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By Helen Thompson | Photo: by Jack Thompson | January 25, 2018
Interior designer Joy Kling shows new Austin transplants Craig and Lawton Cummings how to feel right at home.
Now that Craig and Lawton Cummings are happily settled in their newly decorated favorite house of all time, it’s easy for the energetic couple to look back at the bumpy road that finally led them to the modern two-story dwelling in Austin. The native stone, steel and glass residence they ended up buying is in the heart of everything compelling about their new hometown. It’s steps away from Zilker Park, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail and the spring-fed waters of Barton Springs. “The truth is,” says Craig, a serial entrepreneur, “I fell completely in love with Austin.”
That was 2014, and Craig, who was living with Lawton—a law professor—and their two children in Arlington, Va., had just sold a tech startup he co-founded called RideScout. The purchaser, Daimler, wanted to headquarter the company in Austin and asked Craig to stay on for two years. With the family’s blessing, Craig spent the first year commuting weekly between Washington, D.C., and Austin. The routine worked for a while but eventually got tiring. “I missed my husband,” says Lawton. But it wasn’t that simple. “We were happy in D.C.,” she says, “and the kids were settled in middle school.”
“I knew,” says Craig, “the only way I could persuade my family to move to Austin was to find the perfect house.” So he did just that. The perfect home was designed by Cornerstone Architects in an Austin suburb 18 miles from downtown. Craig and Lawton loved its stylish interiors fashioned by Joy Kling, an Austin designer known for her vibrant take on modernism. But the more the couple thought about it, the more the ready-made package was too good to be true. “I wanted to be able to ride my bicycle to my office downtown,” says Craig, “so we ended up backing out of the deal.” Luckily, Cornerstone Architects had a half-finished house right next to Zilker Park. The couple drove by and, without even going inside, announced: “We’ll take it!”—knowing they could choose finishes as they ushered the two-story, four-bedroom house to completion. Then they tracked down designer Kling.
“I was excited to meet the people who had liked my interiors so much,” says Kling. “I couldn’t wait to start working with them on their new house.” The designer is always careful to make sure her work reflects the personalities of her clients. In this case, the family’s dominant need was to start fresh, forsaking their traditional furniture for sleek pieces like the expandable metal and marble dining room table on wheels and the leather Cab chairs that Kling selected for both the dining table and a nearby bar. Kling’s other charge was to make the new house durable because Craig and Lawton love to entertain—and also because there is a pool in the backyard. “We really needed concrete floors,” says Craig, who knew his two active children and their friends would be running through the house on their way to and from the pool.
Kling addressed the homeowners’ concerns by polishing the already poured slab and including a slip-resistant additive to foil falls resulting from wet bare feet or teetering high heels. The atmospheric gray tones of the floor complement the neutral palette Kling chose for walls, tiles, cabinetry and counter surfaces. “Neutral colors establish continuity room to room,” she says about her aesthetic goals for the open floor plan. “I didn’t want to distract from the art, which was going to add pops of color throughout the house.”
Perhaps nothing signals the family’s elation about their new life in Austin more expressively than the kitchen’s Bocci pendants. Eighteen glass globes—some the color of bubbles and others the primary red, blue and green of Christmas ornaments—float over the kitchen island like punctuations of happiness. They are visible from the adjacent dining and family rooms, a midair reference point for the vivid red Kling employed in the pillows on the white sofa and the pleated silk light in the entry, as well as the blues incorporated in the wraparound mural she commissioned for the back porch. The mural depicts places the family has lived and things they have done. Its effervescent graphics make it plain how much fun it’s been—mostly. “At first, my daughter wasn’t too happy about the move to Austin,” says Craig.
“Especially while we were living in an apartment until the house was finished.” But the second week of the Austin City Limits Music Festival started the day after the family moved into their new house and they could easily stroll over to Zilker Park to hear bands like the Foo Fighters, Drake, Chance the Rapper and Vance Joy. Any reservations the children may have had about the move evaporated. “Then my daughter decided I was a genius,” says her proud father.
Roost Custom Homes
Joy Kling, Allied ASID, Associate IIDA
Joy Kling Interior Design
SS Pool and Spa
Art and framing
Window treatments throughout
Black Sheep Unique
Churchill’s Fireside & Patio
Indoor and outdoor heater
Wolf dual fuel range and Sub-Zero refrigerator in kitchen
ProSource of Austin
Tile and other flooring
Scott + Cooner
Adler natural stone table by Draenert in dining room; Wittman host chairs in dining room; Cassina Cab side chairs, counter stools and bar stools in eating areas; Double Dip bench by B&B Italia in living room; Huber coffee table by Minotti in living room; Royal Botania outdoor furniture
All tabletop accents
Bedding and art in master bedroom