Subtlety That Wows

Dated: May 13 2022

Views: 8

subtlety that wows

A Rock Star Home for a Family of Four

Austin, Texas-based designer Sara Barney of BANDD/DESIGN came into this project with a completely blank slate. The homeowners were moving from San Francisco into a new development—which was, at the time, midway through construction—and planned to take none of their belongings with them. And after getting into the habit of moving every few years, the family of four was intent on making this Austin build their first long-term home.

Subtlety That Wows #1
Subtlety That Wows #2
Subtlety That Wows #3

Barney layered additional materials into the design using complementary light fixtures along sight lines. “Lighting is such an easy way to elevate a space without going overboard or even spending a lot of money,” she says. The black and bronze metal dining room sconces flow toward to the concrete pendants above the kitchen island, which are neatly tucked behind the natural water buffalo horn lamps in the living room. Varying shapes help to keep the space from feeling too static.

“The husband kept saying—and I still tease him about it to this day—I just want to place that wows,” says Barney. “They just really wanted a space that spoke to them as a family and who they were at this point in their lives, more than anything else.”

Per his request, Barney took inspiration from Lenny Kravitz’s Brazilian compound, an eclectic space outfitted in murals and bold photography with layers of wood, leather, and colorful patterns throughout. She swapped out various fixtures and finishes during construction to turn the builder-grade property into a true home.

In the dining room, she commissioned a mural on the wall, meant to imitate a wisp of smoke, and opted for built-in bench seating underneath it to make the large space feel a bit cozier.

From there, the decentralized setup called for structural sconces rather than the oft-expected chandelier, and a custom dining table with an extra-special detail: a steel base that incorporates their initials, T and A, topped with a ten-foot live-edge slab of wood. “That was, to them, to become sort of like a family heirloom,” says Barney. She capped off the area with a NanaWall system for breezy indoor-outdoor living.

Coming from a fairly neutral home, the family was eager to incorporate color into their new space, though Barney was cautious not to go overboard. In the mostly gray-and-white kitchen, she wrapped the island in handmade blue tile and added warmth with custom rattan bar-banquettes, meant to both give the family more places to cuddle up and to reduce overwhelm from the amount of seating as the sight line flows into the open living room.

Anchored by a two-story plastered fireplace, Barney built out the living room around a metallic Bernhardt coffee table. “We wanted something that was conversational and they could sit around and play games if they wanted to,” she says, but at the same time, an unobtrusive piece “that could easily be pushed out of the way if they needed to for hosting or whatever else.”

She continued the color scheme with a light blue CR Laine sofa and bench seating cushioned by an Aegean-toned Schumacher fabric on either side of the fireplace, flanked by caramel leather, wood, and wicker seating. “Bringing in the color lends to that playfulness and just being a little bit less formal, a little bit more approachable and functional for them,” says Barney.

In the primary bedroom, Barney elevated her use of color with a textured accent wall beneath Sherwin-Williams Dignity Blue paint to add architectural interest without disturbing the calm, welcoming environment.

Meanwhile, in the two daughters’ rooms, the eight- and six-year-old offered their own design input, where they landed on navy and rainbow schemes, respectively. To create spaces that could grow with the girls, Barney layered swappable elements, such as plush bedding and funky wall tassels. Underfoot, she used rugs on top of wall-to-wall carpeting to add depth and texture to the space, careful to choose thinner rugs so that they’d lay flat and avoid a tripping hazard.

“I think the overall look and feel is that it’s warm and inviting and cozy,” says Barney. “It’s a good example of how you can make a home feel like a home and be beautiful, without being too cataloguey, dark, not enough life and personality in it. It’s just really creating that personalized space for them without it leaning too much in their personal taste and still really speaking to who they are.”

from scratch

Starting the decorating process with nothing can quickly lead to creative overwhelm. Designer Sara Barney’s recommendation is to lean into the vastness. “With art, I show [clients] a ton of selections, and then that helps me narrow in on the type of art that their eye is attracted to,” she says. She follows a similar process with accessories, overbuying based on the needs of the space, and seeing how items interact from there.

In general, Barney abides by the rule of three: grouping decorative elements into visually appealing trios. “Start by layering in different ways,” she says, combining items with various textures, sizes, and scale atop surfaces and on walls, and pay attention to negative space. “We can only plan so much when it comes to those accessories and details, but until we get in there and start moving things around, it’s hard to truly be fully prepared for it.” Don’t be afraid to get playful in this later stage.

Subtlety That Wows #4
Subtlety That Wows #5
Subtlety That Wows #6

One of the homeowners’ top priorities was to have spaces where they could seamlessly move from snuggling up together as a family to welcoming guests into their home, while still showcasing a sense of style. To achieve this effect, Barney invited a sense of comfort to sturdy structures made of wood, metal, and leather by topping seating areas with an overflow of textured pillows and cushions. She slipped in an extra bit of personality with playfully patterned rugs and textured carpets.

Blog author image

Steven Norris

If you are seeking the no BS Realtor with a cutting edge, then look no further! I have always had simple philosophy when it comes to living life: Keep It Real! To me, that means choosing the traits th....

Latest Blog Posts

Subtlety That Wows

subtlety that wowsA Rock Star Home for a Family of FourAustin, Texas-based designer Sara Barney of BANDD/DESIGN came into this project with a completely blank slate. The homeowners were moving from

Read More

Venice Beach House with Personality

personality pickA Venice Beach Town House with VerveWRITTEN BY VICTORIA HITTNER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANNIE MEISELYou may not be able to tell a book by its cover, but what can a home tell

Read More

Sweet & Savory

apple & prosciutto crostini with whipped blue cheeseMakes 18Crostini1 rustic French baguette slicedOlive oil, as needed½ gala or fuji apple, thinly sliced3 ounces (9 slices) prosciutto,

Read More

Lackluster to Lush Backyard Garden


Read More