becki’s gorgeous home redesign: what she learned along the way

I recently redesigned my entire living space (a project that’s not for the faint of heart). I relocated from a cozy Victorian to a sleek, modern condo, and all of the overstuffed furniture and copious collections of books and tchotchkes I’d collected over the years suddenly looked worse than out of place in my new home.

Now that I’m done, I have a space I love that’s full of calm vibes, neutral tones and – best of all – no clutter. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tips from what turned out to be a trickier process than I could ever have imagined:

Styling books: Stack books horizontally from largest to smallest (max of 3), but when stacking vertically, put the tallest books in the middle and shorter on either side. It gives the group a finished look, without looking too perfect. Also, if you have a lamp on a table that needs some added height, try stacking a couple of coffee-table books underneath.

I went with a very neutral palette for our new place – there’s almost no color to be found. To counteract what could easily have been a stark space, we used all kinds of texture to add warmth and dimension. Raw wood coffee tables, chunky woven poufs, nubby linen pillows and that amazing Moroccan souk rug (oh Rugs USA, how I love you). It all adds warmth without visual clutter, which was exactly what I wanted.

Tables: Table sizes were the trickiest thing to manage. Luckily, coffee tables can be custom made…did you know? Hire a designer: they are magic. And when no side table on the planet seemed to work in my living room, Restoration Hardware came to my rescue in a huge way with the perfect side table. So simple and stylish, it takes up almost no space, and blends in so perfectly, it’s like it was always here.

A sense of humor: Even though I call this my “grown-up house”, because it does feel very adult, you have to have a bit of fun in any home. Like the giant ceramic tiger I rescued from my mother-in-law’s house – he brings a bit of levity to a serious space. As do the brass animals on my mantle, and the dog portraits on my wall.

Lamps: I completely and totally underestimated how much fun I could have with lamps, but they’re one of my favorite things in this new space. Don’t be afraid to go a little crazy with colors and styles that seem out of the box.

Overbuy: If you’re not working with a pro (and really, you should be…they’re amazing), always overbuy accessories, making sure you can return what you don’t want. Have extra lamps, books, knickknacks, clocks, throws and pillows on hand, so that you can play around with your space and see what works. Trust me – you won’t know until you’ve tried a few options.

But really, the smartest thing I did? Enlist the help of a designer. Particularly if you find a local design store you love (if you’re in Portland, I can’t say enough about Manor Fine Wares), you’ll likely find that their in-house designer works for an incredibly reasonable price, and will save you infinite amounts of anxiety.

Are any of you contemplating a home makeover? What’s keeping you from taking the plunge? ~ Becki S.

PS: If you’re curious, you can check out more pics right here.

From our partners

meet eloise renouf: our etsy artist of the month

There’s something beautiful about stormy weather. Blues and grays mix with golden leaves, making everything moody and more interesting. That’s the feeling we get when we look at Eloise Renouf‘s prints. She takes the dark clouds of her native Nottingham, UK forests and mixes them with lovely repeats of leaves and flowers. We thought she’d be perfect for our Etsy artist spotlight this month. With unframed prints costing about $25 each, they’re divine when framed in a simple white border and presented as a series. We’re thinking kitchen but there’s no reason to stop there! Also available in tea towels and framed. We asked Eloise to tell us a bit about her art and her home.

How would you describe your work?

At present, I create prints and fabric accessories that are contemporary with a mid-century feel, largely inspired by nature, and with a strong emphasis on hand-drawn imagery and texture. I trained as a printed textile designer, so much of my work is of a decorative nature and it usually includes surface pattern or repeated elements. Everything starts as hand-drawn, painted or printed elements which then develop into collages, paintings or digitally manipulated images. I also place quite a strong emphasis on color, and enjoy unusual combinations and juxtapositions of these. Natural elements such as flowers, leaves, trees and clouds are recurring themes in my work. These are simplified, modernized and reduced to the most basic elements which are then re-enhanced with color, pattern and texture.

When did you start making your prints?

I began making my prints in the autumn of 2010. I’d had a bit of a career break to have children, and was feeling frustrated by my lack of creative output. The prints were a way of getting back into the flow of designing, and establishing my Etsy shop was just intended as a little artistic outlet. I hadn’t planned for it to be more than that, but it has created all sorts of opportunities and interesting projects that I’ve enjoyed being part of.

