Karen & Deborah’s Cherrywood Renovation

updated Feb 20, 2019
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(Image credit: Heather Blaha)

Name: Karen LaShelle (nonprofit director) and Deborah Esquenazi (documentary filmmaker)
Location: Cherrywood; Austin, Texas
Size: 2,100 square feet
Years lived in: 9 years; owned

It’s been five years since we first toured Karen’s house in Austin. Since then, her 2 bedroom/1 bath house has undergone some big and meaningful changes. She’s added bedrooms and bathrooms and nearly doubled the size of her home, with an addition that beautifully wraps around the big old (locally protected) oak tree in the backyard. During the renovation, Karen worked with the original layout and interior features to literally add on rather than redo. This home speaks of forward momentum, happiness, and community.

(Image credit: Heather Blaha)

The light and flow of Karen and Deborah’s place reflects their passionate professions and personal philosophies of life at home. A lot of work, a lot of meetings, and a lot of parties happen in this space. Working in creative arts education and documentary filmmaking, their home serves as (and feels like) a community hub for colleagues, friends, and neighbors. The easy flow and layout offer multiple ways to gather — rooms for great big talks and spots for quieter conversations. They have space for feasting and dancing, room for working, and a hideaway master suite when it’s time to call it a day. Perfect planning.

(Image credit: Heather Blaha)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: We like clean, modern basics peppered with vintage touches and tchotchkes from around the world.

Inspiration: Mexico, West Texas, Mid-Century modern, Sweden

Favorite Element: We love the layout of our home since we added on 1,000 square feet and made the flow much more open. We have a nice mix of private spaces, yet the main living areas (both indoor and outdoor) flow into one another now. We especially love the way our addition — where most of the sleeping areas are — is a step down from the rest of the house. This transition helps you feel like this is the part of the house intended for rest and privacy.

Biggest Challenge: We have a very eclectic mix of furniture. Many things in the house belonged to our grandparents and parents, and making it all look cohesive takes a little effort.

What Friends Say: Friends love the open nature of the house, the bright light we enjoy most of the day, and our oversized dining room table which seats 10 comfortably.

Biggest Embarrassment: Outside of copious amounts of dog hair on our floor most of the time, we aren’t really embarrassed by anything about our home. Mostly we are grateful we have a space we enjoy so much.

Proudest DIY: It’s only a half-DIY, but Karen came up with the idea to add a butcher block and bookcase to the edge of the kitchen after we tore out the walls. This spot helped us cap off of the old kitchen and has created a place to eat, prep food, and serve drinks and appetizers while entertaining.

Biggest Indulgence: The custom cabinets throughout the addition were actually pretty affordable, but they feel the most “indulgent.” The walnut wood with a simple polyurethane finish really makes a bold statement and helps the house to not feel like it is from a big box store. Other indulgences: the Mexican tile border in kitchen, all new windows throughout the house, Carrara marble counter tops throughout the addition, landscaping and fencing around the property that help the whole place feel contained and tidy.

Best Advice: Pick a few things to splurge on. Put things in your house that you love. Don’t be afraid of color, and mixing patterns that you never thought would look good together. Don’t be afraid of buying some inexpensive things from IKEA to help you get the pieces you need. When in doubt, just make everything white.

Dream Sources: Artisan markets in Oaxaca, Mexico; Jonathan Adler

(Image credit: Heather Blaha)

Resources of Note:


  • all low VOC from Sherwin Williams


  • orange pouf and curtains — Etsy
  • coffee grinders — garage sales


  • Chinese coffee table — Karen’s grandmother via China
  • corner brass table — Karen’s grandmother via Hong Kong
  • white couch — Crate & Barrel
  • bar cart — West Elm
  • turquoise chair — Crate & Barrel
  • picture above fireplace — signed Grant Wood print from Karen’s grandmother
  • stool — garage sale
  • green armoire — Crate & Barrel
  • Oriental rug — from Karen’s grandparents’


  • big dining table — Restoration Hardware
  • chairs — Overstock.com
  • L couch — West Elm
  • coffee table — antique store
  • rug — Karen’s grandparents via Morocco


  • stool in kitchen — Cost Plus World Market


  • shower curtain — Jonathan Adler
  • deer head — West Elm
  • peacock print — Posters.com


  • Lots of IKEA
  • rug — Weaving Southwest, Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico


  • bed — Overstock.com
  • bedding — market in Oaxaca, Mexico
  • cowhide — little store here in Texas
(Image credit: Heather Blaha)

Thanks, Karen & Deborah!

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