This year, Ballard teamed up with Southern Living to outfit several stunning spaces in their new 2011 Idea House at Escondido in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. Hugging an inlet of LBJ Lake, the Mediterranean-inspired villa uses walls of warm, rough-hewn Texas sandstone and weathered wood to embrace the spectacular natural surroundings. Indoor and outdoor rooms flow from one to the other in an effortless blending of open living spaces.
“This year’s Idea House is all about relaxed living by the water,” explains Texas designer, Marcus Mohon, the decorating force behind all of the home’s interior and exterior spaces. “So I used natural textures in both the finishes and in the decorating.”
Marcus created beautiful watercolor renderings to help us visualize the space. With drawings in hand, he visited Ballard months before the house was built to select the products to be featured exclusively in the Casita (see the guesthouse pictured below), and in the loggia and terraces surrounding the pool.
q&a with marcus mohon
Marcus Mohon is the managing principal of Mohon-Imber Interiors, an Austin-based firm specializing in residential and hospitality interiors that are warm, elegant and approachable. Marcus and his business partner, noted architect Michael G. Imber, designed and decorated this year’s Southern Living Idea House at Escondido in Horseshoe Bay, Texas. The firm’s work has been featured in Western Interiors, Ville & Casali, and Coastal Living.Ballard Designs: Every Southern Living Idea House begins with a big idea. Tell us about this year’s concept and how you brought it to life.Marcus Mohon: Since the property is situated on an inlet to LBJ Lake, this year’s Idea House is all about relaxed living by the water. I hate the phrase “bring the outside in,” because it’s been beaten to death. This house was not about bringing the outside in, but about bringing the inside out. We wanted a home that was elegantly livable while still relating to the lake, so creating great outdoor living spaces was key.BD: The house reminds us of a Tuscan villa.
MM: I would call it Mediterranean with Southern European influences. We wanted it to feel like it could be dropped down in the South of France or Southern Italy where the living is relaxed and easy. Generally, the climate in the Austin area is very similar to the Mediterranean.
BD: You used several Ballard pieces in the kitchen and dining area. Why those?
MM: The kitchen/dining room area is where everyone ends up hanging out, so you need enough comfortable places to sit. We used a pair of Brockton benches in the dining room. And this great little metal hexagonal occasional table (Padova) next to them. I loved the upholstered benches because they soften the dining room and make it feel more livable. Their also great seating for a party. The little table is just convenient. It’s not in the way, but it holds everything you need. They both add so much atmosphere. We put a Suzanne Kasler linen on the bench. It’s a beautiful fabric, so it goes back to the idea of elegant living, but it’s also a perfect natural texture for this setting.
BD: You used lots of natural textures and finishes throughout the house.
MM: I used natural fibers and materials wherever I could. And if we used synthetic fabrics outside, we wanted them to look so good that they could pass for natural fibers. In my mind, the greenest products are the ones that have been used for thousands of years. For building, we went with plaster and stone rather than sheetrock, and wood floors, because they all endure.
For fabrics, I wanted natural fibers like linens and cotton velvets. They’re classic, timeless materials that are beautiful in any setting.
BD: You used Ballard products exclusively for the Casita and for the terrace and loggia surrounding the pool.
MM: The Casita is the home’s guesthouse and it’s a cozy 400 square feet. If we had put a traditional bed in there, it would have been just a bedroom. We chose the Ballard daybeds because they could function as beds and as sofas, turning the room into a flexible space where it could be a living/lounge area or a bedroom.
Everything we chose for the Casita had a strong graphic profile—the Sofia Chair, the Daybeds, the Aiden Serving Table with its dark cement top and “X” stretchers, the Eldridge Pendant—even the ceramic garden seat. We could have upholstered everything in muslin and the painted the walls white and it still would have worked because of the strong profiles and shapes Ballard does.
The texture and fabric choices are all icing on the cake. You spend a lot of time making a cake, but the icing is the first thing everyone sees. We used Ballard Sunbrella® fabrics inside, too, because the Casita is poolside and wanted everything to be durable. People have been going crazy over the burlap panels with the crewelwork because they embody what this house is all about—elegant, relaxed living by the lake.
People love the finish on the candle sconces. And I think for the price point, they’re great. They look authentic and add a touch of old world Italian elegance.
