This Austin Home Features a Clever TV Unit THat Hides More Than a Screen

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Home has always symbolized strength and success for Alex Simons. Born and raised in Houston to a big Peruvian American family, her house was always bursting with aunts, uncles, and cousins. You couldn’t walk into the kitchen without hearing a story about how her grandmother gave birth in a car on the side of the highway in Miami or how her grandfather was born on a dirt floor deep in the Andes mountains. “If you looked up ‘American Dream’ in the dictionary, next to it would be a photo of him and my grandmother, a working-class city girl from Lima,” says Simons. While her mother was the first child on her side of the family to be born in the U.S., her father’s side arrived in Texas more than a century before via the railroad system. “A cool thing about this country is that you can be the product of two wildly different ends of the American experience,” she adds. 

small dining room banquette

Simons, however, never expected that she, like those who came before her, would put roots down in Texas. Sure, she had attended college in downtown Austin, but in 2017, she set her sights on a new city (Los Angeles) and a new job (as a founding data scientist on the revenue product team at Snapchat). She rented first in Santa Monica, then in Brentwood with a few roommates. But in 2020, with booming tech stocks in her corner, Texas came calling back. “Financially speaking, diversifying quickly was the responsible thing to do,” says Simons. In other words, she decided to buy a house. 

At first, her internal dialogue went something along the lines of: You are a single woman with no partner or children. Why would you buy a house? “But I snapped out of it,” says Simons. “I realized how deeply rooted the traditional ideals of a woman’s role had been ingrained in me—the culmination of decades of subconscious societal conditioning.” She landed on a new property by an independent local builder in the city’s North Loop neighborhood, an area she describes as “one of the last in the city to hold onto that ‘Keep Austin Weird’ vibe.”

To decorate the space, she enlisted Chiara de Rege, the New York–based designer responsible for the interiors of The Wing, of which Simons was a member at the time. It was in that community that she felt comfort—the healing, makes-you-take-a-deep-breath type she wanted to re-create in her home. De Rege first focused on carving out a dining nook, where Simons starts her days with breakfast tacos and a coffee and, when family and friends eventually come over, ends them by extending the leaf to allow for extra room. The designer also brought in flattering lighting (peep the pink glow of the kitchen island pendant lamps) and plush seating where Simons can wrap up in a blanket and catch up on the news. “I knew Alex had worked hard to buy this home and that it was the first she intended to invest in, not just financially but emotionally,” says de Rege.

beige shower tile

When sourcing pieces, Simons had one request: Prioritize products made by women, Latinos, and people of color. “I loved how considered her direction was,” de Rege says. “She wanted to work within a budget where she would splurge on items with integrity, but even when we chose more cost-effective items, she cared that they weren’t disposable or fillers.” Simons and de Rege established certain parameters, researching and sourcing local to Austin and Los Angeles, where Simons still spends the majority of her time. When not in Austin, Simons’s sister, an avian biologist, looks after the home, so they peppered in pieces with her in mind, such as a painting of a grackle (the official bird of Austin) in the living room and moth-wing-printed window treatments.

TV popping out of cabinet

The custom bookshelf in the living room and banquette in the dining room were created by Latina-owned Voila Creative Studio. The former is built out of solid white oak with a matte finish and cleverly hides a TV behind a wide, tight-woven cane sliding screen while also functioning as a coat closet and cabinet storage for games. A handful of material-sourcing speed bumps (cane was particularly difficult to find during the pandemic) led them to this savvy configuration. Whenever there was a complex install coming up, Scott Allison of ATX Master Handyman was never far away.

Most of the textiles for the window treatments were crafted by women (the ones in the living room are from Radish Moon); in the bedroom, Fabricut curtains are finished with a Samuel & Sons mariachi braid trim as “a nod to Tejanos,” Simons explains. Almost every piece of art, too, was either made by women or people of color who are local or from communities meaningful to her (Texas, Peru, or other parts of Latin America), like the Cristina Colichón tapestry along the stairway and the milagro with San Martin de Porres (the patron saint of Lima) hanging across from her bed.

bedroom with whimsical yellow wallpaper

Though no renovations were needed, the size of the house required getting creative to truly maximize the under-1,000-square-foot space. Simons wanted the guest bedroom to be multifunctional: a place for friends and family to stay but also a home office. Figuring out the optimal layout for a bed, side tables, a reading chair, and desk was “a bit of a jigsaw puzzle,” Simons says. “Chiara and her team (cleverly and creatively) recommended mismatched side tables that varied in size, as well as sconces to save surface space.”  

Nearly three years after Simons first slid into de Rege’s DMs, the final product is a love letter of sorts. “Big and small, everything incorporated into the design of the house was meant to serve as a reflection of who I am and a reminder of where I come from,” says Simons. “And there is just something that feels so deeply good to your bones knowing that the result is the product of the communities you set out to support and uplift.”

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