Lone Star Luxe
Designer Elizabeth Mollen transforms a dated two-bedroom in South Austin into a glamorous, pattern-filled home for her growing family
It’s 8 a.m. in Austin, Texas, and the car thermometer reads 97°F. But to walk into the two-story bungalow of Elizabeth Mollen is to enter a different world: one that is at once cool and sophisticated, welcoming and playful. “Breakfast tacos?” calls a barefoot Mollen from the kitchen, as her chocolate Labradoodle, Toby, wags his tail seemingly on cue. Never mind that she is five months pregnant, or that she has a photo crew invading her home—the 30-year-old designer is the picture of ease.
A Chicago native, Mollen moved to Austin four years ago from Los Angeles, where she had been working as an assistant designer for Rosetta Getty’s ready-to-wear line, Riser Goodwyn. (Prior to that, she had been living in New York and immersing herself in the industry at fashion brands such as Rebecca Taylor.) “Austin is a fantastic place to be right now,” says Mollen, who relocated with her husband, Russell. “I can't say I would have had as pleasant an experience starting my business in a bigger city.” The launch of Stone Textile Studio—a line of pillows, throws, and tabletop goods that brings to mind Hollywood Regency crossed with rock-and-roll modern—came 10 months after the move. “I wanted to bring my love of fashion to the world of interiors: to create products that accessorize a room the way shoes or jewelry accessorize an outfit,” she says.
Working with young homeowners in the up-and-coming design hub introduced Mollen to a ready-made client base. “The product line came first, and my love for interior design came after,” she says of the decorating business that followed on the heels of her textile studio. Luckily, she had plenty of opportunity to indulge her newfound passion—in the makeover of the two-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot South Austin property she and Russell purchased in April 2013.
“I still can’t believe we bought a house with carpets on the walls,” says Mollen, recalling the questionable design decisions of the home’s previous owner. “But I knew it was the one. We knew we had a lot of cosmetic work to do, but [the home] was so interesting, so modern—and surrounded by greenery.” Over the one-year renovation, Mollen infused the concrete structure with her signature glossy eclecticism.
The kitchen was the first room she tackled. Out went the lime-green paint and oddly futuristic lighting; in came Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White for walls and cabinets, a black-and-white geometric backsplash, updated appliances, new hardware, and dramatic wood pendants above the island. Next up: the somewhat unconventional downstairs area, previously treated as one large room. “That was the biggest hurdle for me,” says Mollen. “It was an empty space, and we had a lot that had to fit in.”
The designer treated the square footage as a canvas for a combination of sitting, dining, and entertaining areas. A custom-built media cabinet became the focal point for a midcentury-inspired Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofa, while an acrylic-base dining table was paired with gravity-defying Milo Baughman chairs. An overdyed fuchsia rug—an unlikely pop of color for the devotee of black and white—delineates the living space and plays nicely with blush-pink accents such as frosted-glass nesting tables and oversize pillows. Floor-to-ceiling drapery in Stone Textile’s diamond pattern adorns the windows, underscoring the room’s height and uniting its separate quadrants. Juxtapositions of hard and soft, bright and pale, and pattern and texture are visible at every turn—but an environment that could easily feel overrun manages to exude cohesion and warmth.
As for her style, Mollen lists preferences that are decidedly of an era. “I love the clean lines of modern pieces, especially furniture from the 1970s—but I also have an appreciation for more ornate vintage [items],” she says. The second floor is a collection of glamorous throwback moments. A curvaceous Art Deco étagère steals the show in one corner of the home office, not far from a pair of white-leather Eames Bikini chairs that add an air of sexy sinuousness. The stair-stepped legs of a custom-made turquoise desk in another corner of the office provide a secondary hit of Deco-inspired dynamism; a shimmying tessellated black-and-white light fixture brings disco drama. In the master bedroom, walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s sultry Temptation gray highlight the soft lines of a midcentury leather chair and intensify the filigreed edges of a mirror Mollen picked up at Texas’s Round Top Antiques Fair and installed above a dresser.
The yearlong revamp happened in stages, with Mollen powering through right into her first trimester. Of course, this latest addition to the family necessitates a new project: turning the home office into a nursery. “My most recent Google search was for ‘black-and-white alphabet mat!’” the designer admits of her fondness for graphic contrast. Pastels and plush accents will also be much in evidence, however, along with Eskayel fabric, custom wallpaper by Lindsay Cowels, a vintage dresser to be used as a changing table, and a mod crib from ducduc. “Who knows, maybe some Stone Textile baby products will come out of this new transition,” she says with a bit—it must be said—of that expectant-mother glow. “I already have a few ideas in mind.”