Abstract geometric shapes, a leather Eames chair, and a seriously impressive collection of minimalist ceramic vessels are just some of the treasures you’ll find inside this eclectic DC home. The reason they coexist so effortlessly? Designer Kerra Michele, the creative force behind this historic Victorian row home and the founder of Bureau, one of the district’s coolest coworking spaces. Anyone familiar with Michele’s punchy, playful aesthetic will see hints of it scattered throughout the 2,500-square-foot space, but according to Michele, her inspiration for the space came from an external source: Her equally fun-loving client. “She is certainly a risk-taker,” says the designer. “As soon as I saw my window of opportunity, I went straight for some buffalo plaid.”
The vibrant, pattern-heavy space is more than just eye candy, though. The homeowners are a young family, whose number one priority was figuring out how to mesh a stylish, adult-friendly space perfect for entertaining and relaxation with a home that would be suitable for a toddler. Michele devised chic storage solutions and a functional floor plan to meet the needs of her clients and used geometric shapes to craft the style they were after. “I played a lot with the mixing of regular shapes—like squares, triangles, and circles—because I thought the playful color palette and kid-friendly inspiration would pair well with elementary shapes done in a grown-up way,” she explains.
Elsewhere, round tables and upholstered furniture provide further kid-proof sophistication. “Kid-friendly spaces don’t have to be boring. There are so many fabric options now that look and feel expensive but are still stain resistant,” says Michele, who points to the buffalo-plaid sectional’s high-performance fabric and the Eames chair made from virtually indestructible leather as examples. The latter, situated in front of a fireplace, is one of her favorite pieces in the house, anchoring a huge, open space and creating a little vignette simultaneously.
This brings up the chief challenge Michele faced when designing the home: It was too big. Yes, this might sound like a good problem to have, but in fact, designing a larger, open space (such as this home’s first floor) can be just as challenging as navigating a smaller space. Michele pulled it off with aplomb, so we tapped her for her top tips on how to deal with a hard-to-style floorplan, and the designer didn’t disappoint. Keep reading to find out what she had to say.
Spruce up the architectural features
Michele recommends using paint and light fixtures to add architectural details without changing your home’s layout. “When you have a wide-open floor plan, using large fixtures in specific places helps separate one area from another visually when there are no walls to help,” she explains. As for paint, go wild: The designer suggests painting doors, trim, and stair rails in contrasting colors to imbue character into even the most awkwardly shaped spaces. For a smaller update, custom hardware will make even the largest spaces feel carefully considered.
Divide your space
Michele fixed an awkward layout by creating a series of smaller, defined spaces within the overall large space to bring warmth to the home. “I divided up the first-floor area into a designated entryway, play area, living area, and dining area by using rugs and light fixtures to define the separate spaces,” she says. These separate “rooms” make the home feel layered without sacrificing continuity or charm.
“When you have a wide-open floor plan, using large fixtures in specific places helps separate one area from another visually when there are no walls to help.”
Use materials to layer in charm
Often, larger open spaces can feel quite intimidating and cold. The solution to this lies in sprinkling in as many warm materials as possible: “Using wood, leather, and other natural elements instantly warms up any space, especially big, empty boxes like an open, white-walled room,” says Michele.
“Kid-friendly spaces don’t have to be boring. There are so many fabric options now that look and feel expensive but are still stain resistant.”
Bring texture to your floors
“Rugs are my best friends,” she says. “Whether you’re styling a large or small space, rugs add important layers of depth and necessary visual delineations of space that make a room feel warm, inviting, and truly finished.” Carve out a vignette by way of a circular rug, used to anchor the decorations you’ll place in it. Just be sure to stick within the general color scheme of your home to keep your newfound nook from looking disjointed.
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