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Design

The Design Risk-Takers I Deep Dive Into When I’m Looking For Inspiration And New Ideas

I follow a billion designers and love so many things about so many of them. Some create spaces that I want to live in (practical and beautiful but more quiet), and some create spaces I want to stay for the weekend and stare at every detail. Today I’m sharing the latter, the “thumbstoppers”, that are inspiring the design of the farmhouse – HARD. I’m often full of reverence for how these designers are able to still do something so fresh, in the traditional home space. Now often these spaces just aren’t practical for a young family or maybe my brain can’t handle the amount of color, pattern to live in on an everyday basis. Or maybe we’d never be able to afford one thing in the room anyway BUT they are design greats that I’m getting so inspired by and studying hard for this shaker meets victorian farmhouse. Let’s give some respect and break down why they are so genius…. here we go.

Studio Shamshiri

 design by studio shamshiri | photo by stephen kent johnson | via architectural digest

I wouldn’t typically put this team of geniuses in the “traditional” style camp – in fact, they are hard to pinpoint because every project is so different and unexpected and they nail them all (thus the severe respect and admiration). This California Chalet stopped me because there is a lot to take in and dissect. This isn’t the vibe we are going for, but again so many little nuggets of inspiration that can be gleaned.

Things to notice:
1. The cabinet detail on the fronts by the sink echo’d on the wood shelves. SO GOOD
2. Tiny little semi-flushmount light fixtures.
3. The triangle piece brace holding up the island. I would have overthought that and they just did the simple version that works.
4. The wood paneling, obviously.
5. How they incorporated the likely load-bearing post at the right of the range that made the design of it off-center. Hello, quirk. Nice to meet you.

 design by studio shamshiri | photo by stephen kent johnson | via architectural digest

Their work is always so cozy and feels rich yet casual. I feel they believe in comfort as much as I do and boy can they execute it in a non-generic way. Of course, every piece of furniture in here is tens of thousands of dollars, but I’m still so inspired by it all.

What to notice:
1. Is the paneling not lined up? I can’t tell if it’s perspective or not on that back wall. Also is that the hidden TV?
2. A totally unexpected (if not super impractical) light that reminds you that yes, we are in a cabin, but I went to Italy and found this light and I don’t give a shit if it’s supposed to be in a cabin.
3. Tiny red sconce shades – it’s like a little wink that says, “Hey girl, hey. We were little proper sconces a la the live-action beauty and the beast but sold at the french market and now living here, brightening up this epic space with our tiny light”.

 design by studio shamshiri | photo by stephen kent johnson | via architectural digest

When I first saw this shot in a magazine I was like what. how. why??

1. That color combo is SICK. This is actually more inspiration for the barn or carriage house where we want to take more design risks (of course I can in our home, but I know myself and what kind of spaces we like to be in a lot, and it’s fresh but not busy).
2. That curtain – such a sweet little detail on the window and dutch door. It takes balls to be so delicate. Feel free to put that on my gravestone.

Again all of their projects are so different – head over and check them out here.

Jessica Helgerson

design by jessica helgerson design | photo by aaron leitz | via remodelista

We shot one of Jessica’s projects for Styled – I believe an old firehouse turned residence and it was just incredible. Being in that space first hand I was like “oh this is what brave interior designers do”. When I saw this NW Johnson home it blew my mind and I pin it over and over.

Here’s what I love:
1. That custom-painted tile mosaic tile is unbelievable (on the fridge, too. shut up).
2. The wood countertops make me wonder why I’ve been stressing over stone forever (and yes I know that wood has to be treated nicely and isn’t as seemingly low maintenance, but you know what – ME. SAME.)

design by jessica helgerson design | photo by aaron leitz

3. The most epic “traditional” banister I’ve ever seen. See how the balusters are sculpted differently and yet in a pattern? And they go straight into the floor, not on a plate, with that gorgeous ergonomic wood on top.
4. And yes to those skylights making that space just sing.

design by jessica helgerson design | photo by aaron leitz | via remodelista

This picture gave me so much inspiration for the farm as the windows are similar. While I don’t know if we have a place for such an epic sectional I think we can say collectively that no one in the world would not want to sit/nap here. It’s unequivocally desirable.

design by jessica helgerson design | photo by aaron leitz | via architectural digest

Jessica (and her team) designed this wonder of an island to explore life as we know it and remind us it can be better. Also, that cord sculpture with the pendants is epic.

See more of her work here, including a new family shelter solution-building that took my breath away.

