FALL18_WELL_Sarah Wittenbraker-8952Pin It
Mia Baxter

Austin designer Sarah Wittenbraker comes from a long line of fearless women. “My mom has such an eye for mixing patterns,” she says. “She wasn’t afraid to wallpaper the kitchen or upholster something in a bright color.” As a kid growing up in Dallas, Wittenbraker frequented vintage stores and was always pulling together outfits from mismatched pieces. “I’m as inspired by fashion as I am by interiors,” she explains.

In addition to her namesake design studio, Wittenbraker oversees Worn + Domestic, a site that posts weekly fashion and home style boards, some curated by friends and colleagues like Austin blogger Camille Styles and Los Angeles stylist Jane Black. She applies similar methods to dressing and decorating, beginning with a black-and-white base and slowly layering in brights until the mix feels right: “My go-to everyday uniform is black jeans, a white blazer, an oversize statement necklace, and red lipstick.”

Above: Rex Pendant Lamp $810 Arteriors

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Rad, Mad, Glad by Marc Dennis from $1,105 Twyla; Annika Table Lamp by Mary McDonald for Robert
Abbey from $429 Lumens; QS Nelson Console Noir Furniture LA; Chalet Wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler for Lee Jofa Kravet; Lama Blue Fabric on Linen-Cotton Base by Tulu Textiles James Showroom
Mia Baxter
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Kashmir Kaleidoscope Wallpaper by York Wallcoverings Wayfair; Huancarani by Mia Baxter Minta Maria; Card File Pull $18 schoolhouse.com; Hale Navy Paint Benjamin Moore; Fivestory Fabric Sharris; Mia Baxter
In her own space, a 1960s brick home in the Tarrytown neighborhood near Lake Austin, she starts with her love for wallpaper. The first pattern the designer chose was of mini fluorescent mushrooms on black paper from British brand 17 Patterns. “I couldn’t afford a lot of it, so I put a small dose in the back of the bar,” Wittenbraker explains. “That set the tone for the whole house.” For months, the living room remained mostly black and white until she added a vintage sofa upholstered in a bold floral fabric. Slowly, more colors and textures came in: a powder blue–upholstered bench from Austin vintage store Wendow; an abstract painting by local artist Diana Greenberg; and vintage safari chairs in chrome, brass, and gray suede.

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Speech Pattern by Valerie Arber; Gannet Table Lamp by Aerin $469 Circa Lighting; Vintage Console 1stdibs; Ms. Treat Wallpaper by Grow House Grow; Cassandra Rug from $68 Shine by Sho. Mia Baxter

Leaving the right amount of breathing room can sometimes prove difficult. “Restraint is really hard for me in my own house,” Wittenbraker admits. To balance the busyness, she focuses on the feeling she wants to achieve in each space. In the kitchen, where the family cooks and the kids do their homework, she maintained a simple palette of white soapstone counters, deep blue cabinets, and brass trim work. A series of subtle but distinctive decorative square reliefs carry from the kitchen into the living areas, then outside to the exterior walls and door. In the entryway, the same motif transforms into a graphic Lee Jofa paper covering the walls and ceiling, paired with a botanical print from Austin’s beloved Supply showroom. Curves and nature-inspired patterns soften clean lines, and a mélange of modern and traditional details create recurring themes that don’t feel tethered to any single era.

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Evoke Gem by Kelly Wearstler Field Tile Ann SacksMia Baxter
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Perennial Verdant Fabric Flat VernacularMia Baxter

Abstract prints throughout the house—in art, wall decor, and textiles (above), as well as the backsplash in the butler pantry—are balanced by hints of sunny yellow, bright florals, and the palest blush.

The home is a collaborative project, informed by contributions from Wittenbraker; her architect, Elizabeth Baird; and every member of the family, including husband Rick and kids Lulu (13), Oscar (10), and Beatrice (8). Encouraging the same sense of self-expression her mom instilled in her, Wittenbraker let the children select their own fabric and wallpaper for their rooms. Lulu chose a coral headboard and Flat Vernacular floral curtains; Oscar opted for a “climbing room,” complete with monkey bars; and Beatrice picked pink for the walls and navy peacock curtains from Tilton Fenwick.

