. Secondly, there are the skilled craftsmen unique to our region. We have a great source of skilled masons and stucco contractors. Integrating nature into our designs also helps tie it into the region, and there are some award winning landscape architects in Austin who work with a unique palette of materials.

dining modern home austin

Get your tickets here. The event is Feb 1st and starts at 11 am. See you there folks!

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Images by Atelier Wong

New Crop Shop | The Muse’s Musings

new crop shop Textile

I’ve always been enchanted by the work of global artisans. There is something to admire about these gifted people who piece by piece, weave by weave and strand by strand patiently creates a work of art that is full of history, enchantment and character. To know their stories and even learn from them is a dream. A good friend of mine, a doe-eyed beauty with an amazing soul is living that dream! Charmie and her boyfriend is living in a beautiful hut surrounded by a lush garden in Chiang Mai,Thailand; and along with lessons of what’s important in life, they are meeting these artisans and showcasing their work at their new store, New Crop Shop. I learned more about their inspiration and their process in an interview below with the shop’s muse.


1. Why did you name your shop New Crop and what does it mean to you?

As odd as it may sound, the name New Crop actually found us! It came beautifully written on a ribbon when we bought a sack of rice! The name resonated with us because it symbolized a “new crop of products that come alive through the organic and timeless process of working with your hands. In a day and age where our world perpetually spins faster towards a technological age and everything is instant, we wanted to highlight those who are rich in time, in tradition, and a master at their craft. Some items take months to make, and many items require a group of women working together to piece together the final product. To me, this slow and beautiful process is very similar to the act of harvesting rice or planting your own food. It takes time and intention.

2.What is your process in finding the artisans and items that best fits your manifesto?

Our process is a mix of hunting, digging, and nomadically being a curious cat. We prefer to work with independent artists/artisans who’s pursuing their creative freedom by making beautiful items as they visualized it, and want their work to be seen, heard and appreciated as is. We ask a lot of questions because their personal work is also very personal to us. We ask if we can come over to where they make it, and spend a day with them making their craft. This has to be one of my favorite parts about the job. I learn so much about the craft, their culture and them as an individual which bonds us even more with their art.

Jewelry new crop shop purses new crop shop

3. Tell us your favorite story so far in meeting these artisans.

One of the first things we ever gathered for our shop was leather journals and we’ve always enjoyed speaking with leather artisans about their workmanship. One leather artisan in particular was named “OY”. We met him during one of our motorcycle road trips, and he ended up inviting us over to his workshop to watch him work on his leather goods. We showed up to a beautiful wooden hut he built himself in the midst of the mountains. We sipped coffee, talked, as he worked and blasted his playlist of 70’s rock and some good ol’ reggae. The vibe was incredible, and Aaron ended up leaving with a pair of custom made leather moccasins!

Chestnut leather journal

4. What have you learned about “creativity” from such humble “makers” who are not in it for money or fame but for the love of the craft itself?

We’ve learned the simplicity of loving your work, and how it can nurture your soul and can even be therapeutic at times. They don’t go in it with a 5 year business plan,do lots of market research, nor watch the clock. They put all their pride and time in their work and it shows. It truly is humbling to have met such talented artisans who are happy doing what they love, living simply and being rich with time. Because before meeting them I never thought working, therapeutic, and being rich with time could ever be in the same sentence.

purple exotic pillow

Thank you so much Charmie! This hurried life and the famous idea of instant gratification in the Western world can be incredibly exhausting at times. Living simply and doing what you love is a worthwhile goal for all of us. Check out New Crop Shop.

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

An Interview with Tracey Overbeck Stead

I firmly believe that interior designers live by a common ethos…and that is to make a home that truly reflects who they are and surrounded by things they love. This weekend, whether you are a design enthusiast or not, you should check out the Tribeza Interiors Tour. It showcases the interiors of big names in Austin in the world of design {and beyond of course!}. I still don’t know what to expect but I do know I will be thoroughly inspired. Today, I couldn’t be more honored to do this interview with an amazing interior designer, Tracey Overbeck Stead. Her work is fearless and at times offers a pleasant shock-value that others may find uncomfortable but secretly aspires to be as bold as her in her choices. Here it goes…

tracey overbeck stead

1. With so many design styles you are exposed to, how would you describe the style you chose for your own home?

I love so many styles and I design using a number of styles because I tailor to each of my client’s personal aesthetics. For my own home, I would call my style modern eclectic. It’s schizophrenic truly. I have mixed my family’s antiques, with client leftovers, along side pieces I’ve found while traveling.

tracey overbeck stead home 2. With a slew of residential and commercial projects under your belt, what has been most helpful for you that continuously inspires your creativity?

