On a slightly overcast morning, on the last day of July, I sat down with interior designer, Alyssa Rome to discuss design trends, life in Austin, and her company Studio Krewe Design. As Rome mentions on her website, studiokrewedesign.com, a “krewe” is a “an organization or association that stages a parade or other event for a carnival celebration.” As a proud LSU graduate, Alyssa has many joyful memories of Mardi Gras festivities. Now, Rome uses these memories as fuel for her design work as she sets the stage for celebration in ordinary spaces.
You’re fairly new to Austin, what brought you to Austin and what made you declare the ATX as your “forever home”?
My husband and I moved here about 3 years ago. We didn’t really move here for any particular reason. We both loved Austin, and were living back in East Texas when we decided [to move]. We were actually renovating his parents’ ranch house when I decided to go to nursing school for some crazy reason. I had some kinds quarter life crisis; that was short-lived though. Anyway, we were out there in his truck leaving the house, and we just were chatting about where we were gonna live next and I said, “How about Austin?” and he goes “okay!”
So, he just agreed, just like that?
Yep, that was that. He found a job working at a music management company, and actually moved down before I did. I was trying to find a job at an interior design firm, but I didn’t find anything right off the bat. I actually was going to nanny. I felt really bad about this, but the couple hired me to nanny their son, and the next day I found out I got a job at an interior design firm. So, I was like “I’m so sorry!”
And, where was that?
It was at Butter Lutz Interiors. They’re up in Tarrytown.
Ok, so now you have your own company, Studio Krewe Design. When did you start your own firm?
I started it last year. I guess officially in May, and that was sort-of a…I dunno. I wasn’t totally happy where I was at. I loved the designer I worked for… it was just me and her, that was the company. I was doing a lot of the design work, and just sort of feeling like I was ready to be more independent. But, since it was just me and her, and it was her business, everything was still hers. I was ready to have my own designs, my own clients. My mom is an interior designer and she’s been on her own for 15 years, wait no, it’s probably been more like 20 years. She was like I’ll help you get started. So, that was that. I don’t think I could have done it without her.
So, it sounds like your mom really inspired you to lead a career in interior design, probably from a young age.
Oh yeah, yeah.
So you’ve had bouts where you thought about doing other things. I think I read somewhere that you said you wanted to work with animals at some point, maybe in a veterinary capacity, and then you mentioned nursing school, and then ultimately you came back to interior design.
Yeah, I had always dabbled in interior design. I had worked with her growing up, and I always enjoyed it. But, it’s that feeling of not wanting to do what your parents do.
But, here you are, following in your mom’s footsteps, and you sound like you’re loving it.
Yes, I love it. It’s the perfect balance of an artistic release and also problem solving, and working with people.
Do you remember your first design project?
My first solo project, or my first…?
Sure, or even working with your mom for the first time, back when you were a kid
I remember the first time she asked for my help. I was back in high school and she was looking at fabrics for draperies and she was like, “do you like this one or this one?” She just had two fabrics, and I was like, “I really like this one better”, and she was like, “yeah you’re right”, and I was like yeahhhh!
That’s awesome. What was your first solo design project?
That would be Eleve Cosmetics. Well, that wasn’t the first one I completed because it took forever to actually complete it, but they were the first client to hire me.
Gotcha, how long did it take?
We started working on it last summer, and they opened this spring. So, almost a year.
Wonderful, What’s the style of Eleve?
It’s very girly.
Of course, it’s a cosmetic store
Yes, it’s a cosmetics store and a champagne and wine bar. It was such a fun project. It’s definitely transitional. They have two large big blue velvet chesterfield sofas in there and some gold accents, and lots of fun prints and wall paper and tile.
I love that, did you draw inspiration from their product design in any way or what do you think really inspired you in that space?
A little bit. A lot of it was just gauging their personality and what they love. But, they were also super easy. Everything I showed them they loved.
Well you must have just had a great sense of design and understood their taste and had good intuition.
Well thanks, I tried. It’s definitely a lot of my personal style in there too which made it fun.
What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?
I think the most frustrating aspect is when people don’t listen to me- in a nut shell. I always try to have my clients’ best interests at heart. I’m not going to tell you to spend a ton of money on something that I don’t think is worth it. Or, I’m not going to come up with a design that isn’t feasible or isn’t going to look good. I think the only time the frustration really occurs is when people have a hard time visualizing things. A lot of times this frustrates me, which I obviously don’t let my clients see. You just have to think of different ways to show them and explain to them - this is what it’s going to look like, and it’s going to look awesome! That’s kinda what’s hard. You have to build rapport with your clients, build trust, and get to know them. Which I always do. Once you form that relationship, it gets a bit easier to you know, get them to listen to you.
