Brooklyn Decker's Eclectic Texas Home Turns On the Southern Charm
New mum and actress Brooklyn Decker may well be adding another hyphen to her résumé. When we took time away from the hustle of SXSW to spend a day at the Austin ranch-style retreat she shares with her tennis star husband, Andy Roddick, our interest was piqued upon learning the name of the couple’s interior designer. It’s Decker. An avid design aficionado and art enthusiast, the actress (who co-stars in season two of Grace & Frankie, streaming on Netflix beginning May 6) undertook the redesign of their sprawling five-bedroom, five-and-a-half–bath abode entirely herself, a process that involved pilgrimages to marble yards and bartering at Round Top, among other expert level exploits. What’s left is a personality-fuelled aesthetic that’s all wry humour, adept mixology, and youthful exuberance. The best part? She’s not shy about divulging her sources. This is not her first rodeo.
Tucked into the secluded, tree-lined acreage of West Austin, the Decker/Roddick compound could easily be considered a sanctuary. The pair’s traditional Texas-style farmhouse feels entirely removed from the frenetic downtown development of America’s number one growing metropolis area just miles away. Flush with a mélange of natural wood, stone, and light-filled charisma, it’s easy to infer why the well-traveled couple favours the dwelling so well as a hideaway.
Roddick and Decker purchased the home in 2013, at which point Decker set to work, culling points of reference from her favourite travel destinations, contemporary artists, and designers. “I love interior designers,” she says. “I love interior design more than a lot of things in life.” She demurs, a robust stack of books covering everything from architecture to hospitality in plain sight throughout her living room. “Kelly Wearstler is brilliant. I love what Roman and Williams is doing. They are living legends. I think they will go down as some of the most singular artists of our day.”
When it came to building with her own approach, Decker learned the ropes over time and multiple real-estate ventures. “We built a house seven years ago, and it was my first time doing anything interior-wise,” she tells us. “I tried to make everything go and pick a cohesive feel for the home. Now I go on instinct. It’s more emotional. Unless you have something very distinct in your architecture, I think there’s room to experiment and play. Picking things that you like instead of choosing a strict theme is the way to go. It tells a story. I sort of learned that the hard way.”
Decker oversaw a handful of renovations to the space, adding an office for Roddick, and redesigning the kitchen to accommodate for family entertaining. “Aside from the construction, we did everything ourselves,” she tells us. “We refinished and installed all the hardware, refinished the cabinets. Our builder is a good friend of ours. He came in and built the island, placed the marble, and built the shelving for us. We designed everything and tried to do as much of it on our own as we could, save for setting the marble, which would have been very dangerous seven months pregnant—seeing as I have no clue how to do it.”
A reflection of her tenacious spirit and dogged enthusiasm, Decker hunted for months on end for just the right marble for her kitchen remodel. She had her heart set on a very particular stone, Arabiscato marble, largely for its striking resemblance to cookies ’n’ cream ice cream. “I was looking for Arabiscato,” she tells us. “I wanted it to look like cookies ’n’ cream. You can’t find it anywhere. We looked in England and all around the States, mostly online because I was doing it myself. Our builder eventually became adamant that we had to select a stone.” With construction on the verge of being delayed to further accommodate the hunt, Decker received a fortuitous tip. “One day his wife called and said, ‘There’s a marble yard in San Antonio that claims to have stone that looks like cookies ’n’ cream. Do you want to go check it out?’ I drove up there right away, and they had four slabs of this marble.” Her response to the discovery so close to home was bordering on elation. “Basically, when I saw it, I hugged it,” she confides. “And I gave it a little gentle kiss. Then they installed it.”
As for the colour scheme, Decker went room by room and favoured liberal experimentation in pursuit of landing the perfect hue. “We went through several paint colours in the kitchen. I originally wanted to go all green—a very high gloss, creamy vibrant green,” she says. “We couldn’t find a color that worked. Then we tried several grays and ventured into the blue territory. When the marble came in, we realised how much it drew the blue and gray out of the stone. I don’t know if it’s a perfect match, but it was a lot of experimenting.”
The living room features a lofted, exposed-beam ceiling, limestone fireplace, and hardwood floors. It’s the sort of all-American den that begs for cookouts and good old-fashioned sports viewing, which is precisely what Decker and Roddick had in mind. The couple professes to having an “open-door policy” with friends, often entertaining regular guests together their two bulldogs, Billie Jean and Bob Costas. Decker’s chief concern in engineering the new space was targeted at selecting décor and fixtures with enough weight to sustain roughhousing and revelry.
“For the kitchen shelving, we were originally going to do this honed brass and walnut shelving. Then we realised it would swing if you walked by. If kids are going to be running and hanging from this stuff, we need it to be durable,” she states. “We have so many people kind of beating up on the furniture. It needs to be heavy. I think that’s where antiques are so wonderful. No matter how great construction is now, there’s something about an antique that just holds the test of time.”
A prodigious, sparkling print from Russell Young’s Cowboys and Indians Collection hangs prominently in the living room. Throughout, the home is composed of bright artwork grounded by rich, masculine furnishings. The soulful mix of industrial modernism with sophisticated, well-worn antiques showcases Decker’s affinity for both family heirlooms and bespoke creations. “It’s very all-American,” she says of the style. “A lot of wood, a lot of denim, a lot of natural elements, with a sense of humour. I think when you walk into the house, you can tell we don’t follow any rules. I don’t even know what the rules are. I pick what I like, what I think works.”
