Homey yet elegant, the china cabinet in the dining room is a family heirloom, as it once belonged to Rachel’s great-grandmother. Pulling a wooden bench to the inherited dining table is a kid-friendly touch.

What a dramatic difference paint colors and finishes can make. When Rachel Paxton, editor and designer of the website, Maison de Pax, and her husband were shopping for a new home in Austin, Texas, they were surprised by what they found inside this two-story house with a traditional, white-brick facade.

“It was head to toe yellowish beige with a Tuscan feeling—lots of faux travertine tile and warm buttery ceilings and walls,” says Rachel. “It’s just not our style. I love warm wood tones with lots of whites and grays, so a big part of what we did was changing the palette of the space.”

Rachel brings a comfortable elegance to her decor with rustic finishes and traditional furnishings.

So, she set out to redo all of the colors and finishes of the home to make it appeal to her taste and function well for a family. All the upstairs rooms had a pale beige carpet, for example, which wasn’t going to work for their family, which now consists of four kids, ranging in age from seven weeks to seven years. “I’m not going to be able to keep carpet that clean with a bunch of kids,” Rachel says. “Before we moved in, we replaced all the beige carpet with wood floors.”

A double-sided fireplace provides a homey warmth to both the living room and family room

Artful Touches

Most noticeable in Rachel’s home are the antique furnishings and decor with a fresh, old-meets-new look. “We spent a couple years living in France, and I have a love for French things, so I like to give little nods to French style, [like] the dining set has a French flair,” says Rachel.

One lovely focal point in the home is a fireplace wall with bookcases Rachel had built in their living room. Formerly a freestanding fireplace in the middle of the room, Rachel switched it out with a double-sided fireplace and bookcase. “We built the bookcase next to the fireplace to close off half that opening and the double-sided bookcase acts as a wall between the living room and family room,” Rachel says.

Having enough shelf space for books was important, as Rachel’s husband used to teach high school English, and they both have a love for literature. Antique books—some in English and some in other languages—have beauty and character in and of themselves. That’s why Rachel chose to display them backwards with their spines facing out to show their color and age.

“I thought it was neat to see that side, and it gave a more neutral feel to the bookcase,” Rachel says. “We have tons of other books elsewhere that we read on a regular basis [and aren’t on display], so it’s easy to keep these turned around. A lot are antique books with irregularly cut pages. I think they were hand-sewn, and you can see the texture of the pages. I thought it was pretty and just went for it.”

“One of the home’s best features is the windows. I love all the natural light we get,” Rachel says.

Neat and Kid-friendly

Much of Rachel’s home has a stylish rustic vibe, and her antiques lend a sophisticated touch to the aesthetic, but she’s careful about making everything kid-friendly.

The view from the entryway into the dining room reveals the heirloom table, perfectly set for an autumn gathering.

The china cabinet and table in the dining room are very special, as they once belonged to Rachel’s great-grandmother. She previously had some upholstered chairs from her great-grandmother in there, but they’re packed away for now, considering the small children. Those were replaced with a wooden bench that not only has country charm, but is more practical for the little ones’ meals and schoolwork when they homeschool part-time.

“We use our dining room table for art projects all the time, and the china cabinet houses everything from crayons and markers to school books, glitter and Play-Doh. We just keep it all behind that door and put everything away when we’re done,” Rachel says.

She’s also mastered the art of curating décor and carefully hiding away things that should remain hidden. Upstairs in her boys’ room, they converted a closet into a reading nook with wooden crates repurposed as a bookcase styled with vintage books and a few toys.

Downstairs, they have catchall storage for kids’ stuff that won’t clash with the home’s charm or coziness. “We have baskets downstairs that we hide toys in, but we try to not let the house be completely overrun with toys,” Rachel says.