Keeping interiors intuitive at home with Wildflower Organics’ owners Cori and Gunnar Hedman
How can you ever make any decisions about redesigning your home when you have literally every resource—from exquisitely-designed décor to one-of-a-kind furniture to the highest-quality linens—at your fingertips?
I know, I know. Tough problem. Yet this was the first question I asked Cori and Gunnar Hedman, owners of the established downtown furniture and design store Wildflower Organics, about the recent redesign of their Bouldin neighborhood home. Their shop, which has been open for nearly 20 years in the heart of Lamar, sets the bar high for design standards. An eco-luxury wonderland of options, Wildflower was a pioneer in bringing green design to Austin, selling full lines of natural bedding mixed in with internationally-sourced, high-end furniture and design pieces that offer a steady mix of classic staples accented with one-of-a-kind finds.
And so how do you design your own space amid such wickedly-high expectations? The Hedmans’ response to my question was refreshingly simple: You build your home around a narrative that describes your own life.
The couple moved to Texas from the Midwest in 1994, both with degrees in art and interest in opening a design shop. After living in North Austin for a decade while their sons were in school, Cori and Gunnar moved into their current South Austin home—a recently-redesigned spec house—in 2004. “We were looking for a house that was close to downtown and had a layout that worked for us with our two at-the-time teenage boys,” Cori explains. The Hedmans also didn’t want to have to start from the ground up. “We were worried that if we tried to build a house we’d never make any decisions,” she laughs. “[We thought] that we’d be endlessly going through magazines and pulling out elements we wanted the house to include.”
The Bouldin house was a good fit: When they bought it, the home had been recently rebuilt and expanded vertically from its original 1934, 500-square-foot floor plan. Today, it stands a narrow three stories high and 2,000 square feet in total, utilizing recycled elements of the original materials throughout (for example, the stairs are the old pine wall boards). “The house was essentially new, and structurally good, so we could design within that layout,” Gunnar explains. And despite its three stories, the home, surrounded by live oaks, blends easily into the way Bouldin sits quietly pocketed between the Greenbelt and “Hippie Highway.” Its one of the last slivers of Central Austin “isolation,” Cori explains, and is a retreat the couple loves; their top floor bedroom almost feels like a treehouse, an airy and bright perch overlooking the neighborhood.
The Hedmans have designated each floor for a specific purpose: the first remains the house’s original footprint, the kitchen, dining area, and living space all situated in one open room. One floor up are bedrooms for the Hedman’s now-grown sons, and a shared space for the boys to hang out when they are home visiting. The top story is the master bedroom and Cori’s office. The property also houses a front cottage which the Hedmans use for guests; the same size as the original main house, the cottage now serves as a bookmark of what once was.
Inside, the Hedmans have had several interior redesigns. Instead of remodeling or doing any large-scale construction work on the house, they have taken on projects to change the way it feels inside while keeping within the same overall layout. Over the last couple years, Cori has worked with interior designer Charyl Coleman to update it to its latest incarnation, a mix of “modern and natural,” Cori calls it; a proper blending of her design sensibility. The palette of the house is predominately neutral, a perfect blank-slate backdrop for the furnishings, which contrast vintage pieces—like shelves made from 100-year-old planks and a 14-foot farm desk in Cori’s office—with lush textiles galore (“linen, wool, and cotton: no synthetics,” Cori explains). “Textiles are our favorite part of the business…we tried as much as possible to make incorporate these raw natural materials at home,” she says. A perfect example of this is their dining setup. The table, reclaimed wood atop Indian railroad tires, is not paired with matching chairs but rather with a white Belgian linen bench; the overall effect adds an unexpected softness to the industrial table. Or take the couch: a simple beige Verellen linen sofa topped with a chunky alpaca throw and pillows of all sizes, textures, and materials. “We love unexpected juxtapositions,” Cori says. “Old and new, soft and hard, natural and manmade still-life compositions.”
“Everything Cori does has a narrative,” Coleman explains of their working relationship. “Just like a well-dressed person, a home tells the story of what a person is like.” And much like the most telling aspects of one’s personality, the most compelling parts of the Hedmans’ house are in its details. Tables are topped with carefully-displayed piles of stones and interesting pieces of wood picked up on walks along the Greenbelt. A vase in the entryway is full of found branches. Framed art made by Gunnar hangs in the living room. A holiday “wreath” above the couch is composed of a string of old bulbless Christmas lights found in family storage, a fragile heap preserved in a perfect circle. Taped-up family photos sit alongside piles of inspirational design magazines and books in Cori’s office.
“In a job and industry that is so trend-driven, it’s something I have to keep up with,” Cori says. “We wanted the house to be the opposite of that.” Coleman adds, “Both Cori and Gunnar are so busy and they also have literally everything accessible to them. This house is a refuge. We wanted it to feel calming, and with a unique sensibility.” She pauses. “Actually, we just wanted it to feel like them.”