I recently asked our Instagram audience what questions you had about our home and the responses came flooding in. Below are some of the most frequently asked, from questions about blending bold paint colors to how often I consider upkeep/durability in design (hint…a lot!) to how my style has evolved over time.
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How did you become comfortable with so much color? I love it but am intimidated.
I think because there was so much color here when we moved in (and because of our reluctance to spend money on a big painting project right away), simply living in the space helped us understand the benefits of living with a lot of color. Over time, Joe and I realized how much fun it is to be in vibrant spaces.
I still really love neutrals and I think I’ll always go back to them in various capacities while designing, but vibrant colors are a tool just like black, white, and gray. Once you realize it’s not as hard to work with color as you might think, your world gets broader and it can make the process of designing a room more fun. I’m glad we made the decision to keep the color at the start because I don’t know if I would’ve learned to embrace it otherwise.
How do you weigh practicality/upkeep in design with babies, dogs, and life factoring in? Do you worry about spilt drinks and crayon on the wall?
I do think about messes but I also roll with the punches, mostly because I don’t want to live a life where I’m worrying all the time. I don’t want to make choices that are all based on the inevitable. For me, part of it has been learning to accept that things will get messed up at times, while also acknowledging that there are things we can do to help prevent certain issues.
We set up rules for areas of the house that we want to treat more gently (i.e., the dogs don’t go on the new couch in the green room). I think the kids feel proud that we trust them enough to make good choices in taking care of our home, and when something inevitably gets spilled on or broken, they’re learning to own up to it, and we adjust going forward.
Additionally, with bigger furniture purchases or new finishes, we definitely take durability into consideration. There have been certain instances where products or materials are taken out of the running because of lack of durability. For example, I wanted to apply a grasscloth wall covering in the entry hallway, but given the amount of traffic that area gets, it would practically be begging to be ruined. In a case like that, I’ll instead think about installing that kind of material in an area that would be touched less often, such as above the chair rail in a different room.
What percentage of your design decisions go into fresh, modern pieces vs. sticking with the original, traditional character of the house?
It’s definitely a feeling more than a percentage but if I had to guess, in this home in particular, it’s probably about a 70/30 breakdown, where 70% of the design is in line with the traditional character of the house and 30% goes toward modern elements and finishes. And I always keep in mind that I can push and pull with those percentages as I go.
As an example, I have two mirrors that would work above the fireplace in the green room. One is a modern wood design (shown below) and the other is a more ornate design with a gold finish. Given the modern elements we’ve already brought into the space, having the modern mirror (especially with its placement as the central focal point of the room) could tip the design too modern, while the antique one could make it look a bit frilly. Ultimately, it’s a balancing act that I feel out as I design.
How do you find a kitchen remodel contractor? Nobody I know recommends theirs.
We found ours through the design service that we used, SKIPP. We interviewed two or three people before we found the right fit for this project.
If you’re looking for a contractor, I think it’s helpful to expect ahead of time that you’ll be talking to a number of people before hiring someone. I’d go into the conversations knowing what you personally will need in a good contractor (i.e., if you like people to be extremely communicative, make sure that aspect is present in your communication while setting up the interview). When it comes time to make a decision, go with your gut.
In terms of where to look, a recommendation is always helpful. Otherwise, Houzz can be a good resource, or you could crowdsource with your networks on social media.
Can you share anything about how you pay/budget for these home updates?
Joe and I have budget buckets in YNAB for certain projects, so before we begin a project, we know how much we have set aside for it (or how much more we need to save before we begin).
This is also my business and job so some of the project costs are ultimately business expenses. Realistically, if I was not doing this as my job, the kitchen would have been the only project we’d be tackling in this first year in our home.
How do you choose your paint colors? They’re bold but serene and my choices end up just BOLD.
It’s a lot harder to create a serene balance with bold colors when everything is bold. The addition of neutrals (e.g., in flooring color, a large piece of furniture, or the paint color in a hallway) are really important when it comes to incorporating bold colors. Before I make a color choice in my home, I’ll always consider how it will tie in with other rooms. I’ll bring in paint swatches and wallpaper samples from other rooms to really get a feel for how the color story will tie together from space to space.
In my experience, if you’re testing out bold colors, it can be easier if you try to confine them to one or a couple of areas in your home. If you think your existing wall colors are too bold, every color around it should be quieter. I’d recommend getting accent pieces that are neutral colors or harmonious/complementary colors.
Before you start updating the design of a space, I also always recommend looking at other spaces for inspiration. If there are specific rooms in bold colors that you love, ask yourself what specific elements make the room appealing to you. Breaking out those smaller details will help you determine how you may want to replicate certain elements in your own home.
What are your favorite white paint colors? Can you share a list of paint colors in your home?
White Dove by Benjamin Moore is the primary white paint color we used in our previous home, and we’ve used it in a couple of spaces here as well (primarily in the basement). It’s my go-to!
These are all of the paint colors we’ve used in our home so far:
Do you have pictures of past places? How has your style evolved?
When I look back at pictures I’ve taken over the last decade, I don’t know it’s so much that my style has changed but rather that I’ve become more comfortable expressing it. The choices I made for my previous living spaces didn’t always align with what I truly wanted. The older I’ve gotten, the more comfortable I’ve become making purchases and design decisions for myself vs. for what I think others would want.
If you are interested, you can find photos and insights on five of my previous homes (where I lived from my early twenties to early thirties) in this post, “A Love Letter to All the Places I Lived Before.” The story of the home we lived in before our current one is chronicled in this post.
How do you think about matching or coordinating woods from room to room?
I have a hard time when the wood tones are not matching from room to room but it’s one of the more expensive and disruptive changes you can make. So, most often, I’ve just lived with it and tried to ignore how much it might bother me.
What are your favorite sources for large-scale wall art?
You can browse all of my favorite sources for fine art (and why I love each one) in this blog post.
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BY Kate Arends - June 7, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.