By Anna Kocharian

Published on March 23, 2018

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Photography by Molly Culver

Designing a home can be stressful in its own right, but add in a tight budget and narrow timeline and things get significantly more tricky. Such was the case for health and wellness expert Susan Chen and her new digs in Austin. The apartment—situated in a chic new development dubbed The Bowie—was in need of a redesign that would reflect Chen’s laidback and welcoming style. For the project, she tapped designer Jaime Walters—who had previously worked with Chen for her New York City apartment—to help create a bright and relaxing live/work space. The one caveat? Walters would have to complete the redesign in three weeks with a budget ringing in at under $8,000. Read on to see what happened and what we learned.

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Photography by Molly Culver

When it came to the inspiration for the project, Walters channeled Chen’s zen disposition. The home would come to embody a sense of calm with colors and accents generously filtered throughout.

“From my perspective, the apartment is a tribute to Susan’s success,” notes Walters of Chen’s transition from the corporate world into meditation and wellness. “I’ve watched Susan take charge of her happiness and transition her entire life. Therefore it was my job to create a space that allows her to recharge and continue to shine her special Susan light.” And Walters did just that by establishing a balanced space that was comfortable yet uncluttered, thoroughly charged with energy and life.

Given Chen’s newfound passion for meditation, a room devoted entirely to the practice became a given. And while it’s not something most designers come across every day, Walters was all for it, letting Chen take the stylistic wheel. The key to making the space work? Abiding by the classic rule of thumb—less is more. With comfort standing in as the top priority, Walters went to work, creating an area that would bring about a sense of calm and bliss, beautifully tied together with minimalism in mind.

Let a focal piece inform the palette of the room.

The statement art in the room is by artist Matt Blodgett, whom Chen met during one of her meditation travels in India. At first glance, Chen immediately connected with the piece, and she knew it was one she would have to have in her home. She emailed a photo of the art to Walters and from there, the design foundation for the meditation room was built.

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Photography by Molly Culver

Pull the darkest color from the room’s scheme, and turn it into an accent.

“The area rug is ultra soft and made of viscose—however, viscose isn’t the most forgiving material, so I brought it in a shade of navy, pulling from the darkest color from the room’s palette,” notes Walters of the standout piece. “I really like the monochromatic, seamless effect of the navy floor chairs sprouting out of the lush navy rug.”

With comfort being a key element of the space and design, Chen was keen on being accommodating to all—she brought in a set of standard side chairs, since not all meditators prefer to sit on the floor. Conveniently enough, said side chairs would come to double as the room’s brightest pops of color.

On the side of the room, a Puja table comes in the form of a white lacquer and glass structure, conveniently and seamlessly blending in with the surrounding elements of the area, allowing the handful of curated pieces, set on top, to stand out instead.

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Photography by Molly Culver

Not all neutrals are white and beige.

While most meditation rooms take on an ultra-reserved and modest design, Walters was all for creating a space that would inspire Chen and her work. “The room’s palette was dictated by the artwork and, aptly, it’s creation rooted in meditation,” notes Walters of the mod and untraditional aesthetic. “I know she gravitates toward strong, primary colors balanced with white. In Susan’s bliss, white and navy are neutrals.”

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Photography by Molly Culver
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Inspire comfort with textures.

In addition to the meditation room, Walters was also tasked with designing the living room and bedroom—the latter being Chen’s sole private area. Comfort played an integral role in the design of the space (not the worst theme for a bedroom), elevated with luxe bedding, upholstered details, and plenty of textures. The result was a space that melded a relaxed vibe with elegant elements and cameos of various decorative aesthetics.

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Photography by Molly Culver

Bring in colors that inspire.

Directly across from the bedroom, the third and final component of the project was the living room. Given that Chen runs her meditation groups at home, it was all about creating a professional-enough space that didn’t compromise on comfort or aesthetics.

The palette of the room was inspired by Chen’s other passion: Soozy’s, a business venture that promotes clean foods by way of healthy baked goods. Subtle nods to the brand can be found within the palette of the space—the soft-green accent chair and matching accent pillows play an ode to matcha (as in Soozy’s matcha-green tea muffins) while the blush landing pad represents the brand’s hues. “Soozy’s promotes ‘clean’ foods and that mantra can translate into the design,” notes Walters. “I interpreted it as sleek, contemporary furnishings with clean lines and an organic edge.”

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Rethink traditional lighting.

Aside from having to pull off the entire redesign in just under three weeks, Walters’s next challenge came by way of the lighting. Short on floor space, a standing lamp was not an option, hence why it was up to Walters to rethink the room’s light source. “I ordered a ceiling fixture and rewired it to be a plug-in. With a bit of handy-woman finesse, I mounted it to the ceiling, tucked the cord tight to the wall, and created a renter-friendly lighting solution.” Yep, easy as that.

 

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