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Feb 22, 2006
Afraid she couldn't make a living doing what she really wanted, Fern Santini graduated from college with an accounting degree. At her first job, she stayed late one night to paint her office a "beautiful taupe," anticipating collective admiration the next day. "Fern," said her boss that morning, "we are not the kind of firm where people paint their offices without permission." Santini was gently shown the door.
Her true love was waiting on the other side. While working as a buyer for a dress shop in her hometown of Austin, Santini started designing friends' interiors on the side. Can we hire you for the weekend? they'd ask. "Then it grew and snowballed," says Santini. "By the time I [opened Abode] I had a clientele base I didn't have to sell my sense of taste and style to."
Santini speaks with the self-taught's seen-the-light passion about the past's continuing influence on her: weekends in Houston with her aunt, who immersed her in all kinds of design (at 13 Fern had her own subscriptions to Architectural Digest and French Vogue); Jean Michel Frank's "intimate" and "dramatic" work for Cole Porter; studying "every square inch of Coco Chanel's apartment." As for the present, Austin, a city synonymous with "casual," is slowly learning to dress up Santini-style, room by room.
4414 Burnet Road
Austin, TX 78756