Jess & Mikaylah’s Simple and Sweet East Austin Cottage

published May 25, 2014
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(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Name: Musician Jess Williamson, Mikaylah Bowman (co-owner of local Austin bookstore Farewell Books) and Frankie Dog
Location: East Austin, Texas
Size: Two bedrooms, one bath
Years lived in: Renting, 1.5 years

There’s a soft, quiet peacefulness to a home that embraces a “work with what you’ve got” attitude. Not afraid of negative space and the power of pops of color and accessories, roommates Jess and Mikaylah’s East Austin rental home features fresh flowers, cherished hand-me-downs, gifts from friends, vintage finds and a calming atmosphere that makes you want to stick around awhile.

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Instead of being filled with more stuff than what’s needed, it’s filled with stories — objects that make you inquire about their origin and how they came to find themselves in this space. You can tell there’s an intention in the minimalism; it seems like they don’t take bringing in new stuff into their home lightly, instead considering its impact not only on the home’s aesthetic but also on their lives. Both currently cultivating successful creative careers — Jess a talented musician (who has a split 7inch coming out next month) and Mikaylah a co-owner of the local book store Farewell Books — they might not have a ton of “stuff” in their home because they’ve got to leave room for all their creative spirit!

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Jess: Southwestern & spiritual
Mikaylah: Borrowed, passed down, gifted, sentimental.

Inspiration: J: Travel, the natural world, light. I am lucky that my mom has very good taste. She passes things on to me all the time that she either doesn’t have room for or isn’t using. Most of my furniture is from her. Her dog is also kind of crazy sometimes, so when he chews the corner of a nice rug, I get it.

M: Texas. Symbolists like J.K. Huysmans. Cezanne. Djuna Barnes. Alain Robbe-Grillet. William Gaddis. Grey Gardens. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant. A Woman under the Influence. Walking through creeks on the street. Nun’s lodgings.

Favorite Element: J: The huge Jumanji-looking vines growing on our chain link fence! We don’t water them or anything and they just appear in the spring and go wild. A small vine is now growing in my room from under the floor. I love it.

M: I love how tall my bedroom ceiling is. I feel like it is a more unusual architectural choice for Austin, where most of the homes I’ve lived in have relatively low ceilings. I also love our old, tall windows. I love that when Jess and I started living together we realized we both love to keep fresh flowers in the house regularly and we both love lots of saint candles.

Biggest Challenge: J: It’s over 100 years old, so sometimes it feels like we can never get it completely clean.

M: There is a mixture in the house of cheap new appliances and fixtures and original elements of the house when it was first built. According to our handyman, Joe, the house is over 100 years old. I love the older elements of the house, but it feels like we have to maneuver around the more contemporary ones.

What Friends Say: J: Our friends like being here; they say it is magical. I agree that there is some magic here, judging by our amazing rose bush. It’s almost as tall as the house! It was here when we moved in, and it started blooming for us after the first time we sage smudged the house.

M: Friends love the house! At least they say they do. I love when Jess and I have little parties or dinners with friends. We don’t have a lot of seating or space but it always feel so nice to me, packing in everyone we love.

Biggest Embarrassment: M: Definitely the tub / bathroom in general.

Proudest DIY: J: I just work with what I’ve got. Almost all of my house wares are second hand, gifted, or thrifted, and this house has been an ongoing process of piecing things together here and there.

M: I didn’t exactly do the work but I guess it is as close as I get to a DIY project! My partner, Travis, built three small shelves next to my desk. Before that, I was stowing books away on the floor and stacking them on top of my dresser and my desk. I loved watching him put them together.

Biggest Indulgence: J: Definitely nice sheets! I think your bed is your safe place and if there is one thing to spend some money on it’s super soft sheets and blankets.

M: Flowers all the time. Art.

Best Advice: J: Never use overhead lighting, and try to only keep items in your bedroom that are sacred and inspiring to you.

M: “Don’t worry about it!”

Dream Sources: J: Marrakech souks

M: “Under ground Interiors: Decorating for Alternative Life Styles” by Norma Skurka and Oberto Gili

(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Resources of Note:



  • Coffee table Jess’ dad made when he was in High School
  • Mexican sugar mold candle holder (gift from Jess’ dad)
  • Vintage white vases (hand me down from a friend who moved away)
  • Thrifted glass candlesticks
  • Woven basket (World Market)
  • Vintage post card (from Uncommon Objects)
  • Sketch by Sam Sanford (a gift from Sam Sanford)
  • Framed collection of arrow heads with a peace pipe (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Abacus (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Corner table (left over from a subletter)
  • Amethyst (gift from a friend)
  • Driftwood with air plants (gifted from a friend)
  • Tiny jar with incense inside (gifted from a friend)
  • My bike (Craigslist)


  • Coffee table & two side tables (found in the shed behind Jess’ old house)
  • Record cabinet (on permanent loan from a friend)
  • Vintage lamp with red shade (purchased from a friend’s moving away sale) Various Mexican candles from the grocery store
  • Another Mexican sugar mold candle holder (also a gift from Jess’ dad)
  • Mexican blankets (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Throw pillows (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Falcon painting (an antique store in Argyle, TX)
  • Abstract painting (found in a closet at Jess’ mom’s house)


