Home Decorating Secrets of a Great Room with Katie Sullivan

Secrets of a Great Room with Katie Sullivan

The designer behind Pretty Domesticated breaks down the formula for this bright and warm North Dakota sunroom.

What makes a room more than just pretty, what are the elements that make it memorable? In our Secrets of a Great Room series, we ask designers to tell us how they created their signature rooms. From decorating advice to the practical nitty gritty of furnishings, we get their insider advice on crafting rooms to remember, like this living space in the home of Katie Sullivan of Pretty Domesticated.
Katie Sullivan hesitates to pin any labels on the work she does: Instead of claiming the title interior designer, she calls herself a “design enthusiast” in her bio, and she cringes at the word “influencer.” However, Sullivan is undoubtedly both a designer and a person of influence in the design space, but she came to her current career in a roundabout way.
After graduating with a journalism degree, Katie worked briefly in newspapers and marketing. Then when she and her husband had their first child and purchased their first home in North Dakota, she found she needed a creative outlet. Her builder-grade house turned out to be the perfect canvas. Her blog, which at first was a way to share her home projects with friends, began to gain a small, local audience. And when Sullivan started posting her renovation to Instagram that a huge number of people began following along. “Adding that room completely transformed our whole main floor,” says Sullivan. Design clients quickly followed. And that sun room that first caught the eye of so many is both family-central and a place in constant design evolution. Sullivan breaks down this room for us:

Dream big: Imagine how you want to feel in a room

“We wanted the extension to our house to be light, bright, and energizing, so we chose to put in windows that go almost all the way to the floor on three sides,” says Sullivan. Think about what feeling or effect you want from a room before you begin to plan its design.

Your rugs should talk to each other

In an open-plan layout, pay attention to adjoining rooms when selecting floor coverings. “This space is attached to a room where I have a colorful traditional rug, so I wanted something elegant but also neutral for this space,” says Sullivan. “The Homer Blue Loom Knotted Rug has wool in it and a low-pile, so it was a great choice for this higher traffic area,” she adds.

Throw pillows are easy when you follow this formula

“I like to do mismatched pillows in a color scheme,” says Sullivan. She recommends four to six pillows total: one or two solids, one or two larger-scale prints, and one or two smaller scale pints or simple stripes. If you’re going for a neutral palette, she says use the same formula, but also pay attention to texture: Chunky knits versus flat-weave linens, for example.

Choose one color to weave through a space

To make a room feel polished, Sullivan says you want to “pull the color throughout the space.” In her living room, blue is a thread that weaves through the space: There’s blue in the rug, a vase, the wall art, pillows, and more.

Always make room for art

Sullivan believes there’s no excuse for unadorned walls. “I love art, but we live in an open floor plan home,” she says. To remedy the lack of gallery space, she says, “I treated the windows as if they were a wall” hanging two vintage paintings right between the windows.

Pick hardworking, kid-proof materials

“I think there’s a misconception that you can’t have the furniture you want because you have kids,” says Sullivan. “I have three kids under five, and I never feel like I have to compromise on style. There are so many textiles, like high-quality rugs that have wool in them or leather just gets better with age. Everything white in my house is a performance fabric.”

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A rounded table works in any space

“Pretty much every table I have in my house is rounded,” says Sullivan when talking about the oval coffee tables in her sunroom. Not only are curved shapes appealing to her design sensibilities (a welcome foil to hard-edged pieces), but she says she likes that they don’t need to be childproofed with corner bumpers.

Every room needs something organic

“I really like to use organic textures throughout my house,” says Sullivan. “I will cut branches and flowers from our yard and sprinkle them throughout the house; in the winter, that might be sticks.” She also also often picks earthy materials, like a brick wall in one room and a kitchen backsplash of handmade clay tile. “These materials that are earthy tie the indoors to the outside,” she says.

For more inspiration, see:

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