“I love denim,” Decker tells us, revealing she opted to recover the generous Chesterfield sofa in washed vintage material. The leather ottoman which doubles as a coffee table, was previously a large dining table. Decker had the legs cut down to size and converted to the cushy, cognac-hued centerpiece. “I tend to gravitate toward designs that are a little bit more masculine. I definitely want to pick things that I think I will like in 20 years,” she says.
“I live with a very masculine dude,” she says of her husband. “He doesn’t love anything too precious. The chairs in pink and orange are a bit more feminine, with vibrant colours.” Decker collected vintage Mexican serape blankets, mostly sourced from Etsy, for months until she had procured enough to reupholster a full dining room chair set. When it’s suggested that the bright hue doesn’t fall squarely into super-feminine territory, she agrees. “It’s a margarita pink. Everyone loves a margarita pink!” she says.
Calling out a few of her most coveted discoveries in the home, Decker lists a vintage Arne Norell midcentury sofa and a custom dining room table, which her brother hand-made. “That’s a special one. A lot of the pieces in the house have a story and a history,” she continues. “There’s a big buffet in the dining room that was in a garage. It actually still smells of oil. I love it because it was my first time going to Round Top (the noteworthy Texas antique festival). I was with my mother- and father-in-law, and we found it together. I was too scared to negotiate, so they basically bartered for it on my behalf. It has a good memory.”
Decker’s brother is a firefighter, following in the footsteps of both her grandfather and uncle. Bawdy sense of humor and gamine sensibility aside, one area of the home gives the self-professed tomboy away as a full-blown Southern lady: her living room curtains. It’s a long-standing antebellum tradition that the length of one’s curtains reflect a certain genteel upbringing and prestige. Decker’s The Shade Store gray flannel floor to ceiling drapes billow ever so slightly at the base, giving away her roots. When prompted as to whether or not the effect is a wink to her North Carolina heritage, she confesses it is. “The length of the curtain is a distinctly Southern thing,” she offers, “I said, ‘There needs to be some formality in this house, and it will be in the length of my curtains.’ It matters, and I made it count.”
Decker’s laid-back, unaffected personality and boundless curiosity are echoed in her taste in art. The house is peppered with clever witticisms and tongue-in-cheek pop culture references, from neon Etsy acquisitions to Donny Miller’s Universe Series. Once asked who the true art collector of the home is, she fesses up: “I love art. It’s a huge point of contention with my husband because he doesn’t understand why someone would spend money on it. If I had more walls, this whole house would be brimming with art.”
Her taste as a collector is purely instinctual, sourcing contemporary works from social media in addition to frequenting galleries while traveling both stateside and abroad. “There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. I just pick what makes me happy,” she says. “I discover artists all the time. We just find people. I find people online. Whenever we go to a new city, I’m going to the galleries to see what they have. I just love it.” If there exist any overarching motifs, they are levity and a quick-witted spattering of camp. “As far as what goes in my house, I like art to be somewhat comedic. I think it should make you smile. It should make you laugh. In general, I think if your house doesn’t make you laugh, you’re kind of doing it wrong.”
A proclivity for lush azure hues and expected materiality is evidenced in spades throughout Decker’s closet. The walk-in space houses rows of denim interspersed with flowy designer creations and jewel-toned accessories. There’s the same clever mix of high and low. Madewell jeans hang next to a petite candy apple–red Céline bag. An Olympia Le-Tan clutch happily doubles as art.
“The biggest challenge of this house was it is so traditional Texas ranch,” she tells us. “How do you infuse youthfulness into it? How do you add colour and quirkiness without taking away from the integrity of the house? Mixing those styles can be a bit complex,” she muses. “I love traditional style. That continues to be the challenge with the house: infusing a little bit of life into something that is traditionally Texas.”
“I try to go to my favorite designers hotels and spaces and get a feel for them. Taking design cues from hotels is great because they are so functional,” she says. “Liz Lambert, here in Austin, did Hotel San Jose and the Saint Cecelia. She’s Austin’s own, and brilliant—so talented.” A geek-out over designers and artists follows over Decker’s kitchen table. Smartphones are wielded, trading notes on various Instagram artists and design mavens to favorite and follow (LA-based Matt Maust and Colorado artist Shawn Huckins to name two.)
“I stayed at The Bowery Hotel this weekend,” says Decker. “Everything is so cool there, down to their tassel keys.” If anything is deserving of the nomenclature “painfully cool,” it’s the Lower East Side mainstay. The terrace, bar, and lobby are routinely littered with the most stylish of New York poses. I laugh, professing my undying love for the hotel, adding, “I feel so uncool at The Bowery.”
“So uncool! I had my baby strapped to me at The Bowery,” laughs Decker. “Just sitting there like, ‘Hey guys, just visiting from Texas!’ This is clearly not the vibe you’re going for.”
We wouldn’t be so sure. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that Decker has an innate ability to conjure a vibe. We’re thinking she could turn pro.
What do you think of the modern Southern look? Tell us in the comments below.