Stepping into today’s colorful abode is at once breathtaking, inspiring, and like a big warm hug that invites you to sit down and stay awhile. That last part is no doubt due to the warmth of its owner, auburn-haired beauty, mother of 3, and talented Austin-based interior designer, Sarah Wittenbraker. Yep, Sarah would be easy to hate if her personality weren’t so darn amazing. The morning I stopped by to scout the location, I was welcomed by a table set with Raynaud china, fresh strawberries, & donuts (my kinda gal, obviously) and spent the next hour learning about Sarah’s background (she worked in fashion, TV and publishing in NYC before relocating to Austin while pregnant with her first daughter, Lulu), drilling her on how she keeps her home looking so amazing with small kids in the house, and of course touring her vibrant space. Sarah’s approach to design is clearly seen in each room of the house: daring and unafraid to take risks; bold without taking itself too seriously. Take a peek at her portfolio to see more of the spaces she’s designed, and click through the slides for a tour of her signature style splashed across the charming space where her family works and plays.
After graduating from University of Texas, Sarah headed straight for the Big Apple where she worked in the magazine, fashion (hello, Prada!) and TV world, before ultimately interning for an interior designer. It was there that her personal passion for interior design really began to take shape, and the seed for Sarah Wittenbraker Interiors was born.
Upon moving back to Austin, she worked as a freelance writer, had three kids, and was helping friends decorate their homes on the side. The career switch was inevitable. She shelved the writing, launched her company and dove headfirst into building an interior design business. “Plus,” she says, “I needed the outlet of working on other homes so my husband could stop coming home to half-painted rooms and furniture piled in the entry!”
*sources: “Spools” artwork by Austin-based artist Cameron Campbell (who is accepting inquiries for commissions here!), Nelson Ball Pendant Lamp from DWR, antique jam cabinet from Wendow, vintage sofa From Uptown Modern, sofa pillows by John Robshaw and Furnish Studio
On finding their home.
We actually used to live right next door. Our darling neighbors decided to up and head to the country. I knew a third baby was a possibility, and we needed some more space for him/her and office space for me.
Rick and I ran through the house one night and basically decided to buy it on the spot. It was far from our style, but it had potential (and another bedroom).
*sources: bedding by John Robshaw, Roberta Roller Rabbit, lamps from West Elm
Note: never assume because you’re moving next door, you don’t need movers. I spent weeks stubbornly carrying a laundry basket full of stuff back and forth across that driveway while babies napped. I guess pride kept me from having a moving van drive fifty feet, but it was brutal.
Favorite way to relax at home.
Settling in for family movie night, or cooking on a weekend with no school-night bedtime restraints.
Philosophy for curating the pieces in her home.
It may sound cliche, but I truly believe in buying what you love. The things I didn’t buy are the ones that haunt me. My ‘look’ is not particularly matchy, but if I fall in love with something, it always finds a place.
Favorite design resources.
Austin has an inspiring vintage collection. I love the City Wide Garage sale when it’s here…a treasure chest of art and accessories. I also love reading Domaine Home for daily inspiration.
Sarah’s home in 5 words or less.
Creative, loving, fun, personal, happy.
Design inspiration for her home.
Ha – I don’t know! With clients’ homes, I have a plan: inspired, customized, thought out, from top to bottom. Here, I’m flying by the seat of my pants. It’s my experimental space (for the good or the bad). I just trust it’ll all come together. There’s more work to be done, for sure.
Dream House Guests.
Cate Blanchett, Jimmy Fallon, Diane Keaton, Fred Armisen, and Dolly Parton. But realistically, extended family: A house full of good food, laughter and late nights telling old stories.
Biggest design challenge for her home.
Budget! And editing. It seems designers struggle with our own homes because we love so many styles and are always finding new inspiration. It’s hard to edit what we like and commit to decisions.
Favorite spot in the house.
As much as I love color, our black and white family room is probably my favorite. It has great light and is edited and simplified. Plus, I’m usually surrounded by little warm bodies in there.
Advice for creating a well-designed home that’s functional for living with small kids.
Like anyone else, I’ve had plenty of Magic Eraser moments and have googled ‘how to get _____ out of a rug’ repeatedly, but I’ve never bought into dumbing down our home just because kids live here — or least, not in an obvious way.
For the most part, I use sturdy upholstery fabrics, and I don’t buy anything too precious and off-limits. Rugs in the high-traffic family room and playroom are off-the-shelf and inexpensive. Maybe later we can replace those with something loftier, but for now, it’s not worth the worry. I still can’t walk on my mother’s white living room rug! It looks beautiful, but I just can’t live with that stress. Plus, I have an old cat who throws up on anything new, just out of spite.
Your number one interior design tip:
I’ve already said ‘buy what you love,’ so I’ll say: Scale. Be sure to really evaluate the size and scale of an item before committing, from furnishings to art, rugs and lamps. Scale is everything.
Big thanks to Sarah for inviting us into her inspiring home! Check out more of her work here.