First-time Home Buyers
DIY Design

Austin designer reveals DIY secrets for decorating your new home

Austin designer reveals DIY secrets for decorating your new home

Interior designer's East Austin home
Suzanna Santostefano offers tips for a DIY-chic living space.  Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
The couple redid the landscaping and installed sleek cement walls, steel walkways, and a retaining wall. Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
Out back, they weren't afraid of going bold with paint. Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
One tip? Buy local artwork.  Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
Layer the old and the new, she suggests. Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
Pair new pieces with old finds so the home doesn't look like a showroom. Photo by Andrea Calo
East Austin home
Highway nightscapes painted by Mick adorn the master bedroom. Photo by Andrea Calo
Interior designer's East Austin home
Interior designer's East Austin home
Interior designer's East Austin home
Interior designer's East Austin home
Interior designer's East Austin home
Interior designer's East Austin home
East Austin home

Suzanna Santostefano knows a thing or two about DIY chic. As the owner of residential design studio Suzanna Santostefano Interior Design, her warm, personalized approach to design is well-cultivated and sought after. And nowhere is this vision more apparent than in her own East Austin abode. 

Built in 1957, Santostefano's home is full of eye-catching detail and customized touches. Over the last seven years, she and her artist husband, Mick Santostefano, have devoted time to redoing several aspects of the home's interior and exterior. The results speak for themselves. 

The couple tackled the front of the home, redoing the landscaping and installing sleek cement walls, steel walkways, and a retaining wall. In back, they built a chicken coop and painted their shed doors with a vibrant, multi-colored pinwheel design (similar to a design in the entryway).

Turning to the home's interior, Suzanna emphasized the need to re-imagine their space and storage options. "There was a lot of negative space, previously. Closets from the 1950s just didn't work as well! Our goal was to maximize storage and de-clutter."

This aesthetic is certainly evident in one of the children's bedrooms — tucked-away shelving on both sides of the room's bunk beds results in an airy, open feel — as well as other areas of the home.

The living room is a perfect aggregate of the Santostefanos' sense of space and whimsy. Gleaming dark wood floors are offset by neutral-colored furniture (most of which is from Ikea, eBay, and Four Hands) and splashes of bright textures and fabrics. Surprises abound — vintage knobs transform otherwise simple pieces and well-chosen artifacts and instruments are a welcome dose of style and play. 

Meanwhile, the couple's love of the arts is on display throughout the home, rendering the entire space both personal and universally appealing. Large-scale highway nightscapes (painted by Mick) adorn the master bedroom, clusters of paintings by talented friends are sprinkled in the living area, and a mesmerizing mural by Josef Kristofoletti hangs in the dining room. 

So how do you achieve this eclectic DIY style in your own space? Santostefano has some helpful tips:

Use Craigslist. When Santostefano shops for pieces online, she often uses Craigslist as her main resource. She recommends using specific keywords (some of her favorites include midcentury, vintage, and Four Hands) to better sift through the site.

Layer the old and the new. "One thing I like to do is layer," Santostefano says. "I use a lot of Ikea pieces and then mix things up with older pieces so that it doesn't look like a showroom. This way, your home has character!"

Paint changes everything. Santostefano recommends giving a fresh coat of paint to everything, even in a rental. "Anyone can paint! Take risks," she advises. 

Buy local artwork. Of the value of original local art, Santostefano says, "We have so many great resources here in Austin [for buying local art]. The East Austin Studio Tour is just one example. That way, you attach memories to the artwork and you have a personal connection to it."