Scrolling through Shira Caplan’s Instagram feed is like a trip to a beach resort town: Her interiors are light and airy, calm and cool, and you can almost smell the salt air. Decorating was something of a surprise second act for Caplan, who had always been a creative type but never imagined she’d become a designer and blogger. After college Caplan worked a variety of jobs, including stints working at a talent agency and teaching. During those years, Caplan was unknowingly building the skills for her next career. “I moved 16 times in 14 years,” she says, “So, I was always redecorating and redoing my homes. So my friends would ask me to help them with theirs,” she says, “I didn’t know I could make a career of it.”
When Caplan and her husband moved back to Florida from New York City, she found herself craving a creative outlet when a friend suggested she should consider a career in decorating. This was at the moment when e-design was becoming popular, so Caplan figured she’d give it a try as a side hustle she could do in her off hours. Early in 2016, Caplan opened up Shira Bess Interiors for e-design only, but when within six months she had a full roster of digital clients and local ones requesting full-service design, she realized: This was her new career.
Today the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida design firm offers both e-design and full-service interior design. “I pride myself on not being a stuffy designer,” she says. Her signature look is modern, light and breezy, which is a natural for her locale. It’s a look that has also appealed to her following on Instagram (@shirabessinteriors). In the latest installment of House Rules, Caplan shares her tips for how to get her signature bright, beachy look in your own home:
“Think of interior design like you would think about fashion: You could have on denim jeans and a white shirt, but if you have on some sort of funky sneaker or amazing heel, it completely elevates your whole outfit. Rugs are the base of the room and an opportunity to breathe personality into a space. For example, in my guest bedroom, the rug makes what could be a sterile-looking metal bed cozy. That little bit of texture and black was necessary.
“Indoor/outdoor rugs aren’t strictly for outdoors, especially down south! I use outdoor rugs in heavily-trafficked areas because they give me peace of mind. Dash & Albert rugs were the first indoor/outdoor rugs that I found that looked good – and felt good.”
“If you’re going all-white, as I often do, texture is key to making rooms special not boring. I’m drawn to anything and everything rattan, but I don’t want to ever have a room that feels like old lady South Florida in 1960. So I am conscious of juxtaposing metals, woods and textiles.
The woven jute and wool rug in my office was exactly what the room always needed! It just adds that really nice organic touch to my office juxtaposed with the Jonathan Adler Sputnik chandelier. We go shoeless in our home, and I think that jute is a perfect, soft natural rug fiber. It also brings the outdoors inside.”
People often struggle with a vision for their outdoor space. Try imagining it’s a luxury hotel lobby or a lounge. For our outdoor area, my inspiration for that was the Edition Hotel in Miami where the lobby is built around tropical plants in white pots. It creates just the most beautiful atmosphere. My husband and I will sit out there and have a glass of wine when the kids are asleep. And during the day, we’ll put out the kids’ inflatable pool – which is exactly as classy as it sounds!
“I recently came across the quote by Charles Eames, “The details are not the details; they make the design,” and it is so true! I think sometimes a little nuances are what’s forgotten, but without the smaller details–the throw pillows, blankets, vases, books–a room looks flat.
As for gallery walls, you need to have enough larger scale artwork to make it impactful. It can’t all be tiny frames. I get frames from various stores and art through Juniper Print Shop, a digital art vendor: For $5 you get the digital rights to the print and print it on your own any size.”
“I wanted a little more personality in each of the boys’ rooms, and I wanted to let them pick out their wallpaper. However, they couldn’t choose just anything: I gave them three options – all intentionally calm – that they could pick from.
Our Speck rug drastically changed Milo’s room by creating this very calming vibe. There’s something really nostalgic and comfortable underfoot in the soft wool rug. I actually love wool in bedrooms–even in Florida. It’s very air-conditioned here!”
“If a room seems like a real plant wouldn’t survive in it, I like art that has greenery in it or cut greens in a vase.”
“I have custom rugs in the family room and the dining room of my home. Typically I go custom for a large room, especially if a room is longer than it is wide, or a room is in unusual shape. There’s nothing worse than a rug that’s too small or too big for a room. Plus, sometimes going custom is comparable in price to getting something off the shelf.
Our home is essentially a big, builder-grade box with tile floors throughout, and those rugs define our “rooms” because it’s such an open concept. Those rugs make the whole house feel warmer—they’re essential to making it look the way it does.”
“The most important components in outdoor rooms are the top and the bottom. I believe that all outdoor areas must have some form of lighting. If you’re unable to hardwire something, put out lanterns, candles, or string lights. Below, you need the foundation of a quality outdoor rug, which grounds the space. These two things will really elevate any outdoor space.
My Mali rugs do not look like outdoor rugs — they look like they belong inside. I love how they elevate the space. They’re much grander than any rug you’d find at an outdoor specific store.”
“Lighting also adds so much to a room. If you rent and don’t have the luxury of hardwiring, you can always add a table lamp, a floor lamp, or a plug-in sconce. Rattan pendants are affordable and they add impact to a space. I love at night the way the light shines and creates a pattern on the ceiling.”
“Living in Florida, outdoor living is an important component to our home, especially during holidays when entertaining outside is huge. I always make my outdoor seating areas feel just as comfortable as indoor ones. You need comfortable seating and places you can put a beverage. Our patio is covered with outdoor rugs that give a softer feeling underfoot and grounds the outdoor living room.”
“Kitchens are the hub of every home: This is the place where design and function truly meet. I don’t like cluttered counters, so I am careful not to overstyle a countertop. I prefer all small appliances hidden to be taken out when you need it. I bring in color with a bowl of fruit or bottles of Pellegrino. I also love putting a runner in the kitchen. My parents would have gasped over a rug in the kitchen, but indoor-outdoor rugs like the Dash & Albert ones are so easy to clean.”
“When styling shelves, I remove everything from the shelves. Then I layer back in books first, sorting, eliminating, and color blocking them as I go. I like to stack books both vertically and horizontally. Next I layer in the decorative details: Bowls, boxes, vases, candles, and framed fabric samples and wallpaper samples to add height.”
“Find your personal style and don’t get swayed by trends. In my art, I like beach scenes or the sky–that’s what soothes me and makes me happiest. With colors, I like natural beachy tones, like blues and greens and even pops of sunny yellow—the colors of the coast.”
Tons of white, natural rattan, and photography that features water or a beach-y scene are my decorating touchstones. These always look right in my interiors.”
For more inspiration, see:
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