Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks: Show & Tell Home Tour

karen walrond, home tour

Karen Walrond of chookooloonks

For today's Show & Tell Home Tour we get to take a look around the Houston, Texas home of photographer, writer, and mama Karen Walrond.

Come on inside...


I've been following Karen Walrond's photography since she helped Tracey Clark co-found Shutter Sisters back in December 2007. Karen's photos are full of vibrant color, pretty bits of natural beauty, and everyday loves. Her writing, just the same, is inspiring and often soaked in tales of friendship, family, and mother love. And speaking of love, her Love Thursday posts and photo picks are always delicious little morsels too. All this aside, I was pretty excited when I ran across a few snapshots from Karen's home in Texas. Her cozy and inviting home is abundant with family history, culture, and worldliness with an intriguing mix of original art pieces at every turn. I wanted to see more. So here we are. Let's go on in and take a look around.


Karen, tell us a little about your family, your home, and its location.

I've been married coming up on 7 years to Marcus, my English husband, and we're parents to our American daughter, Alex, who's 5 years old. We live in an older neighbourhood on the west side of Houston, in a 50-year-old mid-century tract home. It has four bedrooms (though we've turned one of them into my studio) and two baths.


Entry way lined with Karen's framed photographs;

original painting by Ward Jenkins — husband of Andrea Jenkins (see Andrea's home tour)

How do you approach decorating in your home? What's the most important thing?

I used to be very concerned that everything matched and that everything went together — a "living room suite," a "bedroom suite" — that sort of thing. Then one day, I visited a friend of mine who had an amazing art collection, and she told me that she amassed her beautiful art by simply buying what she loved, whenever she traveled. I took this to heart. So now, anytime my husband and I travel somewhere new, we try to pick up an original piece of art — it can be from a gallery, or a gift shop, or even from a street artist. To me, loving the piece is much more important than deciding if it matches or considering the price. I only buy what I love, both in art and in furniture. If I can't afford it, I save until I can. But I buy what I love.


Formal living and dining room: inexpensive tapestry (like US $12) purchased on honeymoon

Art on the right purchased soon after Alex was born, on first family vacation to New Mexico.

By artist Nicky D. Marx, made from wax, seeds, and snake bones.


  The matador and the bull, painted by Karen's husband Marcus.

Living room: rug purchased on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, on honeymoon

Art by American artist, Sheryl Pierson; large wingback chair, a gift from Karen to Marcus (he's 6'5")

Gifted steel pan from Marcus; the steel pan was invented

in Karen's homeland of Trinidad and she took lessons for awhile


You have a young daughter. How does her STUFF influence the look and feel of your home?

When we decided to become parents, I remember a friend of mine warning me that once she was born, her toys would take over our house. I've lived in fear of this ever since. I decided that I wanted a home that was comfortable, with a family room where I wasn't afraid if things were spilled on furniture, or the furniture was climbed on, but that also had storage for toys, so that the room could be enjoyed by every member of the family, not just our daughter. I think we've achieved that.


Vintage cabinet from India, purchased in London;

serves as storage for Alex's puzzles and games

Most-used family room. On Fridays, they "camp" overnight here — with a mattress and movies. Painting by Min Wae Aung, a Burmese artist, purchased from a small London gallery.

End tables, cabinet, and hanging elephants from Cost Plus, embroidered cushions from Target and IKEA, painting of old woman with a pipe by Karen's aunt, artist Sonia Alexis of Trinidad.

Great design can be expensive. How do you get the most bang for your buck?

When I tend to spend money on something, I tend to spend it more on art than on furniture. For furniture, I'm a HUGE (*HUGE*) fan of Cost Plus World Market, Target, and IKEA, and I combine our many pieces from there with other little boutique or vintage store finds. And even when it comes to art, while I love a good gallery purchase, I've found great art on sidewalks, gift shops, or art schools.

Tell us about the best deal you have gotten lately for your home.

Well, recently I was talking to an artist whose work I love, and he was complimenting me on mine. So we arranged to do a swap. Truly the best deal I've ever made (I hope he feels the same way!).

Tell us about one DIY project you have taken on recently and love.

I'm particularly proud of the shelf that holds our cookbooks in our breakfast area — I'm not very handy, but I refinished this little shelf and painted it bright blue myself. On top, you'll see Marcus's orchids (he's the green thumb in our family) and the hanging sparkly decorations are from Marcus' home of Cornwall in England. Every time we go visit his family, I've purchased one to hang in the window (although the two red ones on either side were from Cost Plus World Market). At night, sometimes they hold votive candles.


Breakfast area with Karen's DIY bookcase and Marcus's orchids


Do you have a favorite piece of furniture or decorative item in your home? Tell us about this item.

I talk about many things that I love — but probably the vintage cabinet from India (shown above) is my favourite.

The soul window below was made by Trinidadian artist Elspeth Duncan — it's a 100-year-old window painted with various symbols and required our family to perform various personal exercises of intention during the creation of the window. Elspeth even recreated one of Alex's drawings that she did when she was two in the upper left corner of the upper right pane of the window. As a result, the window is very personal to us, and we treasure it (see more of Elspeth Duncan's windows). 


Breakfast room; soul window by Trinidadian artist Elspeth Duncan

breakfast area, dining table, home tour

Breakfast area: the table is from Cost Plus World Market and the red chairs are from IKEA


You are a professional writer and photographer. What household chore do you tend to back burner most so you can tend to your creative life?

I am horrible -- HORRIBLE! — at making my bed and cleaning my bedroom. The rest of my house is always generally in good order, and I'm a stickler for a clean kitchen and bathroom, but my bedroom is a complete pit. :)


Kitchen. Fridge contains our collection of magnets collected from their travels

What is your most important everyday ritual at home?

Every morning, without fail, I make a cup of tea, light some candles in my studio, put on some music (usually bossa nova on Pandora), and read my favourite blogs. My day has not officially begun until all of these have taken place.


Karen's studio, where she does all her work -- writing, processing photographs; painting by Alex

The studio, behind Karen's desk chair and her constant companion and office mate taking a snooze

In your home, what is one indulgence you give into?

I drink gallons of tea (Good Earth Green Tea or PG Tips from England), with real organic sugar. None of this fake sweetener for me. Also, pretty art.  I must have pretty art around me.   

What are your favorite stores to shop for home?

As I said earlier, I love Cost Plus World Market, Target, and IKEA. 

What Home & Garden blogs or websites inspire you the most?

For gardening:

For home decor:

This was so fun, Karen. I find your approach to art collecting, one based on personal love versus matching one's decor, very inspiring.


Keep up with Karen Walrond on her chookooloonks blog and regularly on Shutter Sisters


Don't miss our previous Show & Tell Home Tours:

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