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A Maximalist/Minimalist Family Ranch in Austin, TX

by Annie Werbler

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

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The Santostefano Family's Austin, TX dining room opens up to their back porch so parties can spill outside onto their wooded property. The colorful painting was done by the family's friend Josef Kristofoletti, and the wooden chair and masks were made by Mick Santostefano himself.
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The family painted the original orange brick exterior a cool charcoal color and added seating and other features. Eli, Wren, Jasper, Suzanna, and Mick hang with pups Frankie and Lucy.
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Suzanna bought her colorful dining room rug on eBay back "when you could get rugs for $1. Shipping was $175, I think, but still such a great deal!!," she shares.
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Last year, Mick converted half of the 1,700-square-foot home's garage into dedicated office space for Suzanna and an art studio of his own.
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In the living room, separate zones are carved out of a long, narrow space, with layered accessories defining functionality.
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The living room used to include a formal dining room, but the Santostefanos prefer their dining space combined with the kitchen, thus creating a music area in the main space. "What I love about the living room is that it displays so many things that are special to us," Suzanna says. "All of the artwork was either made by my husband, friends, or given to us."
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International styles combine to create a cozy living room with plenty of space for lounging.
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Suzanna drew out the lines of the geometric foyer wall motif in pencil, and Mick and a friend painted it. They picked up the red runner on a trip to Morocco.
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In the completely remodeled kids' bathroom, Suzanna used an old mid-century credenza for the vanity and a metal auto shop cabinet for toilet paper storage. A piece of blackened steel in the hallway showcases artwork, pictures, and fun magnets to play with.
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"What I love most about our home is sharing it." - Suzanna Santostefano
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In the shared kids' bedroom, the family removed an unused closet and installed bunkbeds designed by Suzanna to fit the space with a pull-out trundle bed for sleepovers.
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Built-in IKEA closets provide a window seat for more storage and relaxation.
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In Eli's bedroom, Mick made a computer desk for him and built in IKEA cabinets for extra storage. Mick is a UI designer, artist, and maker of all things — "currently obsessed with carving wood tobacco pipes."
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Eli drew the artwork on his antique chalkboard.
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In the master bedroom, Suzanna and Mick painted basic IKEA dressers and added antique brass hardware. He did the roadscape painting as well as others in the home.
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The Santostefanos built a chicken run from old cedar posts and added a coop, along with a shed bearing colorful doors.

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