It was their dream yard “with a house on it that had lots of potential,” explains Suzanna Santostefano of her 1953 ranch in Austin, TX. “I love having a vision of what it can be — and doing it.” She had driven by the home before she and artist husband Mick claimed it for their brood of three small children, two dogs, and five chickens (outside). Back then, she turned a corner to see a beautiful, rolling half-acre backyard with mature oak trees, but wasn’t in a position to buy at the time. Thankfully, it went back on the market six years ago, and it was then that they signed on the dotted line.
After all that time in the space, the family is still in an ever-evolving process of making their house a home. The large, wooded yard now boasts a functional chicken coop. To make the interiors more functional for three kids, handbuilt bunkbeds were installed in one bedroom so two could share, with built-in IKEA closets and a window seat. Next, Suzanna and Mick turned their attention to the kids’ shared bathroom. They took it down to the studs to make the design more streamlined, then built it back up with a double vanity and vintage accessories. Instead of being a six-week project, it morphed into a six-month project with lots of hard-won lessons learned.
The Santostefanos love to fill their house with people, so it needs to feel warm and inviting. In addition to loved ones, they also tend to feature “fun, silly, and weird” objects in their space. Suzanna is always working toward creating “maximalist/minimalist” order in a comfortable environment. The walls are covered in artwork made by Mick and friends, who know to bring back “strange” things from exotic travels to add to their always-growing collection of personal touches. —Annie
Photography by Andrea Calo