By: Malcolm Mayhew
Whoever said good things come in small packages surely visited the home of local calligrapher and designer Lauren Essl. The 1,100-square-foot, traditional bungalow she shares with her husband, Travis, and three rescue dogs, sits on a serene street in North Hi Mount that provides views of downtown. The Essls bought the 1940s home seven years ago and via a three-month renovation and strategically added eclectic art have turned it into a modern oasis.
“When we bought this house, West 7th was still dirt,” says Essl. Instead of purchasing for the now-obvious investment, the couple settled on the Monticello-adjacent neighborhood, thanks to its close proximity to the museum district. “We got lucky with the nearby development,” she adds. “It was really a function of what we could afford at the time,” says Essl, a Plano native and graduate of Texas A&M.
A step inside the charming pink front door reveals a mix of high and low purchases. Essl says she opts to save on furniture whenever possible while splurging more on textiles and art. Her favorite local haunts include Maven and Simple Things, mostly for inspiration. She turns to West Elm and CB2 for affordable finds outside of Fort Worth.
The pieces in her dining room reflect both her personality and decorating philosophy. Herman Miller chairs pull up to a Knoll table (both snagged on sale), that’s topped off with a banana vase from Archie’s Gardenland filled with a single rose for a pop of color.
The colorful living room is a convergence of the couple’s life in Fort Worth and travels together. Multiple dog-themed art pieces are by Colorado-artist Dolan Geiman – one purchased at the Main St. Fort Worth Arts Festival was the first piece of art the couple ever bought together. Another, above the mantle, the Essls commissioned. A butterfly chair, purchased in Marfa, sits in a bay window, while an ironic and funky piece by New Orleans artist Ashley Longshore (loved by celebs from Blake Lively to Penelope Cruz) graces an otherwise empty wall. The coffee table is styled with stacks of books. “I love to collect art books, so whenever we go to exhibits and things like that, I buy a book. It’s something I picked up from my mother,” Essl says.
A storage shed looks like an extension of the home.
Essl’s home is also just a quick drive away from the Camp Bowie studio where she runs her business, Blue Eye Brown Eye, named for her dog Olive’s two different colored eyes. Inside the space, Essl designs mostly invitations and day-of paper goods for weddings. It’s a job where she has found much success, with her work featured in Style Me Pretty, The Knot Texas and Zooey Magazine. Her stationery has even been sold nationwide at Anthropologie stores.
The Essls enlisted Happy Gardens for their backyard landscaping.
The eclectic side of her design personality is showcased strongly here – in the form of a pink vintage-look Smeg refrigerator from West Elm and a Beyonce flower vase by Lovestar from Australia.
“Calligraphy and design are my job, but ‘home’ is my hobby,” she says.
We’d say it’s a hobby worth sticking to.