Beata Heuman

design by beata heuman | photo by simon brown | via the nord room

If you haven’t heard of Beata yet you’ve seen her work. Oh, the reverence I have for her irreverent designs. You can stare at her work for a long time while trying to understand how and why it’s so great. It’s definitely more color and pattern than I can live with on a daily basis, but oh would I pay real dough to stay in one of her houses to be able to experience her work in person.

design by beata heuman | photo by simon brown | via vogue

I’m not saying she invented the scallop, but she sure is responsible for bringing that detail to life in so many amazing pieces. How genius is that radiator cover? Insane. Looking at it unlocked some ideas for our cabinetry and our custom dining bench.

design by beata heuman

Is it true that the inside of the cabinetry on the far left is painted red? And note the flanking drawers next to the range – curving back and making it look so cool. I also love how they jumped down to a lower cabinet I’m assuming to keep the windows where they were – but it’s a nice quirky detail. She has her first book out now that I can’t believe I haven’t ordered but must NOW.

design by beata heuman | photo by simon brown | via the nord room

I mean. That window. Those sconces. And that incredible toilet with red brackets (look up). She’s blowing up right now just as she should be.

She more of her truly incredibly inspiring work here.

WORKSTEAD

design by workstead | photo by matthew williams

I was able to stay in a Workstead hotel in Hudson valley a few years ago and it was inspiring. They certainly have some restraint, and yet every detail is magnificently executed. They do a ton of custom furniture/lighting and woodworking and employ a lot of vintage.

design by workstead | photo by matthew williams | via architechural digest
design by workstead | photo by matthew williams

Gah. Have you ever seen such a beautiful knob? The simplicity of that woodwork will never date, and the quality is insane.

design by workstead | photo by matthew williams | via architechural digest

The balance of lines and curves. THAT WALL MURAL. The built-in storage (closed, semi closed, and open). It’s all incredible.

design by workstead

You absolutely should go check out the rest of their work (and their stunning lighting) here.

Commune Design

design by commune design | photo by stephen kent johnson

I’ve been a massive fan of Commune forever. But I pretty much freaked out when I saw this project. The wrap-around peg rail with hanging lantern. The off-center stone fireplace. The plaid sofa.

design by commune design | photo by stephen kent johnson

I’ve been pitching a plaid sofa to Brian for years but have never done one or even seen the right one done (plaid fabric is hard to find without it going super ’80s) until this one. But it’s also more of a daybed.

Look how they used (and likely redid) the knob and tube electrical with the lighting. We have this in our victorian (I think it works, but no bulbs) and are going to keep it. You can see it in the background with the outlet. And the woodwork is just so stunning.

design by commune design | photo by stephen kent johnson

This kitchen is breathtaking. The joinery on the drawer, the quilted skirt, the paneling. I have no idea how well that wood holds up in a working kitchen but it’s just stunning.

design by commune design | photo by stephen kent johnson

I have such dreams of a floral sofa in this house, but if you google “floral sofa” you’ll be horrified. I’m not saying it’s this one, but it shows you how well it can be done. The right risks equal a great reward.

Check out the rest of their work here.

Heidi Caillier

design by heidi caillier design | photo by haris kenjar photography

Massive fan of Heidi who really specializes in the eclectic, unexpected twist on warm traditional spaces (although she can do anything). I poured over that cabin she did up there. Notice the copper hinges on the shelving, the plaid chairs – SEE??? BRIAN HENDERSON IT CAN BE DONE. So warm and cozy yet unexpected.

design by heidi caillier design

She’s clearly not down with the project yet, but I wanted to show you because between the tile wall and the scallop backsplash it’s going to be incredible.

design by heidi caillier design | photo by haris kenjar photography

This won’t be the last time you see this bathroom on this blog, because I think it’s just so well executed and simple, but with a lot of impact and special details.

design by heidi caillier design | photo by haris kenjar photography

When I saw that sectional I gasped. It’s SO RIGHT. Notice how it matches the lampshade.

design by heidi caillier design | photo by haris kenjar photography

A slightly rounded-edge vanity shouldn’t blow your mind and yet it does. I know that the tiny drawer at the top isn’t functional and yet Heidi put it in anyway. One of my best friend’s sisters just hired Heidi for her house in Seattle and I can’t WAIT to see how it turns out. Go follow her on Instagram NOW.

