The 2018 Southern Living Idea House boasts major curb appeal and the perfect mesh of the traditional and the eclectic.

By Lauren Jones, Photos courtesy of Southern Living and Hector Manuel Sanchez

The 2018 Southern Living Idea House is nestled in Austin’s Northwest Hills, a coveted neighborhood lined with palatial 1970s- and 1980s-era homes, lovely neighbors whose children have grown up watching the neighborhood transform during the past few decades and an undeniable touch of Southern charm that will make you consider redecorating. Pulling up to the four-bedroom, four-and- a-half-bathroom home on Rusty Ridge Drive, it’s easy to see why Austin designer Meredith Ellis and her team knew this was “the one” after an exhaustive three-month search.

“We found the home at 4 a.m.,” Ellis recalls. “I refreshed my search [on my computer]and suddenly, it was there. …The next morning, we saw the house.”

The home, originally built in the 1980s, boasts an exterior with a classic Southern feel, with white columns and more than 700 square feet of covered patio space, ideal for those who desire a life filled with lazy afternoons and ice-cold sweet tea. Inside, Ellis, husband-and-wife team Catherine and David Wilkes of David Wilkes Builders, and Chris Sanders of Sanders Architecture were met with an entirely different reality. The home would need a major remodel, something that, according to Ellis, would typically take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. The full renovation took just four.

Today, the home is a beautiful example of Ellis’ personal design philosophy: traditional yet rooted in modern sensibility. From the color-coded menagerie of books, layered rugs, patterned flooring in the foyer and the bold usage of both color and pattern, it’s all about creating harmony with a bit of the unexpected.

“I think there are only two solids in this house,” Ellis says, smiling. “I don’t feel like it’s overwhelming. It’s a balance of highs and lows. …For the showhouse, I wanted it to feel like the owner just walked out the door and not like a showhouse or showroom.”


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