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The Eight Must-Haves That Fuel Designer Meredith Ellis’ Creativity

Meredith Ellis

Inspiring, by Design

Meredith Ellis is constantly making beautiful things happen. Whether bringing her traditional-with-a-twist vision to life through clients’ spaces, her own home, or JAMES Showroom (which she co-owns with husband Hunter Ellis and friend Lisa Womack), she is constantly creating and imagining spaces you want to be in. And the Ellis designed Southern Living Idea House is no exception – colorful, warm and textured. The North Austin home manages to be both open and tucked away; Ellis’ rich spaces easily leading into one another. You could say it’s the kind of house that makes you want to throw a party and cozy up with a good book.

austin southern living idea meredith ellis
The Ellis designed Southern Living Idea House photographs by Hector Manuel Sanchez

Seeing the space, I couldn’t help but ask Ellis to share what creatively and visually drives her. Here, in her own words, Ellis talks about the people, places and things (cookies!) that help inspire and recharge her.

1. The Texas Hill Country

I grew up on a Ranch in Comfort, Texas. As much as I’m a city girl now, because I love the energy and accessibility it provides, I’m fueled by a weekend in the country. I love the simplicity of small-town Texas. Albert is one of my favorite areas, as there is nothing better than a summer Wednesday night at the Albert Dance Hall. Good live music, beautiful oak trees, a burger and a beer, fireflies … What’s better than that?

2. Cuban music: specifically Buena Vista Social Club

Their music immediately puts me in a vacation frame of mind. My husband and I had a Cuban band at our wedding in San Miguel de Allende and our first dance was to “Dos Gardenias.”

3. Allens Boots

Because I’m on my feet all day running around and I need to be comfortable. My dad wore cowboy boots every day of his life so I guess it’s hereditary.

4. My gold charm necklace

As with interiors, I believe in surrounding yourself with pieces you love that also have meaning. I had an abundance of old charms that belonged to my grandmother – lockets, monogrammed stamps, and mementos like a tiny globe and a Chinese fish, from her travels. One day I decided to string them all on a gold choker I’ve had since I was a child. I can’t tell you how many comments I get from people when they see it. I love it, and most importantly, it keeps me close to her.

5. Gil Shafer’s, “A Place to Call Home”

Gil Shafer is one of my favorite architects and designers and his book was a huge inspiration for me when scheming for the Idea House. I love his aesthetic and the book really provides ideas and inspiration for many of my projects. I love how authentic and timeless his homes feel, even when they’re brand new!

6. Tiny Boxwood’s chocolate chip cookies

I pride myself on being a chocolate chip cookie expert and typically require one sweet a day! These melt in your mouth and are just the best.

7. The Austin Antique Mall

My husband jokes that for once he’d like to buy something that doesn’t need to be painted or refinished. BUT nothing excites me more than finding a great antique or vintage piece that has been overlooked. Many times all that’s needed is a little TLC. I’ll never understand why people pay for poorly made furniture from a big box store when you can find a beautiful antique that’s been around for hundreds of years for a quarter of the cost!

8. Ikat fabric lampshades

Paying attention to details is a huge part of my job. It’s the little touches that make a room special. Fabric immediately softens a space and Clare Frost’s Ikat patterns we carry at JAMES are just perfect. They immediately create warmth in any space.

southern living idea meredith ellis james showroom
The Southern Living Idea House, open through November for tours. Photographs by Hector Manuel Sanchez.

The Southern Living Idea House is open for tours June 15 – November 8. Chris Sanders of Sanders Architecture oversaw the home’s architecture, David Wilkes Builders managed the construction and Meredith Ellis, owner of Meredith Ellis Design and JAMES Showroom, managed the interior design. Landscape design done by Big Red Sun.