Leanne Ford

design by leanne ford | photo by erin kelly

My friend Leanne cares not about rules. She used coffee to stain her walls in her kitchen intentionally. I love following her work and while I tend towards more practical designs, I’m incredibly inspired by what she does. I’m not sure if that brick fireplace was original or if she installed it, but it’s beautiful, warm, simple, and classic. Not sure if you can put a gas insert in that arch, but I want to badly.

design by leanne ford | photo by reid rolls

Girlfriend doesn’t care if the sink takes up all the chopping space, if she finds an old awesome farm sink and will use it. I love it so much.

design by leanne ford | photo by reid rolls

She’s also excellent at embracing “awkward” spaces and making them architecturally more interesting. Please notice that the trough sink on the right has a floor mount faucet. So good.

Head here to see more!

Reath Design

design by reath design | architecture by bestor architecture | photo by laure joliet

Reath Design is another excellent follow for those wanting to watch some rule-breaking. Above we have one asymmetrically placed sconce on the left, a wood vanity and backsplash (again I’d love to know how to make this hold up with water!), and a pill-shaped mirror that looks “melted”.

design by reath design | architecture by bestor architecture | photo by laure joliet

I’ve been hoarding vintage quilts for a while with dreams of upholstering at least a bench in them (and how appropriate it would be for a farmhouse). So well done in a modern space as they did above.

See more of their awesome work here.

It’s hard to be a risk-taker in any creative field but especially in interior design because so much is so permanent and needs to be so hyper-functional for living (as opposed to say graphic design or art). So when interior designers do it, and it is so fresh and yet classic, I can’t help but bow down. Who else am I missing? (obviously love Amber Lewis and Joanna Gaines :))

Any follows that really get your creative juices flowing when you are needing some inspo?? xx

Opening Image Credits: Design by Studio Shamshiri | Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson | via Architectural Digest

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Shayna Varnedoe
9 days ago

Heidi Heidi Heidi all way! Although Jessica and amber are a very close second. Someone you didn’t mention that I have loved watching is @housesevendesign but maybe not in the risk taker bucket as much as the others. Great post!

Cassie
7 days ago

Ugh Heidi is just an endless perfection machine. Loved this post too! Love getting weird!

Heidy Schopf
9 days ago

Heritage specialist here! When was the main house on your farm constructed? It doesn’t look Victorian (no vergeboard details or gables) but maybe a stripped down/altered (with addition) Edwardian or Classical Revival? The 1850s kit house has more of a traditional Victorian plan but looks like a Vernacular interpretation of this style. Feel free to ignore… just nerding out on historical house styles like I do every day 🙂

Heidy Schopf
8 days ago
Reply to  Emily

What a cool property! It’s all going to be beautiful 🙂 and this post was great – loved all the very inspiring interiors! Thanks!

wondering
8 days ago
Reply to  Heidy Schopf

Is it really even possible for something that exists outside the borders of the former British Empire to be “Victorian”?

Penny
9 days ago

Jersey Ice Cream! I love their designs so so much!

Susan
9 days ago

Beata H blew me away. She has a playfulness to her design that Iove. I don’t think I could live with that much color all the time but it’s inspiring. This whole blog post was super inspiring and my favorite of everything your team has done so far this year. It helps to have you point out details from a design perspective. I saw so many things here that inspired me!

9 days ago

I know I am in the minority here but every time I see that Leanne Ford kitchen I just find it so depressing. Meanwhile, the Workstead brutalist kitchen cabinetry is MINDBLOWING!
This was a great post – thank you!

Paula Carr
8 days ago
Reply to  molly

Yeah, I usually find Leanne Ford’s work depressing. There’s something about certain people who speak to your soul, and then there are others who chill your soul. Ford is a chiller for me.

Kann
8 days ago
Reply to  Paula Carr

I reluctantly agree…I guess I’ve never thought about Leanne Ford design work in that way before, but I have to agree, not all, but definitely some of them.

Sheila
8 days ago
Reply to  molly

Leanne does some very interesting things but it makes me sad that she always paints over everything in white instead of making more interesting choices. Seems a lazy, formulaic way to go.

Katie Kerr
9 days ago

This is how I feel about your blog. I could never afford anything you do but I love to be inspired by it. 😀

9 days ago

Studio Shamshiri- LOVE THIS. I did it even realize at first that it was a curtain and not the design of the window panes, makes the space though! The color combo, floor everything!
Jessica Helgerson Design- wood countertop, omg it is yummy!!!
Workstead- immediately feel timeless and classic clean design. Feels mor like the focus was on craftsmanship and design that will out live any trend.
I’m not sure about floral or plaid sofas yet but I’m sure my mind could be changed sometime.
Thank you for taking us along with your design eye, it definitely gave me a greater appreciation for each design, that was fun!
I can’t wait to see your farmhouse Emily because not only are you a great designer but your spaces always exude the personality of who the design is for, it’s personal, thoughtful and caring.
Anyways, ❤️

Maxine Becker
9 days ago

It’s posts like these that interest me most. Want to see what can be done and borrow when possible. It’s gets boring to see useless throws, over pillowed furniture, and bland color dominating the posts.

