Merrilee’s Artistic Bungalow

By Camille Styles
Bright Colorful Bedroom with Kantha Quilt

There are some homes that instantly lift your spirits just by walking through the front door. Designer Merrilee McGehee’s colorful west Austin abode is one such smile-inducing spot, with creative details tucked into every corner and a vibe that makes you want to kick back with a glass of lemonade and stay awhile. I was first intro’d to Merrilee’s work through some mutual friends with fantastic taste who had both recently remodeled — come to find out, Merrilee was the designer behind both spots. I learned that her background as an artist (and actress!) plays heavily into her creative process as a designer, and her expressive use of color and pattern reveal a bold approach — and bring each room in her home vibrantly alive. Click through for a peek inside her home and brace yourself for a major dose of happy.

*photos by Molly Winters

How old is your home and how long have you lived here? What drew you to purchase this property?

Our Brykerwoods bungalow was built in 1948 and we have lived in it for three years now. I wanted a fixer upper as I see restoration as one big art project.

Outdoor Cushion Fabric from Ralph Lauren Home, vintage patio furniture

What do you love most about your home?

I love that our home truly reflects who we are and our interests. It’s not interesting to me when you walk into a home that looks like the designer’s style, not the person who’s living in it. Your home should be your best, most creative you.

Banquette Linen from Calico Corners, Dining Table from White On White, vintage pendant light and chairs

I love all the brilliant color that’s woven throughout your home! Any tips for incorporating lots of color and pattern into you home?

Ahhhh, color. It’s like oxygen to me. Color keeps a vibrant through line in a home. I tend to lean towards the “minor” colors, if you will. Chartreuses, salmons, lavenders…they’re just more unexpected and intriguing to me. Sometimes the color you think you will love is exactly what you should stray away from. Be bold and venture out into some of those lonely and awkward colors. They might just surprise you.

Bed Frame from Jenny Lind, Overdyed Rug from Rugs USA 

What do you love about Austin design?

I love that you can’t nail down Austin’s Interior Design Style. Anything goes and the weirder the better. I think Liz Lambert opened up a lot of doors for ATX with palettes of desert chic & painted traditional juxtaposed music paraphenalia and bubble gum neon. I love that her style keeps you guessing. That’s fun.

Custom Mural Wall by Merrilee McGehee, Paints from Benjamin Moore in New Providence Navy, Damask Gold, Rhine River, and Night Horizon, vintage travertine pedestal table, metal chairs, chinoiserie mirror, and brass sconces

Tips for making a home chic and kid-friendly?

We have two kids, a dog and cat and eight neighborhood kids at our house on any given day. It’s got to be kid, animal and mommy friendly. Seagrass rugs hide dirt well. Layering a vintage oriental or oushak rug on top gives instachic. Also, I look for durable fabrics in well lived rooms with a high double rub fabric test count, 30,000 or higher. Also, you can still have all those yummy fabrics worry-free with a good fabric protection service. It’s worth it.

Bookshelf paint from Martin Senour Paint, Library Lights from E.F. Chapman, Brass Sputnik Chandelier from Practical Props, Brass Planter from West Elm, Leopard Print Lumbar Pillow from Durable Fabric, vintage coffee table, chinoiserie lamp, and Moroccan rug

The perfect night at home is:

A glass of wine, movie night with the family, and in bed by 9:30 pm.

Nightstand from IKEA, Hardware from House of Antique Hardware, Accent Pillow Fabric from Beacon Hill, vintage Italian tole sconce, porcelain lamp, and black shade

How did you start your interior design company?

I have always been in the arts. After living and working in LA and NYC for 10 years as an actress and artist, I moved back to Austin to be with my now husband. We bought a house and slowly refurbished it. A friend of mine liked what I did and asked me to help her with her new home. We knocked down walls, built bookshelves, wallpapered etc. and I was hooked. I loved being able to be creative everyday with the importance of people’s dwellings. I also found a niche in being able to use what I learned in art school in clients’ spaces with a very hands on approach. I have sanded and painted floor design, created and painted wall murals. I love getting my hands dirty and literally, being a part of the creative process.

Bed Frame from Jenny Lind, Overdyed Rug from Rugs USA 

Biggest design challenge in your home:

Space. We live in a small home so organization is key. Lucky for us I have a touch of OCD. My family might say more than a touch.

Your home in 5 words or less:

Colorful, fun, creative, welcoming, love.

Who are your dream house guests?

Dalai Lama, Thom Yorke, Dorothy Draper, Andy Warhol, Lucille Ball…

Custom Mural Wall by Merrilee McGehee, Paints from Benjamin Moore in New Providence NavyDamask GoldRhine River, and Night Horizon, vintage travertine pedestal table, metal chairs, chinoiserie mirror, and brass sconces

Your #1 interior design tip:

Tap into your inner creativity and build your dream space big or small. That’s where the good stuff lies.

Outdoor Cushion Fabric from Ralph Lauren Home, vintage patio furniture