  • Drink cart turned makeshift bookshelf (purchased at a friend’s moving sale)
  • Wooden table (gifted by Joe, our maintenance man!)
  • Plastic purple paint drip lamp (gifted from a friend who moved away)
  • Butcher’s block (hand me down Jess’ mom)
  • Rug (hand me down from mom), bar stools (probably Ikea but purchased at a garage sale)
  • Framed photo by Matthew Genitempo (gifted by Matthew Genitempo)
  • Framed sketch by Andrew Neyer (belongs to Matthew Genitempo and I’m just storing it)
  • Watercolor by Ann Lowe (gifted by Ann Lowe)


  • Bedding (Peacock Alley)
  • Sleigh bed (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Leather piano bench (thrifted)
  • Made in Oaxaca silk scarf (Spartan)
  • Himalayan crystal salt lamp (gifted)
  • Cow hide bag (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Fender Jaguar Thinline guitar (Street Legal Guitars)
  • Lantern (purchased from a friends moving away sale)
  • Antique dresser (I’ve had it since childhood)
  • Yellow leather and wooden chair (thrifted)
  • Gold mirror (hand me down from Jess’ mom)
  • Amber glass lamp with blue shade (thrifted)
  • Woven basket with palo santo and dried flowers (Tesoros)
  • Aqua lamp (purchased from a friend’s moving away sale)
  • Bedside table (free on the street in front of someone’s house)
  • White curtains (IKEA)
  • Woven pillows (Tesoros)
  • Green Mexican blanket (gift from my boyfriend)
  • Sheepskin rug (Ecowool)
  • Deer post card (sent by a friend)
  • Star tarot card (from my first tarot deck)


  • Small curvy glass vase is from Salvation Army.
  • Devil’s Club tincture from Sophia Rose of La Abeja Herbs.
  • Green candle woman is a gift from Jess Williamson
  • Summer Smoke perfume made by Natasha Ghosn of Mondo Mondo
  • Rectangular clay dish made by best friend’s mother Holly Whitaker
  • Very old Indian trim from my best friend as a birthday gift when I turned seventeen
  • Kuchi torq necklace from Las Cruxes in Austin, TX
  • Petrified wood was a gift from an ex
  • Javelina jaw was a gift from Leah Meltzer, who would collect bones, wash and dry them that she found around Boerne TX
  • Mirror was a gift from an ex, was bought at Uncommon Objects
  • Jack knife in the wall to hold my necklaces was purchased at the shop that sells confiscated TSA items
  • Tree pencil drawing was handed down to me after my Grandmother Sally Houghton passed away.
  • Little yellow stool and white rolling cart for painting items was sourced by my partner so I could have a painting corner set up in my room.
  • The easel was a craigslist find from Manor TX. I love the easel because it folds into a portable case and because it says “Cezanne” on the canvas lip.
  • Painting on the windowsill is a recently gifted painting from my friend and painter Duncan Knappen.
  • My dresser, bed, bed frame, desk and bedside tables all belonged to my Grandma.
  • Small wall candle holder was found at a thrift shop.
  • Little pale pink candles were bought at Fiesta Mart, Austin TX
  • All the saint candles on the desk are from Green and White Grocery Austin TX
  • The big sage bundle is from Busy-Being in Austin TX. The little sage bundle with white roses is from Botanicals Folklorica.
  • Turban sculpture is from a thrift shop. It inspired a photograph but I kept it around.
  • The receiver is a gift from my partner for last Christmas, from End of An Ear records in Austin
  • Gertie, the little pink dog, is a new gift from my friend Jenny of Sister Coffee fame.
  • The yellow bubble bear, chalkboard and small train paintbox are all from Terra Toys in Austin. The best toyshop, ever.
  • Most of my books are from my bookshop, Farewell Books, in Austin
  • The masonic banner above my shelves is a gift from an ex
  • Another gift from an ex, the fountain etching hanging on the wall
  • Painting of J.K. Huysmans was painted by artist Lane Hagood
  • Man in a gimp mask painting is by artist Jamie Fletcher
  • Painting of the lady (or saint) is from Room Service in Austin TX and was painted by the mythical Sherry Knope. If anyone knows this painter I have been trying to find her.
  • Print above the door frame is by artist Christian Heidsieck.
  • Silly fringe lamp is gift from my Mom when I was in high school.
  • No. 04 Teakwood and Tobacco by Pommes Frites Candle Co. is from Busy-Being in Austin
  • Small ceramic bedside mug is Lunne bought from Friends and Neighbors in Austin
  • Dream whiskey is my new ultimate nighttime ritual and is made by Pretty Holy Collective
  • Small bedside table vase is a gift from my sweet friend Nadia Esseghaiar
  • The two walking sticks by the doorway are for me and the little girl, Olive, that I nanny for.


  • Fake flower arrangement made by my grandmother
  • Chairs and table (hand me down from Jess’ mom, she purchased them at a raft fair in Addison, Texas)
  • Shell turned ash tray (Jess picked it up at Fort Tilden in Brooklyn, NY)
  • The little metal princess chair is one that Mikaylah found at a garage sale.
(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Thanks, Jess & Mikaylah!

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