René's White-Washed, Art-Filled Renovation

René's White-Washed, Art-Filled Renovation

Adrienne Breaux
Aug 4, 2011

Name: René Norman (artist and designer), Foster Talge (mechanical engineer and metal sculptor), Mic the 15-year-old cat and Paco the 14-year-old tripod dog
Location: Lake Hills Neighborhood — Austin, Texas
Size: 1100 square feet
Years lived in: Rent: Foster 4 years, René 1 year

If René Norman's name sounds familiar, it's because we once featured her previous house in the East Side of Austin on Apartment Therapy not too long ago. Well, a recent move to her boyfriend's rental place meant not only a move to a different part of town, it also meant a move to a dark, older bachelor pad. Thankfully, René didn't just bring her stuff to the new place; she brought her style!

After René sold her bright house and moved in with Foster (whose rental place is literally across the street from the lake), she knew that she'd have to do something about her need for natural light, so the first thing she did was paint everything a clean white, which instantly brightened things up. Next came transforming a "manly" space into a home they could both enjoy. She and Foster began weeding out everything that didn't have a function and wasn't essential. Since it's a rental, there were a lot of things they couldn't change. But the location is amazing and the neighbors wonderful, so they decided to work with the landlord to make reasonable changes to a house that hadn't had a renovation in over a decade. They added bigger, newer windows to the front to allow light to flood in. They were able to replace the old kitchen cabinets with newer, modern IKEA ones. And they were able to fix up a bathroom that was so deplorable, René wouldn't even share a before picture!

As always, René's artistic background helped her fix up this rental a lot, but her successful transformations actually spawned her new business: The Lone Arranger, a "spatial therapy" business that she started with designer Erin Ellwood (daughter of architect Craig Ellwood) of Ojai, California. Both Erin and René believe in small budgets, fast turnarounds and smart ideas to transform spaces. You can certainly see the evidence in René's new-to-her space she's created for her and Foster. You can definitely see similarities between this house and René's previous house, but she's also reinvented her style to work with a new location. One of our favorite elements to make it from the last home to this one was the bathroom tile treatment: René did a similar geometric, random tile pattern in the bathroom, this time all in a neutral color.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic, clean, modern-esque. "Interior design with a twist...and sometimes an olive" (The Lone Arranger's motto).

Inspiration: Light, space, art, all things modern, big OPEN spaces full of LIGHT. The ocean. Mountains. Color. Nature. Simplicity.

Favorite Elements: Everyone who lives in it, the lake across the street, the ease and tranquility of the neighborhood.

What Friends Say: "It's so clean!" (which is a necessity in a tiny space) and "You live at the lake! I'm so jealous!"

Biggest Embarrassment: Before the renovation: pretty much everything. Since the renovation: the backyard!

Proudest DIY: The recent renovation of the kitchen and bathroom. Our landlord is uber cool and let me choose everything (within a budget of course), from exterior paint color to kitchen cabinets. We renovated kitchen/bathroom/laundry room all at the SAME TIME, which meant no appliances, shower, laundry simultaneously, for 3 weeks. It was my first time managing a crew(s), so scheduling it all to happen as fast as possible was crucial. We got tired of living off toast & tea (in the living room), and washing plates in the tub (until I finally surrendered and bought disposable!).

Biggest Indulgence: Chairs. I just love Mid-Century Modern chairs! And I can never pass up buying ceramics. I am indeed a "ceramics addict"!

Biggest Advice: Patience. Keep (a small place, especially) free of clutter and make everything that's in it functional i.e. nothing extraneous. WHITE (paint) gives illusion of more space and light.

Dream Source: Mid-Century Modern, a space with TONS of light & high ceilings with some lovely treasures from travels yet to be made. And a TOGO couch by Michael Ducally.

Resources of Note:


    • Photograph over René's desk: Russell Tomlin
    • B&W photograph over credenza in office: Mina Javid
    • Rothko-esque painting: René Norman
    • Metal hourglass side table: estate sale /Austin
    • Harry Bertoia chair
    • Painting over fireplace: René Norman
    • Woman sculpture: William Latham
    • Vintage Farrah Fawcett poster: eBay
    • Marcel Breuer chair
    • Couch & coffee table: IKEA
    • Lucite nesting tables: Funnel, Pasadena, CA
    • Morrocan side table: American Rag et Ice, Los Angeles
    • Eames/Herman Miller shell chairs
    • Artwork: Mostly mine
    • Graffiti photograph: Michael Chase
    • Nara print
    • All appliances: Whirlpool
    • Dishwasher: Bosch
    • Cabinets: IKEA
    • Vintage hutch: Room Service Vintage, Austin
    • Artwork: René Norman
    • Ceramics: various
    • Wax egg sculpture over sink: Heather Parrish
    • Tall metal table: Foster Talge
    • Faux LEM stools


    • Steel metal bed frame: Foster Talge
    • Vintage secretary: Gift from artist friend
    • Artwork: all René Norman except: "Peace" by Kari Dais, "Webweavers" by Katy Horan and Tibetan monk photograph by Sheila Rock
    • Tiling designed (& executed) by René Norman + Foster Talge
    • Glass block window in shower by Foster Talge
    • Sink & mirror: IKEA
    • Bright pure white/ Valspar
    • Lowes tile
Thanks, René and Foster!

Images: Adrienne Breaux; before photos by René

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