“The house whisperer" takes a break from restoration work to focus on the Renner Project's new storefront.
A nationally lauded master of home restoration, designer Kimberly Renner is launching her first storefront this October: The Renner Project. The 5,000-square-foot store and studio on North Lamar Boulevard begins a new chapter for Renner, who says, “I was ready to reinvent and elevate the design side of the business, especially because I saw a niche.”
Dubbed “The House Whisperer” by many, Renner for two decades focused on the rehabilitation of residential buildings—primarily from the 1920s and 1930s—leading the charge on everything from the demolition of interior walls to the selection of powder room hand towels. It’s that final portion of the process—which Renner calls “icing on the cake”—that she’s eager to devote herself to with the Renner Project storefront, while she “lets the construction piece of the business rest.”
The Renner Project brings to Austin an interesting mix of collectible pieces from iconic furniture designers of the 20th century alongside vintage, custom crafted items and fine antiques. Renner seeks out design-driven furnishings and accessories that aren’t already readily available in the area; through her connections with dealers around the world, she is able to secure these one-of-a-kind pieces, like Swedish bull-hide lounge chairs by de Sede, a Paolo Buffa cabinet, or wooden lockers from 1910 taken straight out of a Japanese city hall.
“We want people to be creative and to reflect themselves in a room,” Renner explains. “It’s good to have your own experiences, your travels, your particular interests, and your family history all represented.”
But what’s the trick to making such an amalgam of designs work? “Well, that’s what I do,” laughs Renner, who has an arts background. “It’s my job to be a safety net and make sure the mixture works. You can’t just put your grandmother’s secretary next to your modern dining table and say, ‘Because they’re different, it’s eclectic!’ We feel if we give people examples on the floor, we can show them that their room can look like this, too.”
The client dictates the relationship, but in cases involving major investment pieces, Renner can help. “We want whatever they buy from us to be fabulous in their location,” she explains. “We want to get into their homes, so the furnishings they buy from us can really shine. Maybe we need to rehang some artwork or add two chairs. If the client is happy, they’ve made a better investment.” To balance everything, Renner has deemed a portion of the showroom the TRP Flea. “My own home is such a high-low mix of things in it,” she says, “I decided to dedicate this space to fun vintage items.”
But Renner won’t be far from her rehabbing roots: The entire downstairs is a welding shop where her brother, Cole Thompson, takes on large-scale projects for the business, while a “clean workshop” is on full display at the back of the showroom floor. Nor will she be far from her two kids and husband, who live above The Renner Project on the third floor.
“It’ll be interesting to stay put,” she says, explaining that a builder’s best source of income is often to sell his or her own home. She adds with a smile, “My residence typically evolves a lot because we’ve moved every 18 months. But if I need to resell my furniture, I’ve sure got a good place to do it.” 3018 N. Lamar Blvd., 512-524-1334