Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Interior Designer, Terri Symington of T. Symington & Co. Interiors
regarding a beautiful home for which she recently completed an interior renovation and design. The home is a multi-level residence, situated on a hill that gracefully stretches down to lake, Lake Austin.
The views are spectacular overlooking the water via the windows and French doors in the open concept family/dining/kitchen layout of the home. Even the master bedroom
takes in a wonderful view of the lake. The lake views were an important feature Terri kept in mind during her design process.
Today, we are going inside this beautiful Lake Austin residence for a tour with Terri. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the design process and how an Interior Designer makes the choices that she/he makes, I think you’ll find this interview as fascinating as I did. Enjoy!
Terri, could you share with our readers a little about your background and how you became interested in design?
I come from a creative family… my mother is an artist and her mother was a writer. Dancing was my first love and I never thought that I would be doing anything other than that. I danced for years and was a member of a Houston modern jazz/ballet dance company. After much soul searching, I decided to change directions into a field that I felt I would have more control over the outcome and greater longevity. Art was always part of my life so my choice was to go into commercial art, particularly fashion illustration
. After several years of being in that field and transitioning into art directing, my interest just kept expanding. I was an art director with the Horchow Collection in Dallas when I decided to go back to school to pursue the training and credentials to become an interior designer.
Today, our readers will be touring a beautiful home you designed on Lake Austin. Could you tell us a little about the home...the style of the architecture, age, and the condition when you were first brought in on this project?
This 18 year old custom built home, was influenced by Mediterranean and Art Deco styles. The clients are the original owners and they actually selected the property for the huge oak tree that shades the majority of the house and back area that overlooks the lake. Even in the hot summer months, they get a wonderful breeze off the water and cool shade.
When I began the project, the home and interiors reflected past tastes of the clients. The clients’ had transitioned and wanted their home to reflect their current lifestyle and tastes. My objective was to create a fresher and more cohesive look throughout the home by simplifying and subduing some of the surface elements as well as with the furnishings, art and accessories.
What changes were made in the home to update it?
The clients had already replaced the once carpeted downstairs floors with hardwood which made a huge difference and my start much easier. One of the surface elements that I addressed were the cabinetry. I had them re-glazed to tone down the yellow undertones of the wood. I had a “faux bois” in a dark stain put on the island in the kitchen
; because, over the years different woods had been added to it which did not match up. The darker stain grounds the area and balances with the dark woods from the furniture in the other areas of the great room. I selected wall colors in matte finishes that would help bridge the different existing surface colors.
Were there any particular features you wanted to emphasize or take advantage of through your design?
This home is all about being on the lake and enjoying the views. The color scheme is neutral with accents of coral and a blue/green. There is just enough color to keep it interesting and to compliment the colors of Mother Nature. The treatments that I did on the windows and French doors were designed so that they would not distract from the views, but would soften the interiors. In the great room I installed translucent shades that basically disappear when drawn all the way up. The linen panels add a layer of texture and softness to the architecture.
What role did you play in the renovation?
This project was so much fun to work on. The clients had full confidence in me and pretty much gave me free reign. The results are a true reflection of them, interpreted through my perspective and intuition. The furnishings are a combination of very fine pieces and some very primitive pieces… some expensive and some not. They were selected because they compliment each other. The oriental carpet
in the great room was one of the first pieces that we selected. It is a very fine silk and wool from Abrahams Rugs in Houston. It had the colors that we wanted and enough “obvious” patterns for the whole space without it being overwhelming. The tones and patterns in the upholstery and drapery fabrics were kept subtle with a variety of textures.
I designed the sofa and had it fabricated by this excellent workroom in Houston that I use. I designed it with an English rolled arm that I modified to be narrower than what is typical for it. It has a gentle slope that begins where it intersects with the back section and a pleated detail on the back side of the sofa with a “frog” closure and a decorative trim at the hemline. I like to keep things simple, so it is details like this that add depth and interest to a space. I designed the window cushion
and tufting with a detail that is taken from the very old method of how mattress buttons were once made… little square shapes sewn from the fabric.
