Sneak peek inside Southern Living's famed 2018 Idea House before it opens in West Austin
For nearly three decades, Southern Living has traipsed across the Southern U.S. in search of special spots for its annual Idea House. This year, the project landed in Austin with four local creative firms leading a "Texas-sized makeover" of a Northwest Hills home.
Meredith Ellis, Austin-based designer and owner of JAMES Showroom, was tapped first by the perennial publication to craft the interiors. "I’ve been a member of their Designer Network for a couple of years," Ellis says. "They were looking to Austin as a potential for their 2018 Idea House and wanted me to be the interior designer if it was selected."
Once Austin was officially chosen, Ellis in turn asked local architect Chris Sanders of Sanders Architecture, David Wilkes of David Wilkes Builders, and East Austin landscape designer Big Red Sun to join the team.
The Idea House, located at 6401 Rusty Ridge Dr., is actually a gut renovation of a 1980s structure, rather than a new build. As the architect, Sanders was tasked with turning what he calls a "strange arrangement of rooms" caused by a series of past additions to the property into a functional, livable space.
"Our primary goal for the renovation was to adapt the home to meet the needs of an active, Central Texas lifestyle," Sanders explains. The architect notes that key among the adaptations was a "connection to the exterior, comfortable common areas, [and] well-designed, functional spaces."
"Southerners love to entertain," Ellis echoes. "And this home had great potential for indoor/outdoor flow if we re-arranged the floor plan."
Once the architecture plans were complete (and now available to purchase of course), the team set about modernizing the West Austin abode. With Wilkes overseeing construction, the team performed massive changes to the interiors — moving walls, recreating the staircase, enlarging the master bath and closet, and creating two bathrooms — under a very tight deadline.
"This was a really fun and intense project," says Wilkes. "Our staff worked tirelessly to complete a remodel that normally would have taken about 10 months into a four month timeline."
The addition of Ellis' signature work, a mix of approachable high-end luxury and laid-back Texas style, ultimately completed the space's transformation from a '90s wasteland into a bright, airy home with pops of color. "This year's house may be our most inspiring ever — a complete transformation on every level, from the architecture to the décor to the outdoor spaces," says Southern Living editor in chief Sid Evans in a release.
Beginning June 15 through November 15, design fans can see that complete transformation in-person. The Idea House is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday 10 am-4 pm and Sunday from noon-4 pm. (These hours may be subject to change, so check here before heading out.) Portions of the $20 entrance fee will be donated to the Dell Children's Medical Center.
"I hope that visitors will understand that there is a lot of potential in the renovation process, even if it is not readily apparent," says Sanders, who says he hopes out-of-town visitors find inspiration in Austin's electic style, too. "The house will draw visitors from around the country who will not only visit the Idea House but will be exposed to other great design in this town."