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Interior Designer Allison Jaffe Brings Sophisticated Balance to 80s-Era Residence

The house’s entryway staircase was recently awarded first place at the ASID Design Excellence Awards for most unique design

Many interior designers prefer working on projects for new builds, where the architect leads the construction, and the design is on a fresh canvas. However, Allison Jaffe enjoys the challenge of remodeling older homes because she’s fully responsible for all of the decisions from start to finish. She creates construction drawings, collaborates with the clients on design selections and then works alongside the contractor to make sure it’s all implemented accordingly.

Allison Jaffe

Allison embraces the responsibility and creativity involved with giving new life to an older home. Allison originally studied neuropsychology at the University of Pittsburgh, so her background in the sciences likely contributes to her structured approach to tackling complex projects. When she did find her calling for interior design while working at an architectural temp agency after college, she immediately knew she wanted to focus on residential design. She went back to school almost immediately, and has now been designing since 2006.

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One example of her more recent work is a home in the Great Hills neighborhood of northwest Austin. The homeowners, moving from San Francisco, had purchased a house that hadn’t been renovated since its original construction in the 80s. As professionals with no children, they wanted to settle down in a space that felt sophisticated but also homey.

Their biggest goal for the renovation was to open up the main area so that the entry and the kitchen were not closed off from each other. Allison designed an open staircase that brought the homeowners’ dream to life. The wall was removed so that light from the front door now seeps through the staircase beams and into the kitchen.

“I have the ability to stamp my construction drawings so my plans can go through the permitting process,” says Allison. She consults a structural engineer for load-bearing changes but can design and lead the architectural work, like the staircase in this case, all on her own. Oftentimes with remodels, problems can come up mid-project. “It’s imperative that we partner with really good contractors who know how to best manage remodels given all the factors,” says Allison.

The color blue, one that the couple gravitated toward in the original concepts, is also integrated throughout the space, from the blue cabinets to the mural Allison sourced for the dining room.

“I love that the couple was more adventurous,” she says. “It’s withheld, but there are some fun pops. You wouldn’t think it’s sitting in the Great Hills neighborhood of Austin.”

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Because the kitchen was very small, they had to get creative to open up the space and make it functional. They removed the island, which was too invasive, added a wall and window where there was once a door, and then a countertop below the window that became a functional dining area with room for stools underneath. Allison designed a custom unit for all of the homeowners’ kitchen supplies, since the homeowner is an avid cook. The doors to the makeshift pantry open up and slide back so that they can store and then easily access all the contents.

The whole project took about six months, and all were thrilled with the end result. The entryway staircase was awarded first place at the ASID Design Excellence Awards last month for most unique design. Allison says that remodels like this are so gratifying to bring to life. “I get to give the house a whole new life and really pay respect to the home.”