Austin, Texas, is known for its hip, youthful attitude, which is reflected by the city’s changing architectural landscape. This was part of the allure for Kristy Kisling—a former resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland—who decided to move back to Austin years after going to school there. An entrepreneur, she brought with her a houseful of dark, traditional furniture suited to a cold, northern climate, then enlisted the help of Rockville, Maryland-based interior designer Joanne Fitzgerald, with whom she’d worked on her Gaithersburg town house. “I love working with Joanne,” she says simply of her decision to lure Fitzgerald from Maryland rather than hire someone local to turn her Austin abode into a home. “There was no doubt she was going to be the one to help.”
Kisling wound up purchasing a three-bedroom custom home in the funky neighborhood of South Congress. It answered a wish list that included modern architecture, a lively locale and the ability to showcase Kisling’s prized possession: a recently purchased light fixture by blown-glass artist Tracy Glover. “The whole search for the house was around the light fixture,” recalls Fitzgerald of the custom fixture hung in the dining room, which is the heart of the home. “It’s the centerpiece. When you walk into the room from anywhere in the house, it’s the first thing you see.”
When Kisling bought the house it wasn’t yet finished, so she and Fitzgerald were able to tweak the plans with the help of architect Randall O. Ware. In fact, Fitzgerald played a huge role in adapting the house to her client’s needs. “We liked the fundamentals but wanted to manipulate the design to be more functional,” the designer says.
The exterior is clad in a combination of stucco, metal sheeting and cement; Fitzgerald “played with the front façade, creating more bump-outs for interest,” she says. Inside, she looked for ways to capture space, enclosing a breezeway near the kitchen to create a laundry room and reorienting the upstairs master suite to make it more efficient.
After moving to Austin, Kisling shed her northeastern design sensibility in favor of what Fitzgerald calls “fun, playful taste.” The goal in the new house was to establish a colorful, clean-lined aesthetic that would complement both the home’s modern structure and its warm-weather locale.
Kisling replaced most of her original furniture with more contemporary pieces that Fitzgerald helped her select. A light-hued American Leather sofa now anchors the family room while a dining table from Bavara Design House and chairs from Crate & Barrel occupy center stage in the dining area. Modern artwork includes a painting in the dining room by Montreal artist Michel Desroches with a palette that complements the light fixture.
“I had to divorce myself from East Coast attitudes about cold weather,” remarks Fitzgerald. “We created cool surfaces as well as warm ones.” For example, the ground-level floors are made of poured concrete rather than wood while the upstairs floors are clad in honey-toned bamboo.
The home’s focal point is the kitchen, which was designed entirely by Fitzgerald. At 19 by 15 feet, it offers space for Kisling, who trained as a chef, to spread out. Cherry-stained birch custom cabinetry lines the lower periphery; Fitzgerald installed only two upper cabinets, both aluminum with stippled-glass Industrex panels, to ensure a “light and breathable” feel. Countertops are poured concrete, tinted a sand color on the periphery and a graphite hue on the island. The backsplash is honed Royal Satin marble subway tile.
Since Kisling hires caterers for fund-raising events, having professional appliances was important to her. She chose a five-foot commercial range from American Range topped by a five-foot Zephyr steam hood with a spare profile that doesn’t overpower the room. A four-foot-wide Liebherr fridge, two Fisher & Paykel dishwashers, a built-in Miele coffee system and an under-counter wine fridge complete the picture. Pendants by David D’Imperio add interest above the island and sink.
On the home’s upper level, a loft area opens onto a roof terrace that affords views of the downtown Austin skyline. A small bedroom has been converted into a home office with glossy white furniture against a sienna-colored accent wall. Fitzgerald borrowed space from the master bedroom for the adjoining bath, which is embellished with beige mosaic-tile accents; porcelain tile flooring and walls; and Caesarstone counters.
Both Kisling and Fitzgerald couldn’t be happier with the results of their efforts—and the working relationship they’ve developed over time. “Without Joanne’s help, the house wouldn’t be what it is,” Kisling says.
“Kristy’s a dream client,” the designer observes. “She told me, ‘This is my forever house. I’m not going to hold back.’”
Zac Seewald is a photographer based in Austin, Texas.
ARCHITECTURE: RANDALL O. WARE, AIA, Shelter Design Studio + Workshop, Austin, Texas. INTERIOR DESIGN: JOANNE FITZGERALD, Gatéga Interior Design, Rockville, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: JARED GOSSETT, Gossett Jones Homes, Austin, Texas.