An Epic Backyard Pool Convinced This Actor to Take On a Texas-Size Transformation
Never judge a house by its (stucco) exterior.
Updated Oct 12, 2018 5:54 AM
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When actor Odette Annable and her husband, Dave (of Brothers & Sisters fame), sold their West Hollywood bungalow last year, she thought they’d move neighborhoods (like to Sherman Oaks or Calabasas), not across state lines and a thousand-plus miles. “I’m a Valley girl, born and bred. I was completely resistant,” Odette says with a laugh. But after spending a few weeks in lockdown during the throes of the pandemic with Dave’s family in Austin, life Down South started to grow on her—so much so that Dave proposed checking out houses on the market.
Fifteen tours and four offers later, the property the Annables landed on was the complete opposite of their style. A ’90s snapshot (think: a stucco exterior and wall-to-wall carpet), it wasn’t until the two wandered out into the backyard—complete with a pool and playground for their 5-year-old daughter, Charlie—that they knew it had to be theirs. “I saw the vision right away,” says Odette. “I knew that the bones were good, and that if I had to rip and pull everything apart, I would.” And she did. Most of their DIYs proved successful—any mishaps were minor, a result of Dave’s learning curve with power tools and paint (like forgetting to prime the basement, reveals Odette)—but when it came time to decorate, Odette turned to trusted friend and designer Erin Fetherston.
Create a Mood Board to Avoid Surprises
Whether it was guiding the Annables on how to take measurements or finding furniture, Fetherston’s help came from afar—it wasn’t until May of this year that she was able to visit in person. Limited access went beyond her client’s space—stores and showrooms were closed, too, which meant relying heavily on online shopping. Her advice: Trust the images; they’re more accurate than your imagination. “I always collage all the pieces I’ve selected together on a page, which helps to read color,” says Fetherston. “I also request swatches whenever possible to double check. I’m pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the sourcing process went.” She largely relied on retailers she works with regularly (such as Burke Decor and Annie Selkie) but still had fun finding handmade pillow covers and a Turkish rug on Etsy that ended up being the perfect fit for the couple’s primary bedroom.
Stacked Windows Mark the Starting Point
Although the Annables’ “to remove” list was long, the indoor wood shutters on the double-stacked living room windows were one of the first items to go, immediately bathing the space in brighter light. Odette was fine leaving them be, but Fetherston suggested floor-to-ceiling drapes; having had tall windows in her former New York City loft, she knew it was the necessary final touch to highlight the height of the space. “Since there are two rows of windows in this room, the drapes help unify them as single sets of windows,” explains Fetherston. But she had to find a compromise for Odette, who’s not a “formal girl,” by softly sweeping the grommet-style curtains to one side. “I never would have thought to do that without Erin,” says Odette.
Trust Your Gut (Even When the Designer Says No)
Drapery wasn’t the only point of contention—the Annables fell in love with an ottoman that was supposed to be a temporary fix while waiting for the arrival of a back-ordered coffee table. An awkward shape, the piece ruined Fetherston’s symmetry—she laughs recalling Odette’s pleas to keep it (the perfect footrest). It wasn’t until the original selection arrived that she accepted defeat (it worked better in a different room anyway). The new solution: a custom waterfall wood table. “Standard coffee tables are about 18 inches high, but the ottoman was 19 1/4 inches, so the height of the tabletop itself had to be 20 inches,” explains Fetherston, who in the end agrees it was meant to be.
Dark Cabinets Make for a Kid-Friendly Kitchen
Apart from being a long-distance decorator, another obstacle for Fetherston was making sure every choice was kid-friendly—the Annables needed a flow that could be navigated by visitors of all ages (children are over about three days a week, says Odette). This was especially true in the kitchen, starting with the appliances. “We have this great fridge from GE’s Café line. It has an autofill feature so the kids can reach in and [pour drinks] on their own. As an organization freak, [I like that] it keeps children at bay and everything still looks nice,” says Odette.
Torn between a lighter color like sage and something darker and moodier for the cabinets, the couple ended up going with Sherwin-Williams’s Greenblack, which not only creates contrast with the wood shelves and flooring but also masks messier fingerprints. “People warned us that they would be more of an upkeep, but I disagree. The dark countertops are also the easiest thing to clean, and I’m not worried about spilling a little wine on them,” notes Odette. “There is a major trend for lighter countertops, and I wanted to do things a bit differently. Black on black [adds] that sleek, minimal, and timeless vibe that I was going for.”
Resist the Desire to Replace Everything at Once
Taking a DIY approach to most of the renovations—Dave took a sledgehammer to a wall or two and Odette helped rework a wet bar into a mudroom-like hallway (a catchall for hats, coats, and shoes)—not only kept their creative juices flowing but helped them see the potential behind eyesores, like the entryway’s spiral staircase. A fresh coat of black paint and jute runner gave it a new lease on life. “I think it’s important to look at the whole project and break it down into different phases,” shares Odette. “Do the things you cannot live in the home without first.” Although there’s still more left to do in phase two—including installing a bed frame they’ve been waiting on since last August—the group is happy to have a break from hands-on projects (for now, that is).
Odette shares her resource guide.
Favorite local home store: EA/ST Co. in Austin.
Biggest splurge: My oak dining table from Oasis in Malibu—it is timeless and has the perfect aged, rustic feel that works so well with my aesthetic.
One thing I wish I knew before renovating: I got renovation fatigue midprocess and decided to save the guest bathroom, powder room, and basement bathroom for another phase in our renovation because my creative juices were shot. I am now having a hard time picking materials and pulling the trigger. I wish I would have buckled down and done it all at the same time.