One Room Challenge: Week One — Brobdingnagian Plans for a Lilliputian Powder Room

Hello! Welcome to the One Room Challenge, wherein I and several talented cohorts strive to completely redesign a space in six short weeks.

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Obviously I am insane for doing this… like, hallucinating through space and time insane, because the last ORC nearly wrecked me. In fact, when I asked my husband what he thought about committing to the challenge again, I swear a tiny tear rolled down his beautiful cheek. I wiped it away and replied YES! to the challenge. Turns out I am a sadist and a masochist. I call that multitalented.

Last time I transformed our dinky dinette into a blazing gloryland of color and brass and quirky thrift finds. This time, I asked myself how I could make the challenge easier on myself — perhaps by choosing an even smaller room? Behold. The world’s tiniest, ugliest powder room:


Dontcha wish your bathroom was hot like mine? Dontcha? Dontcha?

I won’t sugarcoat it. This bathroom is a travesty against humankind. It makes babies cry, and even sensitive adults run screaming for cover.


The atomic orange vanity is horrifying. I simply cannot imagine a world where these cabinets should exist. And yet, they are ALL OVER OUR HOUSE. In every room with cabinets. All the same. All  tiger striped orange with overly complicated paneling and a polyrurethane coating so stubborn it makes my four year old look like a model of cooperation.


This is far less offensive, but still belongs in a trailer and I don’t mean one of those cute hipster Airstreams.


The faucet and cultured marble counters (with integrated sink! bonus!) are also not 100% hideous, but they still scream cheap 13 year old remodel. And indeed that is what this bathroom is suffering from.


Bad tasteitis. Someone spent money and time redoing a bathroom and THIS is what they chose. Just thinking about it is giving my wallet a seizure.


Who thought tile baseboards were a good idea? Perhaps they planned to slaughter goats in here?


And that glued on $10 mirror is killing me for so many reasons. 1) it is hideous and will be difficult to remove because it’s glued to the freaking wall. 2) I can’t take a picture in here without seeing myself and I don’t like that. In fact, whilst shooting this room I became very self conscious and I really hate mirrors and can’t wait to destroy this soul sucking waste of silica.


Hey look! There’s a toilet in here, because it’s a bathroom. At least there is a window and natural light. I think I can do something with this space.

So. On to the plan:

erin williamson one room challenge

Did I say that I was making this challenge easier on myself by choosing a smaller room? I lied. There is a lot of construction involved and my long suffering husband and I will be doing much of  it ourselves, because we are poor and also because you simply cannot get a decent contractor out to any site in Austin for a job this small. It is insane here.

I plan to rip out the mirror, counters, and tile baseboard. I do very much wish we could rip ALL the floors out, but we’re not sure what the future holds for the floors in contiguous rooms so it has to stay for now. Meanwhile, the vanity will get fresh doors and a strip and stain job. New counters are going in, along with an updated faucet and lighting, oh and beadboard…

Beadboard might be the death of me. You see, I bought that Little Greene wallpaper two years ago for this very room but never put it up because we started potty training Ike soon after. And if you don’t have a little boy, let me tell you that potty training is like trying to control a firehose. Full of pee. A pee hose that sprays everywhere. This here wallpaper is pulp based and therefore absorbent, hence the addition of beadboard which is not absorbent. I hope. Because Luke is due for potty training in the coming year and I do not enjoy the scent of morning urine.

So that is the plan. Stay tuned to see if my husband spackles my nose and mouth shut in an attempt to asphyxiate me, or if… you know. I change my mind or something. I’ve been known to do that.

Please do say hi to my fellow challengees, and especially Linda of Calling it Home who organized this whole dang shebang — it’s quite the lineup this year and I’m feeling extra super ridiculous intimidated by the talent. Until next week!

Abby M. Interiors

Because it’s Awesome

Bijou & Boheme

Calling It Home

Chez V

Chinoiserie Chic

Copy Cat Chic

The Decorista

Design Crisis

Design Indulgence

Design Manifest

The English Room

The Glam Pad

Little Black Door

Mimosa Lane

My Notting Hill

The Pink Pagoda

Simple Details

My Sweet Savannah

Verandah House

It’s Such a Perfect Day

After weeks of pontificating, I decided maybe I should post something personal instead of just telling everyone what to do. Problem is, I’m so good at being the boss… of other people. When it comes to my own life, I feel messy and disorganized and indecisive. Case in point: I’ve been planning to present an updated home tour for months now, but realistically my house is only clean for one hour after the housekeeper leaves. And in that one hour I just want to sit down, knock back a martini, and bask in the zen of an orderly life. Ok, it may be more like two martinis and 15 minutes but you get the idea.

