Texas designer Ann Lowe shares tips for infusing chic, affordable style into any space
The natural world is the main inspiration for Texas designer and stylist Ann Lowe, whose unique aesthetic is typified by organic materials, natural light and minimalism.
“I love space and openness,” she says, attributing her affinity for simplicity to a childhood spent in West Texas and love for mystic destinations like Santa Fe and Big Bend National Park.
In 2009, she and friend Alice Crow, a fellow Austin resident, launched Any Style Catering, specializing in creating intimate dinner parties and special events in a stylish setting.
“We did so much research when we were launching the catering company, and I took pages and pages of notes,” says Lowe, who has a background in studio art. “But when I looked back, I realized most of my notes were about the design of each dinner and space.”
Her commercial Austin clients include Contigo Austin (which has been hailed for its refined, rustic elements and inviting, open atmosphere) and the new Rosewood Community Market, but she also designs residential spaces. Whether commercial or residential, and regardless of budget, the goal is the same: create a memorable space that brings out the distinct personality and purpose of each project.
Although her design staples include muted colors, natural linens and native woods such as walnut, they simply serve as a neutral, functional backdrop for a kaleidoscopic of personal belongings, art and statement pieces. Lowe is drawn to distinct textures, amorphous shapes and other “weird stuff” and delights in seeking out potential items for her clients in antique and consignment stores, thrift shops, and estate sales.
“I love anything that tells a story,” she says.
Below, Lowe shares five tips for designing a chic space of any size, on any budget. Because she believes a space and its décor should inherently spark curiosity and conversation, her first rule is this: Never design the living room around the television.
Reinvent your space with what you have. “The answer to a great piece is usually hiding in your own closet,” Lowe says. Think about any special collections or beloved keepsakes that you’ve acquired over the years and put it on display. Be proud of what your belongings say about your personality.
Choose one color palette (like warm or cool tones) and stick to it throughout the entire home, with structural elements, like walls and cabinets, along with textiles and furniture. Decorative items should also be grouped by color. This makes for a less busy—and more dramatic—effect.
Reduce the amount of patterns. Choose one statement pattern for each space in the home and have all other patterns match it accordingly.
Resist the urge to fill every open space. Leave clean, unfettered areas to cleanse the visual palate. If a space is small, consider every item you bring in. If it isn’t beautiful or useful, don’t bring it into the home.
Maintain a diverse scale. Not everything should be small or large, tall or short. An engaging space should feature furniture and decor of all shapes and sizes.
Create individual areas and keep them separate, even if a space is small. For instance, don’t use your living room as a home office. Use furniture to separate areas, creating stopping points, organizing the flow and heightening the efficiency and function of each individual space.