And the most rewarding?
When I get to see a vision come to life. Like with Eleve. I mean I designed that place from the ground up. It was my vision, and it was just so cool to see that come to life. Now, that it’s like a working functioning business. I don’t know it’s just pretty cool.
Absolutely, and after so long too.
Yeah, for a while there it was like “is this even real???” “Is this ever going to happen?”
What’s your favorite new design trend?
Design trend? Well, I do love wall paper. I think everybody should wallpaper their powder bath. I think it’s such a fun way to add interest to a space and texture. I love grass cloth wall paper. One of the projects I did was a guest bedroom, and we did a grass cloth accent wall behind the bed. It had bluish tones, and I thought it was so pretty. It added some really cool texture and warmth.
Is there any style or trend that you wish would just completely disappear?
I’m personally not a fan of the minimalist look, but I know a lot of people are. I don’t like to walk into a space and feel like it’s sterile, it kinda freaks me out.
What places inspire you?
I love how much nature there is in Austin. If I’m having a stressful day, I’ll take my littlest dog down to the creek, and just look around at the beauty. It inspires me, and allows me to get centered again.
Ok, so this is a personal question of mine. I’ve had this come up. We touched on having disagreements with clients earlier. So this is a disagreement I had with a client of mine. How do you feel about rugs over carpet?
It depends on the carpet
And the rug
If it’s a very low pile carpet, and a neutral tone, and that’s your only option, then I think its ok. But, I wouldn’t purposely put carpet down and then a rug on top of it.
What’s one thing you think everyone should have in their home? It doesn’t necessarily have to be design related…
Dogs! No, I’m just kidding. A piece of art that you love.
Yes, that’s something I really need.
The piece of art we have in our entry is my favorite piece of art in our whole house, and it’s this painting by an artist I love that my husband got for me as a wedding president. He surprised me with it the night of our rehearsal dinner.
That’s something that I feel you shouldn’t rush into purchasing. It’s something that you have to find that’s right and it calls to you.
Yeah I have a cardinal. His name is Spartacus, he bangs into the window all day every day. Anyway…locally what are some your favorite spots to shop for home decor items?
A lot of it depends on budget. I do love all the vintage spots. I’ve been incorporating a lot of vintage pieces into my work lately. Uptown Modern, that’s a really cool mid-century place. Revival Vintage… let’s see I’m blanking on the others now. You’re putting me on the spot. But, you can follow a lot of them on Instagram and see what’s new. They’ll post new items daily, so I’ll check and see if there is anything I have to have. Sometimes, I even buy unique pieces and then I’ll store them in my garage so when the right project comes along I have the perfect piece.
If you are only going to splurge on one item for the home, what should it be?
Probably upholstrery… the sofa. Because you can buy a cheap sofa, but then you’re just going to have to keep buying cheap sofas every couple years. Especially if you have kids, or pets or whatever. So, I always tell my clients it’s better to just put down the money now. Buy a sturdy sofa that’s going to last you twenty years, and it’s going to be worth the investment.
That’s interesting. I’ve actually been wanting to take upholstery classes.
Oh that sounds fun! I’ll do it with you.
What differentiates you from other interior designers?
I can’t say this about all designers. But, I think that there are some designers out there that are doing it for different reasons. I would say that I definitely have a lot of heart into this. I know designers that markup 20% across the board, no matter what. They will charge you this price, if you can’t afford it too bad. It means more to me to make the client happy, and to make our vision, our project come to life, than to make a ton of money on a project.
Alyssa Rome lives in Austin, Texas with her husband Chris, and her three dogs Roux, Riley, and Chunk. She works with both residential and commercial clients to bring simple spaces into aesthetically pleasing works of art. If you are interested in learning more about Alyssa, and Studio Krewe, please visit studiokrewedesign.com
Small changes to update your home’s energy efficiency can provide lower utility bills and increase your home’s resale value down the line. If you’re considering making your home more green, and are not sure where to start, a great first step is to look at an energy audit for your home. If you live in the City of Austin, and your home was built more than 10 years ago, an energy audit was required with the sale of your home. You can request a copy from your REALTOR or email email@example.com to see if they have a copy on file.
If there is no energy audit for your home, you can obtain one from an Energy Audit company for approximately $150. This report outlines areas in need of improvement in regards to energy efficiency within your home. Some common areas where you can increase the efficiency of your home are windows and doors, insulation, and appliances.
Windows and Doors: You can seal air leaks around windows, doors, fireplaces, ceilings, and walls with caulk, spray foam, and weather stripping. Reducing the air leakage in these areas will lead to serious cost savings in regards to utility bills and also add to your personal comfort in your home. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “the potential energy savings from reducing drafts in a home may range from 5% to 30% per year.”