I’ve realized that it’s never going to be perfect around here and it is what it is… so have a look around. Just try not to delete me from your blog feed. Or fire me.

austin interior designer

Every (bleary) morning when I wake up in this room I think about how I need to take pictures. But I never make the bed, and there is still a baby bassinet in the corner where I change Luke’s diapers, and the window seat always has a laundry basket full of clean clothes that need to be put away.


There is usually a pile of paintings around here. This giant 52″ tall lady just came home with me. I imagine her in a smoky plum room with lots of walnut and gold and black Italian lighting. Who’s with me?


I can’t believe the boys haven’t broken my heads yet… it’s only a matter of time.


73 degrees! Springtime in Austin (all three days of it) is magical.


Zombie cat confuses Luke, who often pets and meows at her. She does a good job of covering my wacked out wallpapered outlet so we’ll keep her.


The teal room is the repository of all my treasured possessions. I remember playing with this at my grandmother’s house when I was Ike’s age.

grandma and grandpa

My aforementioned grandparents. My mother drew these portraits decades ago and my brother and I are sharing joint custody of them. I hope he knows how much I love him for sharing.


It’s also feeling rather hunt clubby in the teal room. Streaky glass adds that extra special touch that really says home.


 I caught a fair amount of flak for repainting my one room challenge dinette, but I really like the new art and wall color combo. It’s still WAY peppy, but it’s livable. The dining area is visible from much of the house so that’s kind of important. I want to live.


Oh, Ike. Next year he starts kindergarten and while part of me has been looking forward to having a few free minutes to myself, most of me is preparing for the blubbery sobfest that is sure to take place on the first day of school. I’m going to miss my little cowpoke.


Aaaaaaand this is what the living room looks like at the end of a long day spent juggling kids and work and cooking and obviously not cleaning. It hurts me to post this, but I believe in honesty. I didn’t try to dress this up (hahaha). I didn’t even turn off the gross recessed lighting. This depresses me in so many ways… I hate messes for one thing. I also spend so much time making other people’s spaces look good that I wonder why I can’t just snap my fingers and make it happen for myself.

Sure, budget is one reason. I gots to get some new seating, and that will be quite expensive.

Indecision is another reason. Do I want a black leather sofa? Or maybe something in a slipcovered fabric? Sectional or sofa and chairs? I debate the pros and cons of these choices (and their budgetary repercussions) endlessly as I stare out across the sea of toys.

Kids are probably the biggest reason. What I have now is virtually kid proof, and it’s old so I won’t be (too) angry if they destroy it. Also I am busy. And tired.

And incredibly grateful. I’m so grateful to be busy and tired in a room full of busted up chex mix and noisy plastic toys, working on amazing projects with my two little helpers in tow. I couldn’t ask for anything more, and I never want it to end.

So for now I will probably keep things this way, messes and all.

One Room Challenge — Where are They Now? My Crazy Dinette

True to form, I am continuing my headless chicken routine by linking up late to the ORC party. It’s a wonder anything gets done around here, what with 70 rounds of the flu and a work load that just won’t quit (thankful for that part, not thankful for the flu). But I really wanted to tell you about what happened with my dinette. When last you saw it at the ORC reveal, the walls were screaming acid green and the vibe was OTT:

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Not to toot my own horn, but in the photos it looks money. Solid gold. I know my strengths, and I’m good at dressing a set — which is exactly what this room is for me. It’s my little corner of the world where I can experiment and run wild. It’s small and easy to repaint, which is handy because that color got on my nerves. For real.

arsenic austin interiors

In the daytime it was ok, but at night it felt like I was locked in an insane asylum on the moon. It was SO BRIGHT and the room is so small… it was intense.

Add that to the fact that Bungalow Magazine asked to shoot my house right after the ORC ended and I panicked. As a self contained room this space worked, but when viewed in the context of the rest of my house it felt unbalanced.

So I did what I do. I repainted that shizz. Sanders helped me pick the color, of course — Benjamin Moore Antique Glass.

bungalow buff strickland

And here’s the photo Bungalow took. They made the room all dark and moody like, but you can see that the color is in the same vein but far less intense. I also swapped out the art with a vintage Round Top find and I think the whole thing is a vast improvement, although maybe not as bling bling exciting as the ORC reveal shots.

