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Austin’s Own Three-Story Treehouse Gets a Loving Update That Respects its Mid-Century Bones

From the 1960s to a Fresh Approach to Family Living — Kristen Nix Delivers

BY // 01.02.20

Built in the 1960s, a dwelling in Austin’s lush Balcones Park neighborhood seemed to be begging for a makeover that respected its mid-century bones. What was needed according to its new owners was a fresh approach to family living with homage to the signature sleek rectilinear lines, flat planes, and monochromatic stone and brick work which defined that era of architectural design.

Native Houstonian and interior designer Kristen Nix, her husband, Lee, and their three young sons bought the house in 2016 after moving to the Texas state capitol with his job change.

The site of the 4,000 square foot, three-story house swaddled in oaks and its abundance of glass embracing the verdant landscape was what sold the family on the property. “The house feels like a treehouse,” Nix says.

Then the work began, a six-month project of transforming the residence into a home suitable for three rough and tumble boys, one age 9 and twins aged 6, yet sophisticated enough for the worldly couple.

Nix, who earned her interior design credits at Houston Community College after acquiring a communications degree from the University of Texas, was up to the task. Before following in the design footsteps of her mother, Sheridan Williams, Nix worked with Vogue in New York and then in Dallas as art director for Neiman Marcus’ The Book. And then with babies in tow, she founded Kristen Nix Interiors.

When it came to gentle transformation of her new home, Nix had a clear vision.

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“To make it feel calming, refined and beautiful, yet durable enough for three young boys,” she tells PaperCity. “After looking at fabrics, colors, etc. all day long, I find it peaceful to live in a neutral palette. I was inspired by the Brunello Cucinelli fashion line and stores.

“They have lots of textured and heather fabrics in neutral colors and beautiful wood finishes. Every decision came back to ‘Does this fit with that overall feel and aesthetic?'”

Kristen Nix Interiors _4400 Balcones Dr 042_5793592
The 9-year-old’s bedroom is colorfully organized.

In all, Nix completely remodeled the kitchen, renovated the bathrooms, added a small office, added a mud room, and opened a guest bedroom to a space adjacent to the kitchen for an “indestructible” family room. Today, the house has four bedrooms and 4.5 baths.

Design changes included adding Rift Swan White Oak flooring, painting the poplar shiplap boarding (not original to the house but there when purchased) and as she notes “adding lots of paint.” The redwood floors and tongue-in-groove ceiling were too heavy for the look that Nix envisioned, so in came the painters. The stacked fieldstone, an icon of the era, remains as a reminder of the mid-century esthetics.

Key decorative elements in the home include Phillip Jeffries wall coverings, custom furnishings from Houston’s The Joseph Company, Schumacher fabrics, Nourrison carpets, Circa Lighting and artwork by Donald Sultan, McKay Otto, Deborah Dancy and Catherine Booker Jones.

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