The inspiration behind Sheila Youngblood’s wildly colorful central Austin home started when she was an adventurous five-year-old growing up in West Houston next door to her grandmother Nellie’s house. “My house was vanilla, not even French or Mexican vanilla, just plain vanilla,” she remembers. “But my grandmother Nellie, who lived next door, she was rainbow sprinkles. And I was a magnet to her.”
Nellie would greet a young Sheila at the door after school, often wearing her turquoise chiffon caftan, a stark contrast to her self-proclaimed “Elvis-black” dyed hair. Together, they would spend afternoons painting, drawing, singing, and playing. Nellie would give Sheila a camera and charge her with walking around the house and yard to take still-life photos. Then they would load up in her white Lincoln Continental with a chocolate brown top and drive to Fox Photo to have the film processed. After that, they would paint their favorite photos while watching the Grand Old Opry together or recording songs from Dr. Zhivago to a cassette tape, Nellie on the pipe organ and Sheila on the mic. “She invited me into a very deep place creatively at a young age,” says Youngblood, who also owns Rancho Pillow, her second home turned other worldly retreat, in Round Top and a destination for those attending the Marburger Antiques Fair this week.
This was the foundation for the creative life Youngblood has built with her family within the walls of their Spanish-style home (they spent two years on renovation) and throughout their travels around the world. Most of the home’s exterior is hidden behind a ivy-covered stone wall that blends in with the rest of the neighborhood, but look closer and signs that this is a far cry from an ordinary abode are everywhere: Before you open the arched front door, you notice a pyramid of stark cow skulls hanging over the pool, a concrete rhino holding court outside the gate, forty-some pink bulbs hanging from stately oak trees, and a giant metal crown sitting atop the pool house.
“Someone very dear to me once said, ‘When I’m in your house or at the Rancho, I feel like I’m walking around inside of your body.’ I love that he didn’t say ‘mind,’ because I don’t create with my head. I create with my heart,” she says. “What I wear, what my spaces look and feel like—these are expressions of my own heart, and inviting people into a space where you can feel the love and the soulfulness is my goal. It’s an invitation into something deeper. It’s gratifying, inspiring, and undeniably real.”