It’s real world successful. My family can eat in here without sunglasses.

Next up for this room: figure out the horrible soffit situation. It can’t be removed. Molding maybe?

Then I will probably repaint or wallpaper or get a new table and chairs or something. I can’t leave well enough alone, you know. Designer problems!


I’m linking up to Linda’s ORC Now party.  To check out updates on all the ORC projects, please check out Calling It Home.


Modern Memphis

I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since I first wrote a post about Memphis design… At the time I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff, leaping into the void. There was still something so raw and surreal about all those sharp edges and blazing bright colors. Fast forward to the riot of color that is the 2014 Pantone Palette, and Memphis seems old hand. Maybe.

damm design

Modern Memphis is still playful, but a lot more polished. These sculptural lamps by Damm Design provide the perfect foil to old, dark, and dirty (You know I’m down with ODD).

alessandro mendini

That’s not to say that Modern Memphis is totally tamed… it still has all the angular bite of the original iteration.

jean louis denoit

Maybe with just a little less color.

safe house usa kelly behun

christian may memphis wallpaper

Get all the flavor and only some of the crazy with pillows by Safe House USA, a Kelly Behun style supergraphic, or Christian May’s appropriately titled Memphis wallpaper produced by Black Crow Studios.

kelly wearstler

Or don’t hide your love for the Memphis… trick it out a la Kelly Wearstler. Hello venus flytrap lamp! That thing is a man eater for sure.

Perhaps you’re feeling a little gun shy about reliving the Esprit era? Don’t get your graffiti tights in a wad. Relax. There’s something for everyone.

gray malin

Gray Malin‘s photography is pretty.

robert couturier

Robert Couturier also loves my favorite Clarence House fabric ever.

kelly wearstler

And Kelly Wearstler is pretty much just Ettore Sottsass with high heels.

bungalow buff strickland

My own brush with Memphis? Just this pair of Beetlejuice chairs I bought in the middle of a dirt field, strapped Beverly Hillbillies style to the top of my car, and drove 100 miles home to meet my husband who was SO HAPPY to see them.

Ok, that last part is a lie but the rest is truth. Commitment is what it’s all about. Do something outside of your comfort zone. Push it. Push it real good.

Just don’t get divorced in the process.

Every Pretty Room Needs a Touch of Ugly

I probably should have subtitled this post Crazy Erin’s Rules, because I won’t be surprised if most of the world thinks I took a side trip down magic mushroom alley on my way to crack town. But if we all worry about what most of the world thinks then no one will ever do anything interesting. So I say if not ugly, then every room at least needs something weird or vaguely dangerous or just plain unexpected. Something that feels a little alien, something that heightens contrast. A touch of ugly sharpens pretty and blurs the line between decorating and art.

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I am obsessssssed with this room. That top drawing is the stuff of nightmares, naked lady or not. But the juxtaposition of confrontational and demure is perfect and amazing. 100% commitment is everything here.

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Robert Couturier is a master at creating tension and contrast by combining traditional and contemporary elements in unexpected ways. I think I should hate that rug and the red on red on red, but in this space I love it. I can never figure out how his rooms began, and that is probably why I like his work so much. There is no formula, no magic combination of proscribed perfectly matched elements. It comes off as pure alchemy. For me, adding one detail that feels a little off, or disturbing, or rough around the edges, is a step in that direction and away from overdecorated doom.

Some food for thought:

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A splash of ugly is the punctum — the piercing of the veil. It’s the thing that recalls humanity and brings life to a room.

Or at least that’s what I think. How about you? Maybe I’ve been watching too much True Detective.

The Down low on Bungalow

Thank you SO MUCH for all of your kind comments on my very hasty post last week. I must confess that running a mini PR blitz focused on me me me left a bitter taste in my mouth. I worked super crazy hair pulling hard to get everything ready for the Bungalow feature, so I’m on cloud nine that the shoot turned out well (and is over!). I read and savored every single sweet word sent this way… but putting my name in flashing lights and hoping for cheery facebook comments and instagram pats on the back is not really where my heart is at.

