Photography by Zeke Ruelas
As I get ready to start shooting my upcoming HGTV series, it’s more than appropriate that I keep sharing my work with my OG clients, my parents, Ormomdo and Orlandad. I’ve been helping them decorate their house since I was about seven years old. And the home they moved into in 2012 (after moving out of my childhood home) is no exception. As with every other room in their home, this room brought with it significant challenges: odd architecture, weird angles, pre-existing furniture my parents weren’t willing to part ways with, and its inherent multifunctionality (it’s now fully open to the kitchen, which we recently renovated).
Today, the topic of conversation is combining furniture styles and how that can aid in decorating a house like my parents’, a house that has multiple architectural styles and lacks a cohesive look. But before we get too far into TIPZ N TRICKZ, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see what was happening in here before we got started.
This is pretty much what it looked like when my parents moved in. The floor was carpeted, the fireplace was ugly, and literally everything in the whole house was 1999 Beige (not cool, chic 2019 Beige which I’m actually into). The only remnants of beige left in the house are the bathrooms (which are next on my to-do list and we’ll get to once my parents get over the trauma of their extremely expensive, year-long kitchen renovation project we did last year).
The fireplace caused a considerable amount of questions for my parents when they moved in. Their initial idea was to just rip the whole thing out and not have a fireplace, which I advised against because I thought it would decrease the value of the house. I wanted to square it off and put it on the wall (where that console table is in the before pic) but that was going to be super costly. I’m not a fan of the caddy corner fireplace so leaving it as is wasn’t ideal, but turned out to be the best decision when we thought about all the options/costs/etc.
The simple solution to covering up that dated brick was to paint it white. I know this is a controversial move, but I have to say I love the look of painted brick, especially in a chic matte white or black. I also removed the brass/glass fireplace door (which is shockingly easy to remove FYI – I did it myself and was only moderately filthy when I was done!) and styled the fireplace with some logs I got which will literally never get burned because my parents never ever want a messy fire again after living in a fire stove-heated house in Yosemite for 30 years. This is why I’m such a baby about being cold now, I was literally raised in a freezing house heated by a fireplace and I think being freezing cold for 18 years is enough, k? Normal parents will be like “PUT ON A SWEATER” to their kids if they whine about being cold. In our house, it was like “WHY AREN’T YOU WEARING A PUFFY JACKET???” Anyone who has ever tried to keep their house warm with a fire knows it makes the biggest mess ever so I totally don’t blame my parents at all for never wanting to have a fire ever again, even though sometimes during the holidays we beg for a fire and feel like The Little Match Girl when they say no. In related news, their house is still freezing. I think they’re just not used to being comfortable inside so the idea that they could just turn up the thermostat and not see their breath is too much for them to handle.
One of the first improvements my parents made to their house was replacing the gross carpet (which was literally everywhere throughout the house) with solid hardwood maple flooring. This immediately brightened up their house and made it feel a lot cleaner. Initially, I wasn’t fully on board with this flooring selection because my dad wanted a really traditional vibe and this color looks inherently Scandinavian/modern to me. But once it was installed, I loved how pretty and luminous it was and it added to the home’s beautiful style ambiguity.
This vase weighs like 4,000 pounds and Ormomdo’s friend made it. Her name is Susanne and she doesn’t have an online shop but I feel like I need to make her make one because most of the pottery in my parents’ house comes from her and I’m always getting questions about it. Another artist I’m obsessed with named Jonathan Cross makes similar pieces which are more readily available, but cost like forty thousand million dollars (and are worth every penny).
And now, A TRULY SHOCKING PROCLAMATION. One of my biggest pet peeves is a TV above a fireplace. I know this is controversial because above the fireplace is maybe the most common place to put a TV. HOWEVER, I hate it for many reasons. Firstly, the TV is too high. You’re not meant to crane your neck looking up at a TV like that. Second, since most rooms are oriented around the fireplace, it makes the TV the focal point of the whole room. While I want you to never turn your TV off ever again once my HGTV show comes out, I don’t want you to be watching my show in a badly designed room. So please do your best to avoid putting TVs over a fireplace whenever possible (I realize that sometimes there is truly no other option). One of the blessings of my parents’ fireplace being an annoying corner fireplace is that there’s a logical place to put the TV.
This room is HIGHLY trafficked and very multifunctional. One of the must-have items my parents listed was toy storage for their three grandkids who live nearby. The solution was this INCREDIBLY beautiful custom piece from Hedge House. The four bottom drawers are all full of toys while the upper portion is reserved for cookbooks and pretty objects. The upper shelves are no longer styled like they are here, because my nephew Camilo is now a year old and his favorite thing is ripping things off shelves and throwing them on the floor (my other niece and nephew are 4 and 7 and old enough not to rip things off shelves anymore). Usually, the first thing the kids do when they come over to this cabinet and open all the drawers and throw everything all over the floor (and the entire room) immediately. It’s really cute to watch and also I feel sorry for my parents that they’ll eventually have to clean it all up (though it’s amazing to have a place to put it all so it looks neat again).