My creativity is inspired continually through travel, design blogs, and very progressive local showrooms like Scott + Cooner and Wildflower.

tracey overbeck stead eclectic room

3. What do you think is the biggest hurdle homeowners have in defining their own design style?

I think the biggest hurdle my homeowners have in defining their own design style is being afraid of change and taking risk. I find they also get trapped in trends instead of truly listening to their hearts on how they like to live stylistically.

4. Beauty before function or function before beauty? What is the sequence of importance in your design process?

I don’t think you have to sacrifice either of those. They both are so incredibly important that I never do one without the other. In other words, many of my clients have animals and/or children. I can always find durable fabrics, finishes that are incredibly beautiful as well to satisfy both needs.

cottage tracey overbeck stead

5. Your bio states that you are inspired by the “minimalism of High Modernism”; the play of words is quite intriguing in itself; can you expound more on this?

Inspirationally, minimalism of high modernism is basically “less is more”. Maximum impact with minimum clutter. In other words, I am inspired by spaces that have less pieces with a large design “punch” rather than seeing many pieces in a space with less high design.

tracey overbeck stead home

6. How would you describe the state of interior design savvy that Austin have or doesn’t have?

Being an Austinite, I have seen this city go through major changes over the years. I think Austin has an incredible passion for interior design. I think this city is design savvy and the growing population will demand more showrooms and increased resources for designers. Right now design-wise, we are in a city in flux. We have the interest, the desire, and the right minds but we are still a small city struggling to become a larger city with resources that you would find in a large metropolis.

7. What advice, ideas and tips would you give to new interior designers and decorators?

I love to speak to UT students during the year as a guest lecturer. I always tell them they are entering the most creative and one of the most satisfying professions.

Tip 1- Check your feelings at the door!

Tip 2- Listen to your clients!

Tip 3- No inflated egos allowed!

tracey overbeck stead bathroom design

I am giddy with excitement about this tour. Here are the details:

Saturday, January 25, 2014, 10am-4pm Get tickets here.

I do hope to see you there. All of us can learn so much on how “they” do it… that is how to create a home that’s inspiring, full of character and impeccably curated.

The Wall Space above the Masculine Night Stand

masculine night stand decorating

Items: Mirror by Jayson Home and Garden, Wall Antler, Art Print from Natural Curiosities, Lamp by Ralph Lauren, Nightstand by Vanguard Furniture

One of these days I’ll let you know if “Men are from Mars” when it comes to design and decorating. Being new in interior design, I must say most of my clients have been females of course but get this, my first ever client was actually a male. It was a disaster. After multiple attempts at trying to get his design vision, he broke up with me. Don’t get me wrong, I did a lot of work, I just never got him and I’m sure he never got me. It wasn’t a match and although I’d like to think it’s his fault…I’m sure it’s mostly mine, my inexperience at that time and perhaps not listening intently to what a guy has to say.

Well, fast forward and I’m having a few male clients again and tell you what… they are awesome! I am seriously starting to like doing masculine design. The little board above is for a male friend-client. I love a guy who understands that a well put-together space is important and yes, especially if you’re a bachelor. We got a pair of fabulous Vanguard furniture night stands with a gray and dark brown wood finish options and to get together the area, here are my recommendations for accessorizing the manly way:

(1) Go for a limited number of hues, 2 or 3 at the most.

(2) Go for textures that is organic and comes from nature — like horn, wood and leather.

(3) Go wild! Tasteful taxidermy is always good.

(4) With art prints, go abstract or geometric.

Happy Friday everybody! What’s in store for you this weekend?

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Muted and Refreshing | Two Bedroom Boards

The bedroom is definitely one of those areas that begs for the words calm, refreshing, cozy. And for the right reasons of course — getting to that all-peaceful place called the REM state is just hard to reach if there’s just too make excitement and boldness around you. Today, I’m sharing two bedroom boards I made for two different clients: blue and seafoam bedroom

1. For the Modern Rustic Abode: Hues of light blues and sea foam with a mix of modern traditional rustic furniture pieces.

The progress? Most furnishings are in except no decisions yet on the lounge/reading area chairs. We took out the secretary desk chair combo and opted with a dresser. We redid the carpet in almost the same geometric pattern as the one in #6 except we went with a sandy hue. We were wanting a seagrass seafoam wall covering but opted for painting to save costs {We did a wallpaper in an accent wall in their living room though!}. And the draperies — we went with a solid velvet in charcoal.

neutral bedroom

 2. For the Laid-Back yet Sophisticated Condo –  neutrals galore in white, creams and camel with lots of mirrored pieces and a tall leather headboard with faux bois pattern.

Here’s what’s happening: She didn’t go for the headboard but there’s certainly mirrored pieces and studded upholstery and yes, a gorgeous and shapely mirror.

In design, flexibility is key. Though I had initial ideas after meeting with the client, these ideas continues to evolve and meld with the clients thoughts. Adaptability is key.