Lola
9 days ago

Dabito from Old brand new.

Rusty
9 days ago

Ooooooh!!!
Gosh, this could’ve been 3 posts!
So much for my eyes to feast on I kept goinb back to re-look at things.
Beeeeeeeeautiful caninetry, probably worth what my house costs.
Funny, but while I appreciate Leanne Ford’s eye and unique bravery, I just don’t imagine them feeling like a home. Is it just me??🤔
Truly inspiring details when you look deeeeeeeply.
Great post!
Thank you 🤗

Paula Carr
8 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Not just you, Rusty, see my comment above.

Trudy
8 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

I find Leanne’s palette beautiful in a calm, soothing way. This post pulls in a lot of color and pattern combos, which often is too much for my eye or my soul. I think we all see and appreciate different things, which is a-ok.

Katy
9 days ago

I love your blog and this post! Thank you for sharing all of these inspirational designers and pointing out the little details that make such a difference.

nt
9 days ago

Love this post and seeing what you like about each, very helpful! Check out Meta Coleman 🙂

Sally
9 days ago

Very enjoyable post and introduced me to some designers I haven’t seen before. I also really like Amber Lewis, and would add Studio McGee – sometimes a bit formal but always beautiful. Enjoyed Beata Heuman and would add Rita Koenig for that eclectic English country style. Some lovely pics and so nice to get different styles for inspiration. Some particularly fresh and beautiful cabinetry – really stunning.

Louise
9 days ago

Ilse Crawford, I want to study everything her pencil touches

Karyn Meadows
8 days ago

You should do something with plaid in your new farmhouse. If you pick a chair or sofa with more modern lines and keep the plaid more tonal, it would totally work in your space!!! Could even be a showstopper if the rest of the space is quiet.

Kann
8 days ago

What an incredibly inspiring post! Thank you –
As always – the links you provide are amazing sources of inspiration as well and feed my designer soul for weeks maybe even months😊

Christine Sass
8 days ago

The secret to protecting wood countertops from water is Waterlox. It is a Tung oil based product that is non toxic once cured. I have used it on butcher block counters including with an undermount sink and we had zero issues with mold or rot.

Megan
8 days ago

Shhhh! Let’s not talk about the simple yet elevated look of cabinetry vents (petals a la deVol). Seriously, this is such an approachable (if very irreversible) diy project. It’s happening over here along with some tone on tone shaker cabinets and knobs and waterfall butcher block. Don’t judge me. Let’s just call it eclectic.

Cortney bishop design always pulls me in with her balance of wood, wallpaper and textiles, but she’s from Charleston and seems to be doing little to nothing to use her voice/platform to advocate for any social justice issues. I have only done the most cursory search into this, though.

Lisa
6 days ago
Reply to  Megan

Cortney Bishop does an amazing job with her use of materials and textures! I can’t speak to the voice/platform piece but it’s a joy to look at her work.

Amber
8 days ago

Check out Liz Kamarul! Her work inspires me so much!

Jeanne
8 days ago

When I started I was wasn’t expecting much only to be met with whoa, Whoa, WHOA! I can’t stop thinking about the wood island with brass legs. I need a house for that beauty! I’m definitely going to have go through this post a few more times, it’s so visually dense. I’m going to make a wild guess and say that “hidden tv” is a dart board. But who knows.

Kann
8 days ago
Reply to  Jeanne

Same. The long table island with brass legs!

Paula Carr
8 days ago

I’ve been a Studio Shamshiri and Commune superfan since both have been in existence. They speak to my soul. Thanks for introducing me to a few of these folks that I hadn’t found yet. I don’t think I’ve EVER pinned as high a percentage of pic as I have from this post. Excellent work.

Jenn
8 days ago

You listed some of my favorites as well: Reath Design and Beata Heuman for sure! So inspiring!

Lane
8 days ago

I love this post, and so many details. But I just don’t get the trend. The colors are so dim and washed-out. It’s beyond muted, it looks dirty and

Lane
8 days ago
Reply to  Lane

and worn out. And oh too traditional. I wonder what will come next after this, and I can’t wait. Yes I like certain details (many details), design elements and risky ideas. It does inspire. But I’d feel sad in some of these homes. Love Beata. She represents the other end of the spectrum with brightness and color. Emily, how do you feel about the extremely muted colors? Is it a pendulum swung a bit too far? Is a new trend in photography? Are these interiors really this dark? Yes I can find lots of nice things on those pictures, but the colors are a bit old for me

Mariele
5 days ago
Reply to  Lane

Haha… agreed. I just want someone to turn on all the lights and bring life back into the space! I need bright, fluorescent overheads that mimic sunlight and layers of warm accent lights to mimic a cozy hearth. :/ And yet, all the photos you see are just of washed out, overcast, grey sunlight through windows, which is guaranteed to make a place look 1000x more depressing.

