Ideas for creating sophisticated, family-friendly rooms.
Julia Dzafic, the author of the blog Lemon Stripes, didn’t expect to find herself working as a professional tastemaker. However, her blogging career didn’t come as a total surprise. Dzafic started a personal blog with an initial focus on wellness and food while working as a marketing professional. Slowly the blog grew and four years ago she decided to try blogging full-time. Dzafic’s blog’s scope has expanded to include motherhood, fashion, and one of her personal passions: Interior design. “I always loved design and beautiful things—even growing up,” she says. “When I turned 16 my mom let me redo my room and I loved getting to pick all the fabrics.” Over the years, friends and family have admired her colorful, coastal interior style, but she says she never felt led to go down that road professionally, though she says, “sometimes I wish I had because it's just so fun to go from a blank slate to something really beautiful that somebody is able to live in.” Instead, she’s taken to documenting her own design projects on her blog and has collaborated with professional interior designers on her homes. The results are a fresh take on traditional, nautical style. In the latest installment of House Rules, Dzafic shares her tips for how to make the most of your own home:
Live in your home before you make big changes.
When Dzafic and her husband moved to a new home, she says, “we had all these grand ideas and a list of projects a mile long. Of course, it wasn’t possible to do them all at once.” To decide what to tackle first, she said to herself, “Let’s live with it and see which ones feel more important.” She recommends the same for anyone tackling a new home.
Design for real life.
“With a dog and kids at home, my style has gotten more practical,” Dzafic laughs. She encourages people to think about daily life when designing rooms, which for her means, “less white and light colors and fabrics and textures that are more functional and practical for a family,” like indoor/outdoor rugs.
Give each room one splurge.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a room really beautiful,” says Dzafic. Her advice is to splurge on one item for each room. “Maybe that’s the couch or the rug, or maybe it’s the wallpaper,” she says, “Then for the rest, you can fill in the blanks with less expensive finds.” Dzafic loves Facebook Marketplace for local, affordable furniture finds.
Call in an e-decorator when you need help sourcing.
In Dzafic’s new home, she tapped Modsy, an e-decorating service to help with a few rooms. “I had a vision of what I wanted, but I needed help with sourcing furniture—and I wanted to get it done quickly,” she says. Her advice for using these services is to be as specific as possible with your designer. “Send every single piece of inspiration you can from your Pinterest board: The more information you give the designer the better, because they’re not able to be in your house with you.”
Bring in a pro designer for your “forever” rooms.
Dzafic has designed plenty of her own rooms, but in her new home, which she plans to stay in for many years to come, Dzafic decided to invest in an interior designer to put extra polish on some of the public-facing rooms, like the kitchen and living room. “It’s really a collaborative effort, and it’s such a fun process,” says Dzafic of working with a designer. “If I could design rooms with someone every day, I would.” She notes that part of the value of a professional designer are the resources the designer brings to the table. While Dzafic knew what she wanted rooms to look like, her designer was able to make those dreams a reality.
Go custom when the space demands it.
Dzafic’s home is a mix of off-the-shelf furnishings and custom pieces. She says she chooses custom when a room is unusually shaped or otherwise demands a custom piece in some way. For example, she chose a custom rug from Annie Selke for her long narrow living room and bespoke drapes for the oversized picture window.
Use pattern to trick the eye.
Dzafic uses patterns to influence the feeling of a space. In her living room, for example, she says, “The Cypress Birch custom rug’s herringbone pattern elongates the room.” For the picture window, she chose a block-print fabric in green to extend the view indoors. “When the trees are in bloom it’s very beautiful and natural looking,” she says.
You don’t need to match, you do need to coordinate.
“I’m not a matchy-matchy person,” says Dzafic, who is a self-described color lover. “In my house, the dining room and living room don’t match, per se, but if you walk from one to the other and make sense together,” she says. One way to do that is to thread a color through the spaces, like Dzafic did with the blue of her front door.
White walls = a happy vibe.
While Dzafic confesses, “if it were up to me, every room in our house would be wallpapered,” her go-to wall color is plain white. “I love white walls,” she says, “I love things light and bright: it makes me happy to walk downstairs in the morning into a bright kitchen.” Her favorite white is ‘Decorator’s White’ by Benjamin Moore, which she says is “not too cool and it’s not too warm.”
Use grasscloth to temper a bold color.
“I love, love, love grasscloth,” says Dzafic, who has it in her office and nursery. “I love the texture and how it changes color throughout the day.” She also loves that it allows her to go bolder with color without overwhelming a space because the texture softens the color. “In my office, I did a very pink coral grasscloth that is so happy and beautiful,” she says.
Don’t get caught up in designing a baby room.
Design for the long haul instead, says Dzafic. For her second child, Dzafic decided against her first color choices of periwinkle and the sky blue for a deep, rich navy grasscloth on the walls. “I love those soft colors for a nursery, but I decided I wanted something that when he’s 12 or 13, he’ll still like on the walls,” she says. Likewise, the Honeycomb French Blue/Ivory Woven Wool Rug is something that works for an infant or an adult.
Elevate your workhorse spaces.
Dzafic’s daughter’s playroom is right off of the living room, and while it is not as designed as the formal spaces, Dzafic didn’t just let the space be a forgotten room. “A beautiful rug, a nice-looking place for the dog to sit, and art on the walls, make it match with the rest of our home,” she says.
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