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A High-Rise In The Heart Of Austin Gets A Warm And Inviting Makeover

A custom mural of pineapples by Karen Maness welcomes guests into this Austin high-rise.

A custom mural of pineapples by Karen Maness welcomes guests into this Austin high-rise.

In the heart of a city with a vibe unto its own, where one has unobstructed views of the mighty Colorado River roaring below, designer Phillip Thomas has set out to create a welcoming and immersive experience for clients who wanted their carefully curated home to be completely livable for family and friends.

From the very threshold of this high-rise Austin home, one is embraced by a blending of color, pattern, texture and art that transports the eye and the senses, and serves to honor both the homeowners themselves and the city they’ve chosen to call home. A three-dimensional front door – a nod to Austin’s Brutalist art movement of the 1960s and ’70s – was achieved by wrapping it in custom-designed canvas paper. Step inside and be greeted by a mural erupting with oversized pineapples, the traditional symbol for welcome. And that’s just the beginning. Beyond the entry, an intriguing mix of materials and finishes – hallmarks of Thomas’ work – blend with the homeowners’ passions for art and music to create a home that is uniquely theirs.

“I wanted this to feel like a very layered interior that was cultivated over many years,” says Thomas of the home he designed for this professional couple and their family. “They wanted a home that would welcome people from all different parts of the Austin community – something warm and embracing that didn’t intimidate in any way.”

To enhance the expansive windows and high ceilings, the designer selected finishes “that help to bring light into the space, create glow, and draw your eye up to really appreciate the ceiling heights.” For the public spaces, a pearlescent finish was selected for the ceilings to carry natural light farther into the space, as opposed to a high gloss that would simply have reflected it. Walls in the living area were coated in a striated plaster that offers both depth and varying levels of sheen, which cause the natural light to dance on the walls and change throughout the day. And the palette itself is at once a reflection of the surrounding landscape, the individual purpose of each space and the homeowners’ treasured art collection, which reflects interests in both the Hudson River School and contemporary 20th- and 21st-century art.

“The color choices were very much intentional,” says the designer of the shifts in hue and resulting vibes that permeate the apartment. “You have the fresh-cut palette of the primary bedroom that is in place to inspire you and get you on your feet in the morning – ready to go and conquer the day. Then the family room is toned down and muted as a place to decompress with the family at the end of the day. And the living room really captures all the colors of the vista beyond as well as the favorite colors that you see in the paintings that the clients really appreciate.”

A large Loire chandelier from Circa Lighting shines over a custom bed designed by Phillip Thomas Inc., while an oversize bust from the clients’ personal collection enjoys the sweeping view.

A large Loire chandelier from Circa Lighting shines over a custom bed designed by Phillip Thomas Inc., while an oversize bust from the clients’ personal collection enjoys the sweeping view.

In working on this project, Thomas became aware of the “warmth and embracing of re-urbanization” happening in the city itself. “Austin is having an amazing kind of renaissance,” he observes, noting this particular client downsized from a house in the suburbs that was about twice the size in favor of being surrounded by the music venues, galleries, and other cultural establishments that are drawing so many to the city. The view from this apartment and location in the heart of downtown Austin allows the homeowners to keep watch over their chosen city and its surrounding landscape, and to live in a setting reminiscent of the art they love.

“That living room, to me, is just magnificent,” Thomas says, comparing it to an infinity-edge pool that flows off into the Colorado River beyond. “It’s a breathtaking space, a living painting that is constantly changing from sunrise to sunset.”

Photography by Molly Culver.

For more like this Austin high-rise, be sure to check out this light-filled Tudor in Beverly Hills.

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