A lot of the small objects scattered around the room come from my Orgrando (my mom’s mom. She’s dead now THANKS FOR BRINGING IT UP). My mom spent part of her childhood in Japan which is why there’s so much Japanese stuff in my parents’ house. The Native American objects are a nod to our family’s Yosemite past, though only some of them come from the local Miwok tribe.
To maximize seating, I added a mid-century inspired loveseat from Article. This section of the room demonstrates how we mixed furniture styles in here to create an eclectic look. The loveseat is mid-century, the side tables are contemporary/beachy, and the hutch is craftsman. The reason I wanted to combine furniture styles in here was that A) the style of the home is ambiguous perhaps nonexistent (sorry Casa Soria), B) my parents have conflicting styles, and C) I wanted the room to feel cozy and casual. The reason that it worked is that I selected items in contrasting finishes that complement each other. For example, I knew I wanted light/bright side tables to pop off the dark color of the sofa. But I knew I didn’t want to do a light wood because I also had the wood coffee table and the china hutch to contend with, so I selected a lacquered white.
There wasn’t much room for side tables, so these 12″ wide beauties from Serena & Lily were perfect. They’re pretty much still styled like this but Ormomdo has to hide everything on them when Camilo comes over. Luckily, he’s the cutest baby in the world so it’s all worth it (see evidence here).
The rustic coffee table provided a great opportunity to add warmth to the room (sadly, it’s from a company that no longer exists and I could not find the vendor online). The beautiful Richard Carter ceramic tray is one of my favorite things in their house (it used to be mine but there’s no room for it in my apartment, also it was a gift from my ex so I was like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE speaking of my ex HAVE YOU HEARD I HAVE A NEW HGTV SHOW CALLED “UNSPOUSE MY HOUSE”???). The accessories are all things I found in Ormomdo’s studio (those woven boxes contain tons of buttons which my niece and nephews love to dump all over the floor while yelling). And, of course, no coffee table is complete without a copy of my book, Get It Together! (available at finer bookstores everywhere, don’t even bother going to the garbage ones). Sorry, this whole paragraph has been self-promotion.
My mom has quite an extensive dish collection, which I restyled a bit for this shoot. One of my favorite pieces is that hand-painted Japanese cook pot (also from Orgrando, who is still dead, WHY DO YOU KEEP BRINGING THIS UP???). JK Orgrando passed away when I was 12 so now I just like to use her death as a way of making people uncomfortable and guilting them about bringing it up when I was totally the one to bring it up in the first place. I totally loved both my grandmas but they’ve both been dead forever so it’s ok for me to joke about it now, okay? OH MY GOD STOP JUDGING ME WHY AM I STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS.
The very pretty window coverings from The Shade Store are one of my favorite additions to the room and one of the only places I brought in pattern. My mom and I picked out this fabric together on a sunny day in Marin County (where the nearest Shade Store location is) and it was the best day of my whole entire life. We immediately fell in love with it that gorgeous pattern and the simplicity of the shades’ design. It was also a great way of bringing the pretty aqua color from the kitchen tile into the family room space.
This large hutch, a relic from our Yosemite house, was previously tasked with holding the overflow from the previously-tiny kitchens my parents had in both houses. Now that we’ve added so much storage to the room, more space was freed up to display pretty dishes.
These poufs from Article are definitely a favorite with the grandkids, who love rolling all over them (or sitting on top of them to watch TV with PapaGramma). Good thing these poufs are sturdy. They definitely get the grandkid beat down regularly.
Opening up the room and creating one great entertaining space has completely changed the way the room functions and made it a cozy place for everyone to hang out. The added storage makes it much easier to keep everything neatly stored away when not in use (which is important in a space that already has so much going on visually).
The room taught me quite a bit about mixing furniture styles. I’ve always been a fan of that eclectic, naturally-collected-over-time, California casual look. But I never really thought about what actually makes it work. And what I learned from this project is that if you keep a consistent color/material palette, you can really get away with pretty much anything. The furniture styles here include contemporary, mid-century, Craftsman, country, coastal, and more. But I tried to keep the color palette in the ivory, gray, blue, green, woven, and wood world. Combining all these different styles gives the space a very cozy feel that doesn’t feel too fussy.
My goal with clients is always to give them a look that their guests won’t question they did themselves. I want it to just look like they knew what they were doing. And my parents’ house looks like something they might have done themselves. And that makes me happy because A) I think they are cool people and would wanna hang out in a house they designed and B) that means I did a good job interpreting their style into their house.
DID I MENTION I HAVE A NEW TV SHOW COMING OUT SOON???
Black Side Table | 2. Beige Sectional | 3. Floor Lamp | 4. Rug (similar) | 5. Coffee Table (similar) | 6. Seagrass Ottoman | 7. Throw Blanket | 8. Custom Roman Shade | 9. Table Lamp | 10. Face Candle | 11. Round Tray | 12. White Vase | 13. Sconce | 14. Custom Bookcase (similar) 15. Embroidered Tassel Throw Pillow (similar) | 16. Moroccan Wedding-Style Throw Pillow (similar) | 17. White Tiered Side Table | 18. Teal Loveseat | 19. Printed Ottoman | 20. Media Cabinet | 21. Round Shelf (similar) | 22. Small Rattan Lidded Basket (similar) | 23. Leather-wrapped Rock