Interior designer Merrilee McGehee’s Austin, TX, home is a laboratory of design surprises–creative wall murals like this one, bold paint colors, and wacky pattern mash-ups that keep both clients and family wondering what’s next.
“One time my husband came home, and I’d swapped the living room and the dining room,” she says. “He doesn’t always get my ideas, but he trusts me, even when they’re really out there. And the kids (Clementine, 6, and Finnegan, 10) love that our home is never boring.”
Never boring because Merrilee doesn’t limit herself to one style or one palette. Take this pink grapefruit built-in bookcase, for example. Or the vintage 1980s dandelion-hued chinoiserie drapes. And the vintage chairs, antique rug, and her grandmother’s sofa.
The 5-foot-by-6-foot living room art installation is comprised of 5,000-plus colored pencils glued to wood. Merrilee made the piece herself, starting with glossy black paint on a wood base, which shows through as the letters in spaces without pencils.
That rad rosewood midcentury modern credenza beneath it came from an Austin antiques store. Have you noticed how many mid-mod credenza reproductions are available now from retailers? Not in rosewood by a long shot, proving NOTHING beats the real McCoy.
Merrilee wanted something abstract in the dining room, mapped out a plan in her head for these crisscrossing stripes, then sketched them on the wall before painting. She amped up the boho factor by mixing in vintage pieces.
This space used to be the laundry room, but because it has a door that leads to the backyard, the McGehees transformed it into a bar for entertaining. Though it looks as if it’s been there forever, the Moroccan doorway is not original to the home. Merrilee drew the outline and had a contractor cut the drywall.
For a kitchen redo on a budget Merrilee kept the cabinet boxes and swapped out doors and drawers, then coated everything in deep blue.
The McGehees enlisted a neighbor’s help to build the breakfast-nook banquette. The chairs were thrifted, and the art is a framed piece of vintage Verner Panton fabric.
Contrary to guidelines you may have been given, Merrilee designs her gallery walls with a mix of frames and covers every inch of wall space.
The runner she found on the street. “We live in a college town,” she says. “Kids are always moving and throwing things away. I found this rug and had it cleaned. Now it’s in my hallway.”
The gilded antique mirror flanked by elegant sconces over a pedestal sink make the space. A slim cabinet was built in for extra storage and topped with Carrarra marble left over from kitchen counters.
Daughter Clementine’s room features grown-up accents, like 1970s floral paintings, a brass chandelier and an overdyed rug–all alongside a Hello Kitty pillow, a toy microphone stand and a berry red Jenny Lind bed.
The boho byword in the master bedroom is MORE. A vintage Italian candelabra hangs over the bed, which is dressed with a kantha blanket and lots of pillows. Nightstands are IKEA hacks, and the caned bench at the foot of the bed is vintage.
Although a bit more staid than the interior, the exterior of the McGehee’s 1940s bungalow went from ubiquitous white with black shutters to gray accented with dark green. “I like in-between colors,” says Merrilee. “This is such a deep green, you might think it’s black from afar.”