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WEST ELM Mongolian Lamb Pillow Cover in Platinum domino.com/fall16; HARLEQUIN People Fabric in Citrus Chalk harlequin.uk.com; FABRICUT Vintage Chaise in Synapse Fabric Color 1 by S. Harris fabricut.com; Chaise Pillow in Geps Woven Fabric Color 6 by Vervain fabricut.com

photography by   STACEY VAN BERKEL text by   CAROLINE BIGGS styling by   SUSAN JOHNSON SMITH

After masterminding some pretty major renovations, Kara Cox turns a dated space into a contemporary family home where she can work and play.

A neutral backdrop allows layered fabrics to liven up the master bedroom (left), while updated classics—like this vintage chaise longue reupholstered in a playful print—stay true to the home’s original time period.

A bold Ballard daybed and cheerful

gallery wall

create a youthful scene. OSBORNE AND LITTLE PAINTED LADY FABRIC osborneandlittle.com; FABRICUT Madagascar Fabric in Turquoise by Dana Gibson for Stroheim fabricut.com.


Stephen, closed on their Greensboro, North Carolina, home last September, they knew they had their work cut out for them. Despite already undergoing several rounds of renovations, the mid-century split-level—originally built in 1954—was still covered in outdated furnishings (think: bulky wall casings, wrought-iron railings, and lots of terra-cotta.) “The interior didn’t match the architecture of the house,” Cox explains. “We decided we needed to take it back to its streamlined roots, but still update it with contemporary details.” This included knocking down walls, arching out doorways, painting everything white, and putting in pale oak floors to lighten up the space. Next, to modernize, they added oversize windows, California corners, kitchen appliances (from Electrolux), and brand-new bathrooms. After months of renovations—three of which they lived in the house—the four-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home was officially complete. “I have a new appreciation for my clients now that I’ve lived on a construction site,” Cox jokingly adds.

BALLARD DESIGNS Isabella Corner Daybed with Trundle ballarddesigns.com; FABRICUT Shades and Bed in Wrangler Fabric in Capri fabricut.com; SERENA & LILY Cabin Quilt in Slate/Bay Blue Serena & Lilydomino.com/fall16; WESLEY HALL Maxwell Loveseat wesleyhall.com; FABRICUT Sofa in Rivoli Fabric in Color 62 by Stroheim fabricut.com; FABRICUT Pillows in Thalien Fabric in Color 1 by Charlotte Moss fabricut.com; CIRCA LIGHTING Aerin Charlton Wall Lights by Circa Lighting circalighting.com

“I want my children to grow up surrounded by beauty,” Cox says of her home’s colorful study. “If they’re inspired by the space, maybe they’ll actually want to do their homework!” Her own office plays with pattern.

An antique Oushak rug brings a pop of personality to an all-white 2 kitchen while cleverly concealing cooking spills. Another clever addition: the spacious island that doubles as a storage cabinet and breakfast bar. The mix of metal finishes—including this gilded 3 ventilation hood—is an easy way to warm up a pale backsplash.


  1. Natural fit. “Use organic textures in your bathroom (like cork or wood finishes) to keep it from feeling cold and sterile.”
  2. Mood lighting. “Unique light fixtures are like sculptures—they can add a whole new level of elegance to a room.”
  3. High style. “Never underestimate the power of a good statement ceiling; it’s the perfect place to showcase pattern and color.”
  4. Heavy metals. “Hardware and plumbing fixtures don’t have to match— they can be a great way to bring warm and cool tones together.”
  5. Clean and simple. “White kitchens never go out of style, but you you can install a bright backsplash or colored island to vamp things up.”

MOEN Align Chrome One Handle Pull Down Faucet moen.com; Double Bowl Stainless Sink moen.com; Thompson Trader Custom Copper Hood in Burnished Nickel thompsontraders.com; ELECTROLUX STOVETOP, DISHWASHER AND ALL KITCHEN APPLIANCES electroluxappliances.com

A metallic cork by York Wallcoverings adorns the walls, creating a calming texture in a modern bathroom.

Floral throw pillows look like small works of art against muted armchairs.

A Technicolor scheme in the family room pairs a vibrant Wesley Hall sectional with a custom colored ceiling fan by Haiku Home.

MOEN Arris Collection Two Handle Bath Faucet moen.com; CIRCA LIGHTING UTOPIA SMALL DOUBLE SCONCE by Kelly Wearstler for Circa Lighting circalighting.com;CROSSVILLE Black Dragon Plank Floor Tiling crossvilleinc.com; York WALLCOVERINGS Cork Wallpaper yorkwall.com; WESLEY HALL Kellan Chairs and Barrett Sectional wesleyhall.com; MR. BROWN HOME Pablo Coffee Table mrbrownhome.com; HAIKU HOME Custom Color 52″ H Series Fan haikuhome.com; STANTON CARPET Mozart Carpet in Alabaster by Royal Dutch Carpets stantoncarpet.com


looks more laid-back now doesn’t mean Cox—mother to Avery, 10, and Davis, 6—is at home relaxing. In fact, the main reason she was drawn to the older house in the first place was because of a lower-level entrance that would allow her to carve out a separate office space. Having launched her own design firm in 2010, Cox had tired of late-night runs all across town, especially while trying to care for her growing family. Now, with an actual in-home workspace, Cox can slip away at a moment’s notice, this time without ever having to leave the house. “The home itself is kind of a creative lab for me,” she says. “Not only have I professionally grown from its transformation, I’ve learned how to manage the art of being a working mom.”

“Don’t rush the process. A great project takes time.”

Bright wallpaper and white mosaic Crossvile Tile make a spirited statement in the kids’ bathroom.

FABRICUT Little Lanin Wallpaper in Turquoise by Dana Gibson for Stroheim fabricut.com; CROSSVILLE Glass Tile in Aqua Gleam and Hustle crossvilleinc.com; MOEN Voss Collection Widespread Faucet moen.com; SERENA & LILY French Tassel Shower Curtain in Citrine by Serena & Lily domino.com/fall16