A Designer Spills How She Transformed Her 70’s Condo On a Budget

Zen minimalism, perfected.

By Chanel Dror
light and simple dining room

All it took was one glance at Emilee Kunas’s Instagram account to seek out a home tour with the young Austinite. I hadn’t seen more than one or two snapshots of her space, but her feed — filled with interiors inspiration (and bonus, cute puppies) — demonstrated a love of natural materials and an understanding of color that was all the evidence I needed.

Stepping through her front door, all my suspicions were confirmed: Emilee has it.

Cool girl style, and an effortless eye for design that just seems innate. Scroll down to tour her cozy Austin condo, and be sure to follow along to see what’s next for the budding designer.

sleek and simple kitchen

Tell us about your home.

My boyfriend, Victor, and I live together in what was once a rundown fourplex. We found it about 3.5 years ago and have since renovated all of the units and the exterior.

We were looking for a project and something to buy, and when we stumbled across this fourplex, we jumped on the opportunity because we knew it would be a better decision financially for us living in one of the units ourselves. It was in pretty rough condition prior to the renovation, but we knew it had good bones. It took about 2 years to finish the bulk of everything, but the project is always evolving.

We love the clean and modern look of your kitchen. What was your inspiration going into designing the space?

We wanted to design the kitchens in a simple and minimal way, but at the same time unique from something you might see in other rental properties. We like the weight that the cabinets hold visually, which creates a focal point in the space. After some research, we found an inspiration photo with a layout similar to ours and used that as our jumping point. From there, we just dove in and went for it!

light and simple dining room

pictured: Emilee designed this dining table by using a base she found at Nest Modern, then hiring a local woodworker to make the top to match the living room coffee table.

You live in one of Austin’s most beloved and desirable neighborhoods. What do you love about Hyde Park?

Hyde Park is a laid-back, charming neighborhood in Austin, filled with eclectic people and homes. Since it’s a historic neighborhood, the houses have tons of character and the mature trees and extra-wide streets give it a southern sensibility. It makes for the perfect dog-walking neighborhood.

Do you have a favorite way to relax at home?

I love to cook, and small casual dinner parties are one of my favorite things to do at home. I love the process of having people over – the meal planning, the grocery shopping, the cooking and putting together the spread. All of it is so much better when sharing it with friends.

How about a favorite spot?

Our little dining room is definitely my favorite! I love all the natural light that floods in and it is the perfect place to sit and get some work done. I can open the door, look into the trees and hear the birds chirp.

pictured below: chair is a Thayer Coggin chair designed by Milo Baughman, and reupholstered with Josef Frank’s Citrus Garden fabric.

light and colorful dining

emilee kunas living room

pictured: orb lantern

Did you face any challenges when designing your space?

Our biggest challenge was the living room layout. We had a sofa that we decided we had to make work, so we tried a few different ideas and we finally found what works the best with what we have. I found a woodworker on Craigslist that built the hanging shelf under the TV (pictured below), as well as the coffee table. It’s loungey and casual, but it works perfectly for us!

I really just wanted to keep the space bright and simple, yet still warm. The space itself is so bright and airy, I wanted to make sure I did not detract from that at all. Victor grew up in California and loves the beach and surf, so I really wanted to incorporate some of those aspects for him as well.

simple shelf

side table decor

What design advice do you have when it comes to decorating and living simply?

Take your time. Don’t rush it and expect it to come together in a week. Be selective and purposeful with your purchases and enjoy the process and evolution of designing your space.

Describe your home in 5 words or less:

Bright, beachy, casual, minimal, a little Scandinavian.

simple nook

pictured: armchair from Chairish and refurbished, side table from Hay, artwork painted by Emilee with Yves Klein Blue

Your space is clearly rooted in neutrals, but we love how you’re also not afraid to work color into your decor.

I think decorating with neutrals vs. color has a lot to do with the space you are working with. I had a base of neutrals that I had to work with in our space, which gave me the perfect opportunity to add pops of color, patterns and texture. Let your space tell you the direction to go and then put your stamp on it.

Tell us about your art collection.

The art we have has been accumulated slowly over the years, and I think that’s the way to do it! It’s good to be selective and purposeful when collecting art, especially in a more minimal space, because art is so personal and is usually something you want for a long time. Just keep your eyes open, you might stumble upon something when you least expect it!

cozy bedroom

pictured: bed frame from nest modern, night tables from nest modern

interior decor

Who are your dream house guests?

Any friends or family that are hungry and just ready to relax and have a good time.

Do you have any favorite design resources?

I’m a Chairish junkie. I can be on there for hours just browsing and looking for my treasure or project. I also get on Craigslist, go to vintage stores and go antique shows. I think vintage pieces and pieces that you can get your hands a little dirty with will end up being a lot more meaningful to you, tell a story and have more soul. A lot of the pieces in our home have been refurbished, reupholstered or built from an idea. Don’t be afraid to mesh the old with the new!

simple bathroom

We love the simplicity of your bathroom vanities: where are they from?

Ikea! We chose Ikea for the bathrooms and kitchens in all four units because we needed to choose a design that has wide appeal since this is a rental property, and quite frankly, it was a nicer on our budget. When you need 6 bathroom vanities and 4 full kitchens, it adds up quickly!

light and airy bedroom

pictured: wooden bed platform, throw blanket by David Fussenegger from Lost & Found LA, pillow made from an old European grain sack; map found at Uncommon Objects in Austin

You space looks simple yet it feels warm. Do you have any tips for maintaining a minimalist space?

The tiniest details make the biggest impact in a minimal space so be purposeful. But don’t be afraid to move things around!

We hear you might be moving soon. What will you miss most about this place?

Without a doubt, all the windows and natural light.

simple bedroom decor

reading nook

simple bedroom decor

Fill in the blank: A well-designed home should _______.

Take time, be a reflection of the person who lives there, and always be evolving.

white bathroom

emilee kunas home tour