My heart is in the story. So let’s talk about the shoot and subsequent interview. Let’s talk about how intimidating and nerve wracking it is to know a fancy photographer (Buff Strickland), stylist (Ann Lowe), and writer (Tolly Moseley) will be scrutinizing you and your home. I’m a one stop mom and pop shop, and when I post tours of my place I take the pictures and do the styling and tell the tales. It is HARD to give over control to other people when you are an OCD nightmare.

bungalow buff strickland

Can you see it on my face? That is fear. That is the face of a cornered wild animal attempting to play it cool. IT’S NOT WORKING.

So the day of the shoot, Buff (aka photographer for House Beautiful and every other shelter mag on the planet) and Ann (stylist to stars like Tribeza and Camille Styles) show up at my doorstep with a boatload of equipment and gargantuan buckets of flowers. Holy panic attack, I am not a flowery flower kind of a girl. But look:

bungalow buff strickland

bungalow buff strickland

I am a changed woman. The importance of a few well placed flowers can not be overstated. I am obsessed with those orange gladiolus.

For those of you wondering where the green chairs went, fear not — they are safely stowed in the attic. They do not look as good with orange gladiolus.

bungalow buff strickland

Buff and Ann were probably wondering why I sat watching them the entire time like some old lady who thinks whippersnapper rapscallions might knick the knacks from her shop, but I couldn’t help myself. Beyond just feeling like a nervous weirdo, I was really interested to see what happens behind the scenes. And what happens is heavy furniture gets moved, flowers are constantly rearranged, and pillows are replaced from shot to shot:

bungalow buff strickland

 Goodby peach and ikat pillows, hello leopard.

bungalow buff strickland

Lamp cords are magicked away.

bungalow buff strickland

For this shot Ann reimagined the playroom as a cocktail lounge, which is frankly fitting. Because at the end of a long hard day negotiating lego wars between two boys, a good old fashioned G&T goes down right smooth like. You can see the rest of the room in a tour I shot HERE… man now that I’ve seen Buff’s stuff I should seriously fix my old dark pictures.

bungalow buff strickland

Those of you who followed the One Room Challenge might remember my dinette makeover… and no the wall color here is not the result of fancy photo editing. Yes, I did repaint it AGAIN… five days before the shoot. And yes, Sanders chose the color.

bungalow buff strickland

bungalow buff strickland

Not much has changed in Luke’s nursery since I shot the last tour HERE. I really like Ann’s styling — it’s effortless, and that ain’t as easy as it looks. Oh I did buy a cute mobile from Furbish. You know I love me some hot air balloons…

bungalow buff strickland

I lugged the chandelier from Ike’s old room to our new house because it turns every room into a sweet fantasy land filled with sparkles and rainbow kisses. I need to shoot a full tour of this space because there are a lot of good nooks and crannies, if I do say so myself. I thought Buff did a super amazing awesome job here. This is a really really really hard room to shoot. Which is why I haven’t shot it yet. And maybe never will…

bungalow buff strickland

I do, on the other hand, plan to shoot a full tour of my bedroom makeover. Blood, sweat, and tears people. I wrung my hands over whether I could transform our old master bedroom into this during the two (!) weeks that elapsed between when Bungalow asked to shoot my house and the shoot date… But I’m so happy with the way it turned out and I want to show you the other side of the space where my fancy Jenny Andrews Anderson jellyfish painting reigns supreme. It’s sick.

bungalow buff strickland

I owe Buff and Ann a huge thank you for double shooting the naked lady pillow and gold pillow on every single setup… I just couldn’t decide if naked lady was too risque. HA. Oh, also the quilt is too short and they had to cheat it from side to side in every shot. Let no one ever say that photographers and stylists don’t work hard for their money, because they do. Also photographs lie, so don’t ever beat yourself up for not looking like a magazine.

Honestly Buff and Ann are two of the nicest, most talented people imaginable. I can’t think of two lovelier ladies with which to spend an afternoon biting my nails into the quick. And look — I was so busy worrying for nothing. They did an AMAZING job.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not highlight the fabulous Tolly Moseley, editrix of one of Austin’s oldest blogs Austin Eavesdropper, for writing a kind and insightful article to accompany the pictures. That girl is a gem. Adorable.

I hope you all have a chance to check out the magazine, and to look at some of the other features. Meredith Pardue‘s house is definitely worth the click over.

So there you have it. Thank you, Bungalow for inviting me into your network of talented people. It feels good to gush about someone else besides myself.

And thank you out there for continuing to read and comment on Design Crisis after all these years…

You guys helped make this happen for me, and I am eternally grateful.


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