Did any of these Bedroom design boards appeal to you?

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

The Fabric Divide

Truth be told, I don’t like wide open spaces and open floor plans in a house. This is rough because most new houses are built this way. I’ve been real estate stalking and if I see one more listing stating,”this house with an open floor plan…..,” I’ll cringe.

I want a house with mysterious corners that leads you to somewhere unexpected, a door after a door that leads you to Narnja and dungeons with a passageway to the secret garden. Oh, wait I’m in fairy tale land again. Case in point, wide open spaces can have something subtle that separates different certain areas to infuse some intimacy and coziness into the space. And what better solution than a fabric divide — a drapery or a curtain that is. The images above are perfect examples — from canvas to sheers, it may not give you 100% privacy but it will give the space a dose of drama and texture. What do you think?

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

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Layering Trick: Mirror Behind Nighstand

Hola friends! How was your weekend? Mine was super laid back and got a lot of things done —- I love it when I’m productive! Bring it on 2014.

So, we’re slowly into the accessorizing stage with some of my clients. One loved the idea of a mirror behind the night stand and this trick is a good fit with one of my other clients as well. One we need to put it together with other items to make the area fuller and the other, the mirror will help expand the space. For two different reasons, one function — layering. Case goods {dressers, cabinets, etc} and occasional furniture never looks good with just one thing adjacent to it. A night stand with just a lamp will look blah…but with a vase, some books and a sculpture? Now we’re talking! Back to the mirror, here are some ideas:

1. A vintage floor mirror — it will not give a very strong reflection but it will give the space so much more character.

2. Tall Rectangular mirrors does the layering trick for this bedroom with tall ceilings.

3. How about embed it within the architectural walls of your room?

4. Round mirrors balances the boxiness of night stands.

5. And how about getting it together with other items? An exquisite mirror with framed art and even wall sculptures will give the area so much more depth!

You can also do a collage of mirrors — you can go with similar sizes and styles, different sizes, same style or different all together. The options are unlimited. In styling a space, dissimilar items can go together, the trick is creating balance with them.

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Images: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

New and Noteworthy in Design

Are you getting used to 2014 yet? Just 14 years ago, we thought everything will shut down in 2000 {We didn’t prep like crazy — oh, just got tons of cases of water}. Since it’s the New Year, I thought I’d share with you some design products that catches my eye. There is really so much beauty and creativity out there and though liking and disliking something is so personal — I thought sharing with you some of the things I see and resources I find will help you narrow down your choices for your next design and decorating project. Here are my picks for the week:

1. Kelly Wearstler‘s collection of wallcoverings and trims for Groundworks | Lee Jofa is as glamorous as her empire. In metallic hues of course and mimicking natural and urban elements, I say it will be perfect for a sophisticated uptown oasis.

2. The Campeggi sofa bed is pretty cool! So, even though I prefer cozy and quaint than trendy & flashy, I think this new take on the sofa bed is just amazing! Hello urban loft!

3. Behind every great woman is another great woman she is inspired by. This wall mural of Coco Chanel  by Pixercise is just one of many in their collection – Inspiration is a Woman.

4. What a statement these colorful fan tiles would make in a kitchen! It’s definitely not for the faint of heart but it’s fun, splashy and dazzling. By Ceramica Bardelli

5. So, I just got done watching the mini-series “Rome” and yes, I do watch Game of Thrones, so this Medieval-themed wallcovering by WallSuit really appeals to me. Very regal and barbaric at the same time? (How my mind works, always mixing & matching!}.

Off to reading more of my interior design mags! #IHaveAnAddiction

Source: Interior Design Magazine

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These so Horn-y

horn decor

All items from Jayson Home and Garden.

So, it’s not what you think …. I’m talking about these glamorous decor items made of horn. Although horn has been used in decorative items for a while now, I do have a new found crush in them. Sorta masculine but incredibly refined, they act as a neutral and can go with almost anything. It’s natural patterns are incredibly organic and perfect for a rustic or vintage feel. The rich hues on the other hand is all lush and elegant. Ummm, #2 & #5 is on my wishlist…my desk will totally love these!

Almost done with shopping everyone?

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

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The Dining Chair: Cozy them up with Fur

I truly can’t believe it folks! Is Christmas really just around the corner? I did a little Christmas decorating last week with a few wreaths and a small tree for the casa. Truth be told, I don’t do much holiday decorating. In this case, less is truly more. And that’s why I love this idea so much… fur throws on your dining chairs! It’s cozy and festive at the same time. No primping them up; just toss over your chairs. They are awesome for outdoor seating too {saw them at cafes all over Prague!}, just add fire in the middle and you’re instawarm {definitely a made up word} for this winter season.

What do you think? Any other ideas up your sleeve to add more warmth to holiday decorating?

Do you have a Design question? Feel free to drop me a line here >>>

Images:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4