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District Wallpaper, Kelly Wearstler; Ripple Accent Chair by Sarah Sherman Samuel, Lulu and Georgia.

The first thing Karee Jones told Annie Downing was that she didn’t want a white house. “And she was like, ‘Oh, good, because I don’t do white houses,’” recalls Karee with a laugh. 

When Karee and her husband, Loren, a urologist, and their two kids, 11-year-old Millie and 9-year-old Otis, moved into a new home in Austin’s Allandale neighborhood last year, the first thing she did was look up interior designers. Of the seven she interviewed, she clicked only with Downing. To Karee, she felt like a kindred spirit. “Like me, she was from a Southern town but had lived in other places. She had an eclecticism about her that is rare to find,” says Karee, a San Antonio native who serves on the board of directors at a Spanish immersion school in the city.

In the past, Karee’s version of a colorful home was a yellow pillow here or a blue vase there: “I would gravitate toward things that felt safe.” Downing dared her to go bigger and bolder. She conjured a palette of jewel tones, assigning one hue to each room and introducing moments of surprise along the way. 

In the vestibule just outside the primary bedroom, Downing chose Kelly Wearstler’s Cubist wallpaper to nod to the pink grasscloth walls down the way; she figured the door would always be left open. Likewise, the exterior got a green stucco makeover, plus front and rear porches emblazoned with terracotta tiles to recall the spirit of Karee’s vibrant hometown. (The powder room boasts the same ones.)

Harper Pendant Lights, The Urban Electric Co.; Kavim Tile, Tabarka Studio.

At the beginning, husband and wife were divided on aesthetics. She wanted warm and homey; he fancied clean and modern. Finding a middle ground was up to Downing. The designer made choices that straddled classic and contemporary, to the point where the couple approved almost everything immediately. One unequivocal “yes”: the waterfall kitchen island, clad in a concrete-and-brass tile, but in Karee’s favorite, green. In fact, the only changes the couple ended up requesting were different fabrics for the headboard and dining chairs, both of which Downing replaced with whimsical, painterly prints.

Tile, Popham Design; Iva Sink, Kast; Archie Mirror, Seer Studio.
Shower Tile, Clay Imports.

Ultimately it was important that the home have soul but for nothing to be too precious. Downing delivered with the aforementioned island—the tile is kickproof when everyone gathers for breakfast—as well as in the spare kitchen corner. The designer outfitted a kid-friendly banquette (it’s indeed their preferred mealtime spot) with a funky channel-tufted back and grape-colored seat cushions. Even the poolside powder room marries form and function. Downing paired teal hexagonal tile that has the look and feel of wallpaper with a matching poured-concrete sink to create a hard-wearing space that mimics the oasis beyond.

Floor Tile, Clay Imports; Decade Chairs by Blu Dot, Wayfair.

No two bathrooms in the home are alike. In the primary en suite, an intricate floor tile pattern of circles, wedges, and hexagons is the star, albeit a high-maintenance one. As Downing recalls, installing it was a multiperson feat. “The tile setters laid them wrong, so two project managers and I had to go back and set it right ourselves, on hands and knees, huffing and puffing in the sweltering afternoon heat,” recounts the designer. 

Canyon Bed, Josh Greene Design, Arcadia Side Table by Lawson-Fenning, 1stDibs; Charlton Wall Light by Aerin, Visual Comfort & Co.
Floor Tile, Popham Design; Kean Sconces by Chapman & Myers, Visual Comfort & Co.

Millie’s bathroom was an easier undertaking, at least in terms of execution. Downing opted for simple square tile in Millie-approved lavender and mint, arranged in a random pattern alongside sage millwork.

Shower Tile, Ann Sacks.

Downing’s refresh set a new precedent for the family. “My husband always used to say I never invited people over. But I’ve been so happy because now we’ve had guests over a lot, way more than we ever did at our other houses,” says Karee. Here, the vibe is the kind that prompts you to sit down, hang out, and put your feet up. The home is nowhere near the one Karee had initially imagined—it’s better.

The Goods