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There are no Decorating Rules in This Texas Home

Learn the secrets of do-your-own-thing design from this clever-thinking Austin, TX, homeowner. HGTV Magazine takes you inside.

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The House

Merrilee McGehee’s home is in a constant state of creative flux. “One time my husband, Pittman, came home, and I’d swapped the living room and the dining room,” she says. “He may have been thrown when he walked in, but he’s gotten used to change.” In short: Merrilee, an interior designer and artist, likes to keep it fresh. She’s constantly coming up with design surprises — kooky wall murals, unpredictable paint colors and brave pattern mash-ups — to keep her clients (and her family) guessing.

Her own 2,500-square-foot 1940s bungalow in Austin, TX, is a laboratory for her just-do-what-you-love style. “A 1960s credenza, an antique chest and modern art in the same room? You bet,” she says. Luckily her family is happy to be along for the ride. “Pittman doesn’t always get my ideas, but he trusts me, even when they’re really out there,” she says. “And the kids (Clementine, 6, and Finnegan, 10) love that our home is never boring.”

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Living Room

Merrilee doesn’t limit herself to one style — and definitely not one color palette. “I need pops of color everywhere,” she says. So she painted her wall-spanning bookcase pink grapefruit (for a similar look, try Mineral Red by Pratt & Lambert), hung dandelion-hued chinoiserie drapes that date back to the ’80s, added a pair of vintage navy armchairs, and put down an antique area rug featuring every color of the rainbow. Subdued details like a gray velvet sofa, which belonged to Merrilee’s grandmother, and a seagrass rug help balance out the vibrancy. The modern sputnik light is from Practical Props in North Hollywood, CA.

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Living Room

Merrilee, who got a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Texas in Austin, created this 5-foot-by-6-foot piece using more than 5,000 colored pencils glued to wood. She started by painting the wood glossy black — the spaces left blank create the letters. It hangs in the living room above a rosewood credenza found at an antiques store in Austin.

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Dining Room

For this room, Merrilee wanted something unplanned and abstract, so she picked a quirky assortment of paint colors, mapped out a plan in her head, sketched the lines on the wall and painted a mural of crisscrossing stripes. Then she peppered the space with some of her favorite vintage finds: a travertine pedestal table found on Craigslist, Bauhaus-style chairs from Uptown Modern in Austin, a gilded mirror that she picked up at the Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas and sconces pilfered from her mother-in-law’s garage. 

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