Design quickie: Space Crusader

Texan interior designer Amity Worrel works magic on an overly expansive entertainment area, proving that dividing an awkwardly configured living space is often key to conquering it.

Space is integral to the way in which we live. Within our homes we aspire to have more of it, mostly in the form of larger, open spaces. We’ve become conditioned to crave entertainment areas that flow from kitchen to living room and from living room outdoors. Such aspirations factored into the relocation of a thirty-something couple from the bustle of New York City to quieter Austin, Texas. For Jenn Perron, a graphic designer, and her partner Andy Josuweit, an entrepreneur, the 650-square-metre house the couple now calls home afforded them spacial luxury rare to New Yorkers. But what happens when that newly gained space isn’t suitably configured? Or doesn’t offer much by way of an entrance? Or is so open plan that it becomes impractical?

These hurdles led Jenn and Andy to seek professional help in transforming their home, specifically in reconfiguring their expansive living space. Interior designer Amity Worrel was an easy choice – the cities she’d lived in mirrored those the couple had, thereby establishing commonality of habitats both past and future. An Austinite by birth, Amity herself had spent many years living in New York. Having attended both the New York School of Interior Design and Parsons School of Design, Amity spent over a decade working for two of America’s top interior designers, Jeffrey Bilhuber and Tom Scheerer. It’s this invaluable career experience that saw Amity collaborate with trendsetters and tastemakers, working on homes for style icons including Anna Wintour and celebrities like David Bowie. In 2008 Amity returned to Austin and established her own interior design studio.

On her first reaction to Jenn and Andy’s three-bedroomed home, Amity says, “It was a very simple, rectilinear modern house that was somewhat cold and uninspired – but the light, the windows and the connection to the yard were incredible!” What was not incredible was the lack of entrance. The front door entered into a sizeable living space with awkwardly positioned dividing walls and with no demarcated area signalling an arrival zone. Amity’s solution to divide the impractical space also proved to conquer it. “My objective was to create a more functional floor plan. I determined a new layout that kept one of the dividing walls but with altered dimensions and added functionality and visual interest. The other dividing wall was removed, allowing for a mudroom at the entrance that not only offered a place to hang coats and set a bag, but also a sense of arrival.”

On entry, the white oak that clads the mudroom cabinetry offers immediate warmth that is echoed throughout the home. Wooden shelves allow the couple the opportunity to display collectibles that personalise the entrance. Sharp design thinking led Amity to maximise the reverse of the mudroom by providing cabinetry for Jenn and Andy to house their book collection. “I created a library space for the owners to gather and read but still feel connected to the larger room,” comments Amity of the comfortable corner. The nook is both separated from and part of the lounge, a bright space where a palette of warm tones prevails. Vintage pieces (like a 1970s marble coffee table shipped from Denmark), custom sofas, textural rugs and a rare tapestry by renowned American weaver Saul Borisov combine to form the couple’s aesthetic, which is at once casual and sophisticated.

The cladding that adds visual interest to the mudroom is repeated on a reconfigured wall close by. “A new centre volume was created to hold the television on one side, and a bar on the other, dividing living from dining,” says Amity of the feature wall. Jenn and Andy, eager to commission work from local artists in order to introduce uniqueness to their home, encouraged Amity to commission Texan artist Emily Eisenhart to create a painted mural in the bar (Emily was also tasked with creating a similar mural in the guest toilet). The subdued tones and line work of the bar mural are echoed in the painting of another local artist, Tom Jean Webb, that graces and brings colour to the dining and kitchen areas.

Insights the thirty-somethings offered from their time spent living in cramped New York apartments, along with tips Amity shared from designing for expansive celebrity homes, bore heavily in their collaboration and design thinking. This wealth of knowledge was critical to reshaping the impracticalities of the home’s original configuration, from something unsuitable to the couple’s needs to a space tailor-made for enjoyment. “I was able to really push my clients toward design decisions that were not initially comfortable, but ultimately were exactly the decisions that made the space ‘sing’,” says Amity.

Words: Martin Jacobs
Photographs: Andrea Calo

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