BD: Even though the space is small, you made it feel like there’s plenty of room.
MM: Since it is such a small space, I divided it up into four zones depending on how they might be used throughout the day. Then I picked things that spoke to me viscerally to fit each part. If I saw something I loved, I made it work. Two things to remember when you’re decorating: #1—Don’t get hung up on is whether something you do is right or wrong according to someone else’s external rules and #2—don’t waste time asking yourself what other people are doing right now. The basic questions to start with are: “Do you love it?” and “Do you think it works with everything else?”
BD: The house rambles and wraps around a series of walled courtyards, terraces and gardens.
MM: Yes, they form the backdrop for the interior of the house—they are your view. Those outdoor spaces are really exterior rooms, so they’re furnished with the same approach we used for the interior rooms.
For example, when you go out to the pool, you’re not just going to a pool. You’re going to an outdoor living space. I didn’t want to the furniture to look like poolside equipment. That’s why we have upholstered chaises, and lots of throw pillows and outdoor panels.
BD: You chose Suzanne Kasler’s new all-weather wicker for the pergola just outside the family room.
MM: The finish is fantastic. A lot of all-weather wicker can look “plastic-y” and tends to be really, really dark brown or golden tan. Suzanne’s has a great taupe color that can shift to any environment. It can go warm or it can go cool. It’s versatile and really beautiful at the same time. Versatile sometimes can be bland and boring, but this is not. And it also sits like real furniture, so you can ease right out to it from the family room—essentially doubling the size of your room.
BD: For the loggia, you went with the Capri natural rattan chairs. What drew you to that collection?
MM: They sit like a club chair, so they’re comfortable enough for relaxing by the fireplace. And I also didn’t want all the outdoor furniture to look exactly alike. The natural rattan is a great texture and scale for the space. They’re also simple in form, so they add a youthful, modern feeling. That’s one of the things I like about Ballard—it’s transitional, so it’s not your grandmother’s traditional wicker furniture.
BD: Talk about the fabrics you used in the outdoor spaces.
MM: A lot of stone we used for the house’s exterior is warm in tone, so we accented with warm creams and yellows. The fabrics we chose for the pillows went with all the colors in the stone without matching it perfectly. As a result, it’s looks fresh and sunny, but with the sand colored upholstery, it’s very cool at the same time—not heavy on the eye.
I love the stripes and the batik fabric together and there’s a little bit of taupe in there, too. Even though we had a ton of outdoor spaces, I didn’t feel the need to go with tons of different pillows. I wanted two fabrics that look great together, so you can combine them in any way without worrying about where they go. With all the different shapes and sizes—squares, neck rolls and bolsters—you can combine them all in any combination and they all work.
BD: Before the Idea House, you hadn’t really worked with Ballard Designs. Now that you’ve experienced it for yourself, what do you think?
MM: What really surprised me about Ballard were the finishes. They obviously have taken a lot of time to develop them. We have a Ballard light fixture above the kitchen island and it’s amazing. The iron finish on it is really good.
The finish can make or break a piece. And to get great finishes at good price points is really encouraging. This house may become somebody’s permanent residence, but there’s a good chance it might be someone’s second home. And with the way Ballard does things, it doesn’t look like you compromised.
meet the designer
Marcus MohonMarcus is the managing principal of Mohon-Imber Interiors, a firm specializing in residential and hospitality interiors that are gracefully elegant, warmly approachable and distinctly geometric. With projects coast to coast, Mohon-Imber is based in Austin, where the South tumbles into the Southwest. The Texas location provides a unique perspective for interiors that combine the urban and rural, the elegant and humble, the refined and rough-hewned, affording the opportunity to impose beautiful comfort on genuine haciendas, urban high-rises, and coastal cabins.Marcus and his business partner, noted architect Michael G. Imber, established Mohon-Imber Interiors in 2002, based on a shared philosophy that architecture, decoration, and furnishings should work seamlessly together. The firm’s work has been featured regionally, nationally, and internationally in publications such as Western Interiors, Ville & Casali, and Coastal Living.A native Texan, Marcus has an economics degree from Baylor University. After working for an international relief organization, he studied interior design at the University of Texas at Austin. Because of his love for the Texas Hill Country, Marcus stayed in Austin to begin his career and lives there now with his wife, Autumn, and their four children.