Austin, Texas Renovation Strikes the Right Balance
The marble-top coffee table in designer Liz MacPhail's living room says as much about her love of vintage as it does her family's laid-back lifestyle. On any given night, she and her three boys—Xander (Alexander), 12, and twins Elliot and Griffin, 10—cover it with a board game and get busy. On hot days, rescue pup Simca stretches out across the cool stone. So clearly the table isn't meant to be a showpiece. Nothing in the Austin, Texas, house is. "There's no off-limits; just treat things with respect," Liz says. "That's a big part of the ethos with my home."
When the family moved in five years ago, Liz painted walls and trim white to give the 1920s Tudor a fresh start and her decor a clean canvas. As the boys got older, she set some ground rules regarding the furniture. Her teaching tool? Their Pokémon trading cards. "I noticed they would hold them preciously, and if I'd take one they'd be like, 'Mom, hold it on the side,'" she says. "I started using that as an example: Just take the same care with our house. If something breaks or gets ruined, that's life—accidents happen. But let's treat everything with the same care you treat your cards with."
Similarly, Liz has a knack for finding middle ground and harmony with the pieces she brings into her home. She gravitates to old—houses, furniture, art—which she then mixes with contemporary surprises. "I'm constantly trying to play on the balance of old and new, intricate and streamlined, traditional and contemporary," Liz says. "I love the balance." To her, a mod and quirky Wonder Woman art print is right at home above an ornate French buffet topped with two Chinese lamps. Her rule is simple: If you love it, it will work.
Many of Liz's treasured pieces belonged to her interior designer mom or were scavenged in nearby Round Top, Texas, which is known for its antiques fair, as well as at estate sales or flea markets. "I'm a collector," she says. "It's not like I set out with some sort of moodboard or clear vision for my home. I just put things together that speak to me." Both the vintage pieces, such as a graphic French poster with torn edges, and new items, like contemporary light fixtures, give the spaces life. "The most interesting rooms have pieces that keep the eye curious and moving around," Liz says.
And sometimes even the furniture itself moves around. Liz acts on her designer impulses by swapping pieces and art between rooms. She once even sold the sunroom furniture on the spot to a neighbor who complimented it. After she was settled in her house, she also began playing around with color on some of the walls, trim, and ceilings. "I'm a bit of a Border collie," Liz says. "I need to stay busy and I need to be able to create. I find happiness in expressing myself with my home."
So even though most of the rooms in her house are done, they're not, actually. "My house will never be finished," Liz says. "That isn't the goal. To me, there is really no start and no end to a home."
This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.