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artisanal elements, such as handmade encaustic-tile floors in the mudroom, as a way to introduce color and pattern without getting too precious. Her fruitless search for unique tiles for the kitchen backsplash turned into "a total obsession," she says. "So I decided to paint them myself." For inspiration, she looked to their own pastures blooming with delicate fernlike stalks of Queen Anne's lace and buzzing with dragonflies and hummingbirds. A friend in Houston glazed and fired the hand-painted tiles for her, and now the delightful mise en scène gives the kitchen unexpected charm. The house had only been finished nine months when Wills and her fiancé moved in during lockdown. "I've never lived in a house that I've designed myself," she says. "There's always something at the end of a project that doesn't get finished. This gave me a chance to focus on all those details." Wills spent the downtime making pleated lampshades from hand-blocked cloth and planting flowers from a nearby nursery in pots on the porches. She did a lot of painting, including adding decorative folk art to chairs. She also painted abstract canvases and scenes depicting landscapes and horses on the ranch, which she framed and hung throughout the house. "It was unbelievably therapeutic," she says. "My business last year skyrocketed, and I took on too much and worked more than I thought was possible. I needed the time off to regroup and see what I wanted my business to look like going forward — I had to figure out a better work-life balance." In September, Wills and her fiancé packed up their apartment in New York and moved to Houston, where the pace is easier, and she's hired an assistant to help with her design firm. Life and work are already more in sync, thanks in part to the Brenham ranch house. "Doing that house was a great experience," she says. "I saw what I am capable of, and it expanded my creativity. It's a really comfortable, peaceful house." ABOVE LEFT: Lauren Wills painted the abstract canvas during lockdown. Pottery and console were finds from Etsy and Wayfair. ABOVE RIGHT: Brass cactus lamp found on Amazon. Frida Kahlo print. Framed 1972 Hermès scarf with a rifle design hangs over the bed. Pillows made from hand-blocked fabric from India. 48

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