Now that so many of our big exterior house projects are finished or near completion—we primed the picket fence we built this weekend and will finish painting it over Memorial Day; we’ve also replaced the roof, cedar siding, all 66 windows, added skylights, rebuilt the wraparound porch and Juliet balcony, landscaped, installed a finial and performed hundreds of other menial tasks—interior design is finally on the horizon. And first up is designing our guest bedroom and also our master.
I’ve been waiting my whole life for this—or so it seems.
But if you’re like me and not blessed with the innate ability to Pinterest the heck out of your home, it can be tough to figure out where to start.
An interior designer friend gave me some sage advice upfront, and that’s: Take it one room at a time; if you have a half-dozen projects going at once, you’re going to get frustrated and never feel like you’ve accomplished anything. We’ve tried to take her words to heart when possible, though the extreme Type A in me just wants to do all the things at once.
When we first moved into our old Queen Anne Victorian nearly four years ago, we had no furniture. We’d sold or given everything away back in San Francisco and only kept what could be confined to a 16 x 8 x 8 pod (which was, admittedly, filled with books, memorabilia and electronics for the most part).
So we were starting with a clean slate, which was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because we could begin the design process from scratch, but a curse because we owned nothing—and filling a four-bedroom house is expensive, y’all. So for everyone who asks me “when is your house going to be done?” I respond: “in 2025—or when I win the lottery. Whichever comes first.” At this point, we do all the work ourselves to save us the labor costs and tackle projects as we have the income to purchase all necessary materials.
In other words, we’re working with a modest budget here.
The queen of the household is not complaining either. In fact, I think she’s rather fond of her room(s).
Other than the need for a big piece of art and some window treatments, the Lemon Room is about 90 percent done, and currently we’re setting our sights for our master bedroom, which could definitely use some help. But when it comes to laying out a bedroom, I’ve learned a thing or two in my four years of owing a project house:
Sort out your bed situation first. We already had a mattress for our spare guest room—the queen we used in San Francisco—and knew we’d be investing in a California king for our own quarters. Once we had the spaces figured out, we blue-taped off the dimensions on the floor to make sure they’d fit then got to work researching bed frame and headboard options online.
For the Lemon Room, we wanted to have ample space for our guests to move around—particularly given that the room is an interesting octagon-ish shape—so we decided against a full-on bed and purchased a simple frame and headboard instead, allowing our linens and pillows to bear the brunt of the design.
Pick an accent color. Because our house is full of such dark trim and floors (mostly original, I should note), we had to paint all the walls white. We tried color and would love to do a bold wallpaper, but it darkened each room dramatically. This is less than ideal for a garish color lover like me, but when you own an 1899 home, you work with what you’ve got. Instead, we’d incorporate color in other ways.
Before we ever moved in, I was out antiquing in Shelbyville when I found the perfect piece to build the Lemon Room around: a bright yellow chandelier that only put me out $40. I built the entire room around that one piece; from there, everything else just seemed to fall into place.
Who knew yellow accents would find me everywhere I went?
You may have noticed I like me some yellow. Just a lil bit.
I wish our own bedroom had been so easy. For our sanctuary, we chose purple—our mutual favorite color that was also incorporated into our wedding—as the accent color. The room is still a work in progress—hence why you’re only seeing small vignettes of it here—but so far we’ve incorporated it with subtle touches in the linens and the home decor accents. Eventually, we may get gauzy window treatments in an eggplant hue (if we can find the right fabric that currently exists only in my mind, it’s beginning to seem).
Add a statement piece in each room. I’m all talk and little action when it comes to this step, as I’ve been fretting over what to hang above each mantle for three years now. In the Lemon Room, I’m toying with the idea of making one of our travel photos into a huge canvas—I just don’t know which one yet.
What I do know is that big blank wall needs some TLC.
We also used the fireplaces in each room as statements. The Lemon Room was this ugly red Chinese pattern; we found a safety yellow subway tile and went to town replacing it—while the master bedroom was crumbling.
Before we added a single piece of furniture to these rooms, we got to work making the fireplaces really stand out.
Layer. This is the fun part! You need to soften the space and give it some pizazz. This can be by adding window treatments, blinds, rugs, pillows, a fluffy white dor or any of a number of items that really give the room a polished, unique look.
Personalize the space. Many of you may know that we have a globe
obsession collection that’s 60-something deep. As such, you’ll find tokens of our travels in every nook and cranny around the house, including in the Lemon Room, which boasts just one lone globe (for now).
We also have a trio of Bird Ave. prints that depict each place we lived: New York for me (when we met), San Francisco for him (where he grew up and where we shared our first home for four years), Nashville (my home pace, our current location and where we will reside for the rest of time, amen).
Add some greenery. Our downstairs is rife in window and air plants—SVV has more than 50 in the kitchen alone—but for the upstairs, we’ve just added a succulent or two and some fake flowers as to make things as easy on ourselves as possible.
Throw in a few surprises. Close the door to go to sleep at night? BAM! A surprise splash of color hiding in the corner.
We clearly still have a lot of work to do in creating my ideal happy place, especially when it comes to our own master bedroom, but baby steps, y’all. Baby Steps.