Anna
8 days ago

I really enjoyed reading this! Someone has also mentioned Ilse Crawford whose work I also love (especially her IKEA Sinnerlig collaboration).

Also thought you might like to know (maybe if you’re ever in an international interiors pub quiz situation) we call ballusters “spindles” in the UK 🙂

Angela
8 days ago

Like everyone else, I absolutely loved this post! I’d like to add Jake Arnold and DISC interiors too!

Angela
8 days ago
Reply to  Angela

And Pierce and Ward too 😊

Nicole
8 days ago

I love modern applications of plaid upholstery but don’t know that I’d be brave enough to take the plunge. Maybe we need a round-up of great looking plaids along with some tips for pulling them off?

Valerie
8 days ago

Love everything about this post – so much inspiration!!

Celeste
8 days ago

This was so fun! Yay for plaid couches! To check out a cool plaid sofa, look at this living room Frank Keenan did. She’s a great designer in Birmingham, AL.
https://www.frankeenandesign.com/copy-of-keenan?lightbox=dataItem-k7z2spnf

Andrea
8 days ago

Leanne Ford is a poet among ordinary! Too bad some of you don’t understand/appreciate what she does!

Courtney N.
8 days ago

I am also on the plaid couch train now. Show us how, Emily! In addition to these amazing designers, I would add Meta Coleman (as have others), DISC interiors, Jennifer Miller, and Carly Page. So much amazing work out there right now that emphasizes craftsmanship.

KJB
8 days ago

Love all the inspiration in this post. I’m really enjoying following along with your design process for the farmhouse.

Rupali
8 days ago

Love this post! I couldn’t live in most of these houses (I don’t like cleaning but like clean spaces) but so inpsired by those who can. They also need to be in the right vintage “setting”, and would look ridiculous in a suburban ranch house.

Also, can I say how pleased I am that the all-white-and-pale-wood style of Amber Lewis and Shea McGee seems to be on its way out!

KarenA
8 days ago

If you like the cabin, you should check out Bealach Uige Bothy of the Isle of Skye – https://www.instagram.com/p/CQ1XtmOLWLq/?utm_medium=copy_link. XoX

KarenA
8 days ago
Reply to  KarenA

It was in the Scotland’s Home of the Year contest.

Teresa
7 days ago

I would add Hendricks Churchill, Lauren Liess, and Studio Ashby to your list

BW
7 days ago
Reply to  Teresa

Totally obsessed with Hendricks Churchill.

Teresa
7 days ago
Reply to  Teresa

And on the super-high-end of things: Rose Uniacke. Her interiors are so calm, so peaceful, so deceptively simple

Sarah L
7 days ago

This is the post I needed in my life right now! My family tends towards colorful and quirky but we’re entertaining notions of taking on a simple modern cabin so we’re trying to rectify our impulses with the need for creating a calming, relaxing retreat. Thank you Emily for calling out the subtle details- I think those will be key in keeping the place from feeling sterile while still letting us be playful.

Linda
6 days ago

You have to use marine grade finish products and they will need to be renewed every couple of years. I do not recommend. If you are craving this look do it in a small area in your kitchen as a butcher block and let it get beat up. In a bath do it in one that NO child ever uses and hardly anyone else either.

6 days ago

Looooove all of these but Heidi and Leanne are my favorites!

Janelle
6 days ago

Theres a local designer that I have been following to gain inspiration for my own renovation, The Misfit house on instagram. She does a great mix of historic and unexpected, like a Heidi Callier but southern.

Terra
5 days ago

I am, honestly, a bit hesitant to make this comment, but it tracks a very genuine thought I had when I saw this post and read it. Reading the intro, I thought, “Yessss, I would love to add some diversity to the design in my feed.” I meant diversity in terms of style when I thought this, but I realized in reading that while the post definitely has that, it’s not actually helping me diversify in the way I’m working to at all. The kind of diversity that propels me to like and share content from racially diverse designers, creators, business owners; the kind that propels me to support them financially, too, because I see the products and the work on my feed.
So here I am just offering this thought process gently—a bit afraid, frankly—to other readers and the EHD team.

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