Family is central to Wittenbraker’s work—her business grew out of the need to reimagine their lives. In 2008 she was working as a freelance writer and doing interior design on the side for fun. The recession hit, and Rick’s department was cut. (Today he works as a partner at outdoor clothing brand Howler Brothers.) With two children—and another on the way—plus limited funds, the couple agreed to try something new. A friend helped secure Wittenbraker her first paid interiors gig—a whole-home design with a tight, five-week timeline. “It was so much fun,” she says. “I pulled it off with the help of my husband and mom, who came into town to iron all the bed skirts.”

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Irwin Cocktail Table $1,500 Arteriors; Untitled by Diana Greenberg; Vintage Rug 1stdibs; O’Neal Bench Highland House FurnitureMia Baxter

That job quickly led to referrals and a fully booked calendar. “Those early years were super-tough,” Wittenbraker recalls. “I felt like I had to take every job to make ends meet, I wasn’t charging enough, and I was racing around with three children.” With the help of a mentor, she restructured her business, hired staff, and raised her rates. Her studio is currently in the midst of its first large commercial project, Austin’s Domain Northside shopping center, where she is commissioning large-scale outdoor sculptures from local artists.

If bravery is being yourself, in spite of fears and failures, Wittenbraker lives it. In her dining room wallpaper, a little bug appears every so often in the repeat of the climbing-vine pattern, making its way across the leaves. It’s her favorite detail and an apt metaphor for her home. “It’s clean where it needs to be, crazy where it needs to be, and there’s plenty of room to evolve,” she says.

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Vintage Ceiling Lamp Decaso; Bond Dining Table $3,200 Jonathan Adler; Pedestal Bowl $60 Cb2; Elowen Chair $398 Anthropologie; Linen Curtains with Groundworks Trim; Honeycomb Trim Decorator’s BestMia Baxter

Inspired by fashion, Wittenbraker often uses clothing as a starting point for interiors. Here, she shares her go-to strategies.

Brights

“It’s very hard for me to buy a little black dress,” she admits. “Instead, I’ll look for a bright color like chartreuse.” Similarly, no room in her home is without a pop of pink, gold, or peacock blue.

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Deconstructed Stripe Wallpaper by Miles Redd SchumacherMia Baxter

Black and White

The interior designer opts for the classic combo as a base for both outfits and rooms. In her hallway, a two-tone pattern from Miles Redd for Schumacher adds graphic punch. “It’s also wipe-able, since my kids leave handprints all the way up the stairs.”

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Thistle Wallpaper; Purist Faucet KohlerMia Baxter

Botanicals

In her bathroom, Wittenbraker started with black-and-white tile and dressed it up with Thistle wallpaper by Icelandic artist Kristjana S. Williams. “I couldn’t afford a ton, so it was perfect for the powder room.”

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Mack Leather Barstool covered in Kravet Vinyl Fabric from $379 Cb2Mia Baxter

Brass

“I can’t not have a big, vintage brass and gold necklace,” says Wittenbraker. In her home, brass shows up in the details—the hardware in the kitchen, the handles on the dining chairs, and the barware in the living room.

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Forager Wallpaper; Bella Goblets; Modern George BustJonathan AdlerMia Baxter

A wallpaper whiz, Wittenbraker excels at playing up out-of-the-way nooks and smaller spaces with fun, impactful patterns—like the chic bar station.

Feeling inspired? Recreate the home’s bright and lustrous aesthetic with these chic finds.

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01 Horse Head Lamps $1,000 for pair Chairish 02 Drop System Chandelier Lindsey Adelman 03 Avant Wallpaper Kelly Wearstler 04 Drawer Edge Pulls from $39 Rejuvenation 05 Poppy Wallpaper Voutsa 06 Soar B Tiles Popham Design 07 Black-and-White Inlaid Marble Coffee Table 1stdibs 08 Huxley Side Table $2,050 Lawson Fenning 09 Butterfly Parade Dinnerware by Christian Lacroix from $65 Casa de Perrin

This story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of Domino under the title “Best Dressed.”