I just think eating together is a human thing and I love food so much. Life can be really hard and dark, but everyday you can at least eat something good with someone you love.
Edgerton’s untouched mid-century gem of a home sits nestled on a cul-de-sac in east Austin. Uncategorizable but with aspects of Ranch style, the house is sighted on one side of a creek with a screened bridge connecting it to the driveway. Behind the privacy of the bridge, Ann is sitting on a blanket with her toddler, Sage, and her newborn son Wylie. The yard, a loose perimeter of cast iron plants and pecan trees surrounding an expanse of grass, has responded in kind to the waves of spring rain with a verdant glow. Sage plays with bubbles, baby Wylie coos and wiggles in his mother’s arms, the canopy of branches and the hush of the breeze hypnotically shift and shape the floor of shadows and sunbeams. No screens, no media, no artificial sounds interrupt the timeless pleasure of a perfect April afternoon.
While ruminating on the value of nature, Ann gives me a tour of the home’s interior. “Life is better when you’re living around natural materials, they feel better, they breathe better, they last longer. The world changes so fast and nature is grounding and real—it’s the only thing that’s real, the earth, so for me nature in design is a base.” She notes the clever use of clerestory windows in the street facing living room that give it a tree house feel without being exposed to passers-by. Organic materials, plants and a pale color palette set the mood of the home’s interior. Over coffee and freshly baked banana bread, she tells me about her path to becoming an interior designer, what inspires her and what brings her joy at this moment in her life.
Q — Tell me about your journey from being an art school kid to evolving into an interior designer.
I’ve always edited my life naturally but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties pursuing a love of food that I realized I was into spaces. After art school, I started working in restaurants and was so inspired by food and found it to be so creative, I decided it would be my art form so I started a catering business with a friend and worked on styling photo shoots and realized I’m more interested in everything about experiencing food other than the actual cooking of food.
So I started this journal and every restaurant I went to, I would draw all the things I liked about the restaurant and then I met Ben (now husband) at a party, and told him I was a restaurant designer, but I wasn’t, I was just an art kid. So he let me design Contigo. I told him it was my first project and I think he knew I would be really cheap—I convinced him by showing him a bunch of visuals. And the second I started working on that project, I realized design is really what I wanted to do.
Q — Your house has so many natural elements: stone, wood, rope, and plants set against a backdrop of serene colors. Tell me about your aesthetic.
I grew up in Midland, out in the desert in West Texas and my sense of beauty is deeply informed by that vast, open space and the muted dusty colors. My backyard was the desert and tumbleweeds and you could see forever and the sky was huge and I lived there for eighteen years and I didn’t know anything else.
In retrospect, I realize that my aesthetic life comes back to being able to see very far when I was young. The creative decisions in my work are intuitive, I don’t set out to create a certain style, it’s in retrospect that I see trends of what I’m drawn to emerge.
Life is better when you’re living around natural materials, they feel better, they breathe better, they last longer. The world changes so fast and nature is grounding and real—it’s the only thing that’s real, the earth, so for me nature in design is a base.
Q — Where do you draw inspiration from for your work? How much of that bleeds into your daily living?
Because I studied art I’m always very interested in the way artists live. I love to look and see the way artists homes are set up, and what their lives look like because it’s pure, it’s not motivated by needing to have an interior photographed. I’m aesthetically drawn to the life of Donald Judd, his whole world that he has created is really where I like to live, clean straight lines, very open, natural materials.
I also really love Georgia O’Keefe. Her life was absolutely beautiful. I’ve never been transformed by a space like I was by Georgia O’Keefe’s house in Abiquii. Her house is spiritual, to me as a designer, her house is perfect. All her friends were furniture designers and artists. She was extremely picky, every single object was perfectly chosen. The only light fixture in her house was a big Noguchi lantern and everything else was an exposed bulb. I really like her dedication and unwillingness to put anything in her house that she wasn’t completely in love with. I can relate to that innate curator.
Q — Describe a typical evening at home. Who cooks? Do you get your kids involved in meal prep?
I cook during the week because Ben doesn’t get home until 5:30 so I do the cooking. We like to hang out outside on the blanket and the weather has been too good to be true. But with babies the schedules just don’t line up. I’ll cook dinner and put Wylie asleep and then I’ll have dinner with Sage and then Ben will put Sage to sleep, then Ben and I will have dinner together. It’s lots of tag team between cooking, cleaning and taking care of our kids.
On the weekends Ben really loves to cook. He’ll spend a longer time cooking meals and he makes us breakfast every morning, it’s spectacular, I wake up and have breakfast waiting for me. He always makes eggs but he is really creative—you never know what you’re going to get. I don’t think he’s ever prepared them the same way twice. He’ll make breakfast tacos with shaved sweet potatoes and crispy fried garlic. This morning we were low on eggs and he made a really thin crepe like egg with razor thin potatoes on top.
Q — You have collaborated with your husband on beautiful projects in the past. What is that work relationship like and do you share an aesthetic?
I don’t know if he had an aesthetic before me and I think through being together he’s learned to appreciate simplicity and natural materials. When you partner with someone, I think you begin to see things similarly, but I would say I’m the leader of our aesthetic lives together. He definitely had a vision for Contigo and I got behind that and added to it.
Q — You have a brand new baby and a toddler, are you able still nurture your inner aesthete, or does that piece take a backseat at this moment in life?
My design brain is always going, recently I was musing on starting a furniture line or doing a new series of paintings. I’m always thinking about the next thing I want to do and I get really far along into the process but when it comes down to executing, I just do not have the time. Things are not in balance right now.
Q — What is important to you about creating celebration around meals?
I just think eating together is a human thing and I love food so much. Life can be really hard and dark, but everyday you can at least eat something good with someone you love. This moment in my life is extra challenging and can be draining, I’ve found that food has become even more important because I need a small pleasures, a reward at the end of the day.
Q — Can you give us some tips on how to host a great gathering or dinner party?
You gotta have the drinks! I like to have a party evolve. It’s not about your house being perfect but it is about being giving of yourself and welcoming people into your life and slowly enjoying the ties you share with little bites along the way. I like to have a bite and a drink when guests arrive before a long slow meal. And, I don’t think a party is complete without dessert, you gotta have dessert. It doesn’t have to be fancy, simplicity is best—slow, thoughtful and delightful.
Words by Elizabeth Aubrey
Elizabeth is a Writer and Operations Manager at Kinn. She gets excited about a well-crafted sentence, a dry martini and dogs, any dog.
Photos by Carli Rene
Carli Rene is a free-lance photographer and editor of InkedFingers magazine. She’s traveled around the world to document stories, from Tokyo to Jerusalem, and is so grateful she gets to do the two things she loves most in this lifetime: raise a daughter and get paid to create.