The antiques were carefully selected for this project. On the back side of the sofa is a very old table
from South America which is very hard to come by. The two antique chairs flanking this table are French inspired Swedish chairs that I purchased through 1st. Dibs from the “svenska mobler” shop in L.A. Several pieces were found at the Round Top antique fair…which I love living close to, because when I am working on a project that needs unique pieces…I can come and go all day long!
The antique French arm chair came from Round Top and I had it reupholstered for a fresh updated look. I used two separate fabrics, an off white ottoman
fabric with a coral strie fabric for the center panel that runs down the middle on the front and back of the chair.
The dining chairs were also antiques that I found at Round Top. The tops of the seats and the back rests were upholstered in an inexpensive heavily woven hemp fabric, while the inset on the back was in a geometric couture fabric.
The original painting of the three figures at the stairs was the inspiration for the coral accent color. I love working with clients that appreciate art and have a personal connection to their selections. For that reason, if I need to buy art for a project, I prefer to have the client involved so that it is not just selected for decorative purposes.
In the master bedroom
, I took the drapes to another level by doing panels in two shades of silk that are quite full and long. Ball gown details were used on the header of the panels with silk covered buttons on the pleats. The drapes do not take away from the view, but are an important element in the layering of textures within the neutral scheme. Heavy Belgian linen was used on the upholstered bed from the Kravet collection. A sisal area rug was selected in here to maintain simplicity and add more texture. The reading chair is a custom Baker chair, which we ordered two of in case they ever wanted to use them as a pair. The second chair is in the great room. The folding screen was from an estate sale and some of the other pieces were found at resale.
Originally there were a couple of open shelves on the fireplace wall in the bedroom, but I had those removed and I designed the built-ins for extra storage and the media equipment. The room is a very relaxing space to be in.
Were there any particular needs or functions that guided the direction of your renovations? (i.e. ... children, working from home, pets, etc..)
The clients entertain family often during the holidays and have grandchildren that visit frequently, so one of the criteria was for the space to be relaxing and accommodating, with a certain level of style and sophistication without being pretentious. Since they are right on the lake with their own boat dock, water sports
are a part of the activities that goes on and the interiors also needed to be in keeping with that relaxed lifestyle.
Consideration was also taken into account of the idea that the clients would possibly sale the home so that they could build another lake home that would be a single level… an important consideration for aging in place. With this in mind, it added to the decision to keep the overall scheme neutral.
Who or what has inspired you as a designer? What are your sources of inspiration?
I’d have to say that my dance mentors were probably the most instrumental in helping me develop the discipline it takes to stay focused while at the same time allowing the intuitive nature of being creative to come through…. They inspired me to allow myself to express my creativity. Most people are far more creative than they realize… they have just not gotten to the point where they have given themselves permission to express it.
I find inspiration everywhere… even in what some would consider rather innocuous sources…such as the negative and positive shapes of a cast shadow or the physical and emotional reaction that is evoked by spatial conditions. This may seem odd, but have you ever considered the reaction you have when you go from an intimate space into one that is spacious or monolithic... it can be overt or subtle or subconscious. The human scale and how it relates to its surroundings is an element that I consider when designing a space. Spaces and furnishings can be manipulated so the one can create an intentional reaction.
As the interview came to an end, Terri brought up some important thoughts concerning design...
1. When it comes to design, nothing happens in isolation, but is rather a situation of elements reacting to other elements… color, light and shadow, textures, patterns, shapes, etc. For instance colors are perceived by how they react to the light source and the other colors that they are near or adjacent to.
2. When it comes to the architecture and furnishings of a space, including the art and accessories …no matter how interesting or beautiful something is, if the scale, the balance or the proportions are off in relation to the other elements in a space… then it doesn’t work. The same is true when it comes to selecting and grouping patterns in a space.
3. Base your selections on quality, authenticity, and endurance of style…
There is so much to consider when designing a room for it to be successful…You have to be able to “see” the whole picture, well beyond what the latest trends are.
Terri, thank you so much for this wonderful tour of the beautiful home! It was a delight seeing all the gorgeous details and learning about the design process through the eyes of the designer herself.