A Thoughtful Remodel of a Historic Landmark Home in Austin

updated Apr 14, 2019

A Thoughtful Remodel of a Historic Landmark Home in Austin

updated Apr 14, 2019
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Square feet
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Name: Amanda and Chris Covo
Location: East Austin, Texas
Size: 967 square feet
Years lived in: 7 months owned, after an 8 month renovation

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Amanda and Chris live in Austin, Texas — East Austin, to be specific. They are right down the street from Franklin BBQ and East Side Pies, local favorites. The house isn’t just cool because of its proximity to the hippest restaurants, though; it’s also a historic landmark. Their home is known as the Sallie Johnson House, named after Sallie Johnson who was a freed slave and who built the home in the 1920s. They carefully renovated the house to modernize it for comfort and to respect the natural beauty and history of the home’s architecture.

Simplicity abounds in the white-walled abode, where the original wood floors are a rich material that grounds the interior’s open floor plan. Though certainly minimal in nature, the couple’s style incorporates lots of different influences, from Bohemian patterns, to Scandinavian farmhouse-style lighting to even some French bistro-esque seating. On a limited budget after a renovation, many of the new furnishings were purchased from stores like Target and West Elm. But there are lots of family heirlooms that add story and history to the mix, too. The result is a fresh, clean feeling space that has an ordered yet casual Austin vibe.

The entire home is really a celebration of Austin creativity: It’s filled with local art, and the couple got help from Beth Taylor of Wheelhouse Design (with finish selections), Stacy Whitworth (furniture selection help) and friend Natalie Coulter (art picking help).

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Scandinavian farmhouse meets mid-century modern bungalow

Inspiration: The clean look of a Scandinavian farmhouse or a French bistro mixed with bright bohemian elements.

Favorite Element: We love the original wood floors — if they could talk, they’d tell us a lot about Sallie Johnson, the freed slave who built the house in the 1920s, and the storied east Austin neighborhood that’s built up around it. At one point during the renovation, the house was without a roof — as in, exposed totally to the sky — for two weeks during a freak 10-day downpour. We were devastated, thinking we may need to replace the floors. Luckily, the wood dried. We sanded the floors down and added a red stain that makes the wood pop against the white walls.

We also love the big windows and the natural light they bring in.

Biggest Challenge: Storage space! We designed the floor plan to maximize every square inch, so we’re limited on closets/storage. We find creative spots for storage — just don’t look underneath the beds. 🙂

What Friends Say: “It’s a lot bigger than I imagined.” (It makes the limited closet space worth it.)

Biggest Embarrassment: We’ve yet to hang anything on the office or bedrooms walls. Someday soon!

Proudest DIY: Our living room bookshelves / media center are made of repurposed pine shiplap wood once an original interior wall in the living room.

Biggest Indulgence: The bathroom feels pretty luxurious.

Best Advice: When decorating, let something sit for a few days before you decide whether you like it.


Simply White — Benjamin Moore

One-of-a-kind mid-century modern sofa (snagged via Craigslist) — buildasofa Austin
Coalca Rug — West Elm
Raina embroidered pillow — CB2
Jersey interknit ivory 20″ pillow — CB2
Division white/natural 20″ pillow — CB2
Embroidered Line Oblong Decorative Pillow Beige – Target
Floor Lamp — Target
Green side chair — World Market
Black and white photo of man in old New York Square — Photo of Chris’ grandpa
Color map of old New York and frame — hand-me-down from Chris’ grandparents
Gold Metal Hammered Serving Tray — Target
Black and white canvas portrait of man — Photo of Amanda’s great, great uncle, Edward Burleson, vice president of the Republic of Texas
Tall wide white vase — West Elm
Tall white shoulder vase — West Elm
Framed illustrations of flowers in vase — Kristina Faji
Framed Wallpaper — Original wallpaper circa the 1920s found in the home during renovations
Framed photo of woman on porch — Sallie Johnson, the house’s namesake, on the front porch of her home circa 1935 (Sallie Johnson was a freed, female slave who built the house in the 1920s. Her slave narrative is preserved at the Austin History Center.)
Custom home drawing — Mint&Maple
Print map of Austin Map of Historic Landmarks — Parts & Labour
Cacti print — Parts & Labour
Armadillo print — Parts & Labour
Gallery wall picture frames — Ikea, Target and Michaels Arts & Crafts

Teak wood dining table – Hand-me-down from Chris’ parents (It was their first table as a married couple 30 years ago in New York City. The top was water stained, so we painted it white.)
White bistro chairs — Crate and Barrel (Snagged via Craigslist)
Basket Weave Bamboo Pendant Lamp – World Market
Bar Cart – Target
West Texas Succulent Painting and frame — hand-me-down from Amanda’s grandma


Aubergine + Slate Indian Rug — OH! Fox
Framed illustrations of vases – blue — Kristina Faji
Wooden frames — Target
Custom hand drawn watercolor lettering — Mint&Maple
Yellow frame — Michael’s Arts & Crafts
Ikat Pad Printed Bowls — West Elm
Pint and Half Pint Glasses with Crown — Crate & Barrel
Stemless Wine Glasses —
Crate & Barrel
Tour Stemless Champagne Glass — Crate & Barrel

Chevron Queen Bed Frame — Crate & Barrel
Target Pin Side Tables — Target
Grey and White Duvet Cover (BJÖRNLOKA) — IKEA

Thanks, Amanda and Chris!

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