How does your home/city/neighborhood inspire you?
Nottingham is a fantastically creative city, and has become more so in the twelve years that I’ve lived here. Two new city art galleries have opened in recent years; there is a wealth of small, independent shops and boutiques; and you can find a craft fair, art show or creative event to go to almost every weekend. The two universities mean that there is a large, youthful crop of talent and that gives things a bit of an edge. My neighborhood is particularly rich in artistic blood, so I’m surrounded by others pursuing creative endeavors. You can’t help but be swept along by the energy. Nottingham is also blessed with lots of green open spaces and, being in close proximity to some wonderful countryside, it’s easy to escape and enjoy a different type of inspirational environment.

What kinds of artwork would one find on the walls of your house?

You would mostly find artwork from friends and family, and other Etsy sellers. These are mixed in with a few of my “experiments.” I have some lovely pieces by the very talented Cathy McMurray and equally talented Leah Duncan. My partner’s sister is an artist, so we have some of her prints and photographic collages. Another of my favorite pieces is a screen print from the 70s by a lady named Judy Gould. It’s a very simple repeating image of smoke stacks and is delightfully effective. And last but not least, you’d find plenty of artwork created by my 4 and 6 year old sons! Lots of dinosaurs, pirates and curious vehicles to enjoy!

Describe your decorating style.
I like the base of everything to be quite neutral, so favor white or off-white walls and wood flooring. I like furniture to have quite clean, simple lines, without being sterile, and I love mid-century style. To this I then add quite a colorful and decorative range of accessories. I find it impossible to stick to color schemes as my tastes and preferences in this regard change almost weekly. I enjoy having books on display, and also have quite large collections of mid-century ceramics and colored glassware. I’m also a fan of patterned fabrics, so these appear around the house in the form of cushions, tea towels and bags. I like things to be uncluttered yet warm, and simple yet visually stimulating.

To see more of Eloise Renouf’s work, visit her shop on Esty.

From our partners

decorating with a purpose: fritz hansen & jamie oliver’s big chair project

Few chairs are as versatile or as iconic as Fritz Hansen’s Ant Chair. Originally developed for a Danish company’s canteen 60 years ago, they have influenced pop culture (Remember the famous image from the Profumo affair?) and have been widely imitated (Hello, Gilbert.). Now they are raising some money for a good cause. In celebration chairs’ 60th Anniversary, Hansen has donated twenty-five chairs to Jamie Oliver’s Better Food Foundation for the BIG Chair Project. The collection of one-of-a-kind chairs have been decorated by some of designs biggest names, including Burberry, Paul Smith, Julien MacDonald and Quentin Blake, and will be auctioned off in October.

Some of our favorites include the Lumberjack (which has a back pocket for your kitchen utensils), the colorful Lovely Grub by Paul Smith and the hand massage Petal Chair by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. Click here to see opening prices (most are over $1000) and start your bidding!

From our partners

steal this idea: table made from vintage suitcases

The other day I was visiting the HQ of Warby Parker, the hip online eyeglass retailer, and fell in love with this welcoming table by its entrance. It’s made up of a collection of vintage suitcases. Held together by a discreet strap, the cases vary in size and small, color-coordinated books fill in the gaps. The counter top is a simple white lacquer, and the whole thing felt surprisingly sturdy. This one was most likely custom-made for the space, but I’d bet you could craft a similar one at home. I’d fill the suitcases with some things — like all those old tax files and magazine’s I’m saving! — to help weight it down and give it some heft. A stretchy pull cord with a Carabiner hook should work keeping it in place. Here’s a similar idea that Apartment Therapy spotted at the Oakland’s Waterfont Hotel. Click here to see vintage suitcases for sale right now at eBay. Let me know if you have any bright ideas on how to tackle this project.

From our partners

just for fun: kyle hilton’s pop culture paper dolls

Illustrator Kyle Hilton combined his love of pop culture with his fabulous talents to create a series of paper dolls that make me giddy! From Tarantino flicks to “Breaking Bad”, the colorful characters are rendered with their signature accessories. Leslie Knope (“Parks and Rec”) comes with a helping of waffles from JJ’s Diner, a stack of idea binders, a Sweetum’s NutriYum bar, and the Pawnee time capsule. Dowager Countess (“Downtown Abbey”) comes with an, ahem, assortment of emotions. My personal favorite is the “Arrested Development” set. Finally, I can have my very own Gob Bluth paper doll complete with Sword of Destiny! Now if only I could have a dollhouse Magic Castle. . . .

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