These Austin Interior Designers Will Help You Realize Your Best Self at Home
“Function and beauty can alter your mood, increase productivity and reduce stress,” says Ruby Cloutier.
By Veronica Meewes
Photos by Brittany Dawn Short
For the last year and a half, our concept of home has evolved drastically. For most of us, it became a refuge — the only safe space we could count on in a wildly unpredictable world. For many, home also became a place of work, as people quickly adapted their surroundings to meet their changing lifestyles. But no matter your line of work or living situation, one thing is true for all of us: we sure spend a lot more time in our own space these days.
“I really do think people spending more time at home this past year because of COVID made everybody realize how our surroundings shape so much of who we are,” says interior designer Maureen Stevens. But aesthetics aside, functionality is just as important to interior design, and it can truly be life changing.
“Every single facet of design impacts the way one lives,” says Stevens. “Incorrect space planning can create chaos in a family’s day-to-day life, awful lighting choices can affect productivity and mood, and perfectly placed accessories and personal mementos can bring so much joy into a person’s life.”
Stevens diverted from her field of physical therapy in 2013 when she felt a calling to do something more creatively fulfilling. After building up her portfolio one space at a time, she now designs everything from residences and offices, to boutique hotels and short- term rentals. She describes her style — which features dramatic wallpaper prints, commanding wall colors and elegant textures — as “muted maximalism and updated classic,” noting that the added time at home during the pandemic also seemed to inspire her clients to become more adventurous and bold in their design choices.
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“I think COVID shifted the point of view on the importance of homes, both in beauty and functionality,” says designer Stephanie Webb of Good Eye Concepts, an Austin-based interior design studio. Webb’s interior design career began with an MFA from the University of North Texas. “I have always thought of your home as an extension of your personal style, as relevant as we consider someone’s fashions.”
Webb began renovating homes eight years ago, breathing new life into existing properties by making modifications to update functionality while honoring architectural integrity. She began taking on multi-family “flip” projects, learning more about the construction process. But when the pandemic forced her to slow down and think about where she really wanted her path to lead, she decided to focus on something she’d been quietly chasing the entire time, starting with her art background.
Webb launched Good Eye Concepts in 2020 and she now leads a team of three women and a strong support team of subcontractors, taking on both residential and commercial clients. Rather than adhering to a specific style, the Good Eye team is guided by three design principle questions: Is it functional? Is it beautiful? And does it elevate and balance the space?
The realization that design can improve productivity might account for Emily Seeds’ leap in sales during the pandemic. Last spring, she says business for Emily Seeds Interior Design halted to an abrupt standstill, but by the end of the quarantine, business had already doubled.
Seeds started off in fashion design, buying for a department store in Houston. She became fascinated by the way fashion designers replicate their creations into living space and decor, and found herself making the transition into interiors as well.
“My approach is to play with proportions, textures or elements I find in the architecture of the home,” describes Seeds. “My job is to communicate through fixtures, tile and fabric, and my aim is to be thoughtful about how to tell my client’s story through materials and how they want to live in their home. I want my clients’ spaces to look like they live there. So no project looks alike or follows a formula.”
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Ruby Cloutier, the founder of Vazzo Spaces, also entered the industry through fashion design, first working in retail at local Austin boutiques, and then as a stylist for Burberry. She realized how drawn she was to interiors after staging her own home when getting ready to sell it. She began taking on other staging clients, a practice which had her turning around designs at a very fast pace for clients.
After collecting her own staging inventory and widening her client database, she opened her own interior design studio in 2018. While she describes her style as vintage, masculine and European, each space is customized according to her client’s needs and desires, and she takes pleasure in dedicating hours of research to source each piece she incorporates.
“I am a firm believer that function and beauty enhance our environments and can alter your mood, increase productivity and reduce stress,” says Cloutier. Her business also soared during lockdown and hasn’t slowed down since. “Business tripled in the past two years, and I’m excited to see how it continues to grow in 2022.”
With so many people working remotely and avoiding public gatherings during the pandemic, clothing sales naturally went down, but online sales were soaring. So it makes sense that homeowners would turn a discerning eye to their all-too-familiar surroundings. But perhaps the monotony of lockdown awakened us to something we should always cherish: our divine home space.
“Having a more beautiful and organized aspect of any part of our lives is a blessing,” says Webb. “Why should your home, arguably most people’s largest financial commitment, be any different?”