Insulation: Many older homes are poorly insulated leading to substantial losses in warm or cool air depending on the season. Your first step to tackle properly insulating your home should be to look for any gaps, cracks, or penetrations in the attic floor. After filling these holes, assess the level of insulation currently in your attic. You can use this reference guide from Energy Star to determine how much insulation you should add to keep your home comfortable and cost-effective.
Windows: Single pane aluminum windows are not very energy efficient. Unfortunately, replacing windows can be costly, around $600/window on average. It’s unlikely that the energy savings from new windows will outweigh the costs of installation. However, they do increase your home’s resale value.
HVAC: One of the largest culprits for poor energy efficiency in the home is an old HVAC system. Cooling systems that are more than 10 years old are inefficient by today’s standards. Replacing your HVAC system can lead to 20% in energy savings with a mid-range model. Choose an energy efficiency model for even more savings. Not sure you want to replace the whole HVAC? Considering installing a smart thermostat such as a Nest which automatically controls your thermostat to run in the most energy-efficient way without compromising your comfort when you are home.
Appliances: Some appliances offer more bang for your buck when you are deciding which appliances to replace with energy-efficient models. Refrigerators have made major leaps in regards to efficiency in the past few years, compared to dryers which really haven’t become that much more efficient. Washers on the other hand use almost half as much energy these days, and a third as much water as traditional top load washers. If your washer is over 10 years old, or if it’s a top load model, you may want to consider swapping it out for a newer green model. Similarly, new energy efficient dish washers use almost half as much water as older models. As one of the least expensive appliances in the home, a dishwasher makes economic sense to replace.
Does reading this post make you want to pinch yourself for not thinking about all the sources of money going down the drain in your home? Have no fear, a number of these upgrades are easy to tackle in a weekend, and will lead to serious savings on your utility bills.
If you’re thinking about selling your home, you may be thinking about all the things you need to do before actually putting your home on the market. You may be thinking about small things such as fixing that leaky faucet, or maybe you are thinking about a more extensive change such as remodeling the bathroom. Regardless of if you are planning to spend $100 or $10,000, it is important to prioritize those updates in accordance with ones will yield the best return.
Your first step in this prioritization process is to put yourself in the shoes of a potential homeowner. A great real estate agent will help you understand what’s most desirable in the current marketplace, and help you to prioritize which projects you should undertake given your budget.
Before you consider remodeling the entire kitchen, assess your home for obvious items in need of repair. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, if they see a leaking faucet, a light that doesn’t work, a hole in the drywall, they are going to assume the property has been neglected and want to offer you less for the home. First things first, fix the obvious issues.
Now, that you have taken care of making sure your home is in working order, you can begin to consider upgrades that will provide you the best return on your investment. Paint is one of the least-expensive updates that can have the highest returns. If your home has outdated wall paper, or a bright purple wall, I would strongly encourage you to get some quotes for a neutral paint job. Don’t limit yourself to thinking about paint for the walls. A coat of paint on cabinets in the kitchen or bath, on brick or stone facades, on the mailbox, or even the front door can add significant value.
Landscaping is another area where a small investment can go a long way. The first-impression your home delivers to prospective buyers determines whether or not they even step inside your home. Make sure it looks appealing from the front yard! Cut the grass, trim the hedges, and consider adding new flower beds, or flowers in pots for a pop of color.
Flooring is another update worth considering. In general, buyers prefer a consistent flooring throughout the home. Buyers are tending to gravitate away from carpet these days. That being said, if your home has brand new carpet, I wouldn’t suggest ripping it out to lay new wood flooring. On the other hand, if you have original shag carpet from the 70s, I’d recommend some estimates for updated flooring.
More extensive remodels really require a thorough understanding of the property and the budget to prioritize. However, I would generally say focus on the kitchen and the baths. Home buyers are looking for large master baths and the majority of homes built in the 60s and 70s have tiny master baths. Depending on your homes layout, you may want to consider reconfiguring your floorplan to give you a larger master bath/master closet. Open floor-plans are one of if not the most important attributes home buyers are looking for in a new home today. Can you open up some walls to give your house that light and airy feel?
If you’re trying to prioritize updates for your home prior to listing it for sale, the first step is to find an amazing REALTOR to help you. I help my clients analyze their property to determine what repairs/updates might be worth pursuing, obtain quotes from multiple contractors for the entire list, and then systematically prioritize the repair/update list in accordance with the budget. If you’re looking for help in this arena, give me a call today. If you’re curious what your home is worth as is, you can get a rough idea here.
Erika Rae Albert
Sharing my Austin real estate updates, home owner tips, & more.