House of Harmony

Shawn Colvin finds the right note of happiness in her Austin home.
Sara Askew Jones

A walk through Shawn Colvin's house is a world tour and an autobiography at the same time. "I remember buying this lamp at a flea market in New York and those at Big Sur," she says, pointing to a pair of old Indonesian wooden puppets. Practically everything in her home reflects Shawn's journey as a noted singer, songwriter, and musician.

For more than 25 years, the three-time Grammy winner has traveled the globe, picking up mementos―small and large―along the way. An admitted impulse buyer, Shawn finds herself attracted to an eclectic mixof items.

"I just get these things, and I don’t know where I am going to put them," she says of the diverse collection that fills her home in Austin's Clarksville neighborhood. "Believe me, a lot of them ended up in the garage."

They did, that is, until Shawn found the perfect designer to help her create harmony out of decorative chaos.

Designing Duo
In spite of her creative prowess as a musician, Shawn found it difficult to achieve the right "tune" with her multicultural collections. The house felt discordant.

For five years, she tried decorating her home herself. "I had at least 100 quarts of paint on the wall," she says.

Her eventual collaborator―Austin designer Jerri Kunz―concurs. "There were about 600 different little paint spots on the wall," says Jerri. "Her place was like a giant closet filled with all these interesting things that she had picked up."

Jerri ended up doing what previous designers couldn't―she was able to harness Shawn's spirited imagination and help the singer create a comfortable living space.

Jerri and Shawn worked closely on the color palette and general direction of the design. "I just moved stuff out of my garage and into the living room and said, 'Here’s my junk,' " says Shawn. "Jerri created the perfect backdrop for it."

Next, remodeling of the fireplace and kitchen island took place. With Shawn's traveling schedule, the whole project took almost one and a half years to complete. Finally, it was time for the finishing touches.

Shawn describes that day as one of the happiest in her life. The spacious living room was empty, and Jerri and her team came in and started decorating with all of Shawn's treasures. Piece by piece the room came together.

The singer watched with excitement from the kitchen. "It was better than my wedding day; it was better than Christmas," Shawn says, laughing. "I love interior design, but I don’t know how to do it. Jerri knew what to do. She used what I like, and then she made it home."

Texas Called
Originally from South Dakota, Shawn first fell in love with Austin when she moved here shortly after high school to play in a band. When the group broke up, she headed to California and then New York. Her career blossomed, and Shawn found she could live anywhere she wanted. She chose Austin (as did her sister and parents). Today, she is firmly established as one of Austin’s own.

"I was interested in a more low-key lifestyle," says Shawn. Just as important to her was the city's cultural support. "Austin is a great music town," she notes. "There's sort of a timelessness here as far as culture and music go."

Amid the color, texture, and vibrancy of things collected during her musical odyssey, Shawn finds serenity in her house now. "What does my home say to me?" she reflects. "It says 'mine.' It feeds me; it feels good to me. Colors are important to me, objects are important to me. I like clutter. I like things cleaned up, but I don’t like the spare look. I like my stuff."

"House of Harmony" is from the August 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.