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Velinda’s First Freelance Client Reveal Part II: Her 7 Expert Tips On Mixing A LOT Of The Styles

Happy (Monday)… or weekend… or whatever day you’re reading/whatever day this is. We touched based just last Tuesday. Or was that two months ago? Can anyone even tell anymore? Who knows. If you’re alive and reading, you’re doing very well.

Anyway, Velinda here, back to pick up from whenever that was that we left off, we’re revealing my ‘first freelance client project’! It’s a client who came to me, overwhelmed by a garage/studio project a few years ago, while I was in design school. They promised to return when they were ready to embrace the masochism that is full-home renovation. Go read that post for the full setup.

I LOVE these clients. If all Full-Service clients could be as incredible as Olly, Mer, cheeky baby Duncan and one-eyed Hamlet-the-dog, our new little VHD team would be SET FOR LIFE. (IE. They threw us a socially-distanced, fully-masked champagne party when we wrapped our shoot. We are now friends). SO…. I asked for permission to poke fun of their wildly different, ‘eclectic’ blend of style desires. So, here we go:

  • Mid Century Modern
  • Scandinavian
  • Slight Boho 
  • Rustic-Traditional Farmhouse
  • Modern, but not stark
  • Spanish/Moroccan 
  • Contemporary, but comfy
  • English pub
  • Colorful, post-modern art movement
  • Eclectic…. (ya think?)

With a ‘dash’ of: “I’m not someone who adheres to a rigorous style. I was brought up in English houses with all kinds of different stuff thrown together that somehow worked. So basically, those ‘style words’ above are hints at what is truly ‘us’”.

As a licensed design-marriage and family therapist, (D.M.F.T) it’s clear there are some serious identity ruptures, mixed with an inability to define clear boundaries, likely attributed to developmental wounding and perhaps treated by a meticulous routine of daily spa treatments and pattern-exposure therapy. But, alas, I was not a licensed therapist at all (Though my wife became one on the DAY of our shoot! A joint effort is in store? Make #DMFT a thing?). Instead, my job was to hone in on the world my style-commitment-avoidant clients had in mind. And it happened. Here’s how:

But first… we welcome you back…

Ehhhh… Let’s try again… we welcome you back!!

Outdoor Sconce | Door Paint Color

Yes, the before wasn’t quite the ‘truly us’ they were going for:

But now…

Faucet & Side Sprayer | Soap Dispenser | Sink | Sink Rack | Range | Dishwasher | Flooring | Countertop | Sink Backsplash Tile (in ivory and calcite)

Now, of course, their specific style-desires were quite specific to them, but the approach I took to blending their worlds is a bit more ‘universal’, so we thought it would be helpful to share a few tips that helped us:

Custom & Semi-Custom Builds | Custom Roman Shades

1. Color it carefully – Okay, this is a personal preference. I’ve seen rooms EXPLODE with color in the best of ways… But, it can go bad so fast. So, despite blending styles, we united them all through a shared color-palette, set against a lot of neutrals. The neutral backdrop actually scared my client at first, prior to the rugs, cabinet/door paint, and art wall going in, it was all browns and white. And my client really wanted color! But by carefully placing where we wanted to use bold pops and tying the entire scheme together in the living room rug, we achieved a ‘colorful’ blend of worlds that wasn’t pure chaos. General philosophy: give your eye a break (this was Emily Henderson-taught) and choose your ‘pops’.

Art | Sconce

2. Illuminate your styles with luminaires! (Basically, use light fixtures to tie the ‘worlds’ together) – Lighting is one of my favorite elements within design. I can’t begin to sum up the importance of lighting, BUT outside of functional purpose: ambient, task, and accent selections… it’s such an easy place to play! Why? It’s easy to replace and fairly simple to find very cool pieces that don’t break the bank. So, if you mess up, you’ll be crying replaceable, inexpensive tears. (Lighting is a great place to try out trends too). Our lighting ‘worlds’ were a combination of Scandi, vintage-minimalist, Minimalist-modern, Traditionalist-modern, and pub-traditional (vintage sconce above sofa). All of these terms are 100% gut-feeling-meets-some-design-history defined, so please be sure to quote me. The gist is, we stuck to the same finishes to unite lighting from multiple times and worlds, and for us, it works and makes the design unique. 

Rug | Sectional (custom configuration with armless end)

Cabinet Doors | Cabinet Color | Pantry Door | Downdraft Range Hood | Cabinet Pulls | Island Pendant | Sink Pendant (vintage) | Custom Roman Shades

3. With a good vintage rug, it’s hard to go wrong – And this is just scientific fact. A rug anchors it all. In doubt? Go vintage. I have yet to see a farmhouse, mid-century modern, contemporary, Parisian-glam, boho, industrial, post-modern or any other you-get-the-point style go wrong with the right vintage rug. Instant soul. Instant character. Instant, ‘please forgive my flaws, I’m not even trying to be perfect’. It’s just simple science… for those of us who believe in such a thing

4. Shape & Finish don’t have to match – Mixing ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds, consider a classic shape with a ‘modern’ twist (ie. a vintage chair in a modern fabric) or visa versa…. A ‘modern’ piece in a classic texture (a sculptural, contemporary floor lamp with a linen shade). We don’t have a ton of examples of this in this project, so we’ll keep it short. But it’s a good idea!

We did build a very clean, contemporary base for a traditional, rustic-inspired pantry door, so we’ll leave you with this example:

5. Stick to the Fail-Proof Basics – Let’s be honest, these can take practice and aren’t ‘fail-proof’, but once you get the ‘feel’ for these, they are bullet-proof staples for any combined style-palette. So, it’s worth practicing & including the following:

  • Contrast: Shapes, Color, Pattern, and/or texture
  • Balance & scale: Sprinkle said shape, color, pattern, and textural details around the room, as well as a balance of your preferred styles throughout the space. This will help achieve the ‘balance’/will keep your eye from getting stuck in one spot. And make sure your pieces ‘fit’ so your eclectic space will still have flow. Focus on proportions that fit overall, but also mix it up here. Put ‘lightweight’/daintier objects next to ‘heavier’/larger ones. 

Our example: we used an oversized sectional for this room (which we LOVE…) but to keep the room from feeling too heavy overall, a series of ‘daintier’ coffee tables instead of another ‘large’ object. It’s worth noting that each of these tables would have felt way to small alone next to the sofa, but combined, they consume the same footprint we would have allotted for a larger piece.

These are interior design basics that will help your room feel ‘purposeful and curated’ instead of ‘confused’. 

I’ll throw in a few additional ‘boxes’ to check for you AP students. These elements will fit almost any space: 

  • Touch of vintage
  • Something personal
  • A focal/anchoring element
  • Sculptural and/or linear elements
  • An ‘eye-break’ (that last one is Emily Henderson taught… you don’t have to ‘fill’ it all… sprinkling in ‘blank’ surfaces will let your eye breathe).

6. Don’t think of a ‘style’ the way you do a ‘themed birthday party’ – If I attend your ’20s Gatsby party, there’d better be nothing but feathers, sequined gowns, and mirrors (and so much bootlegged scotch). In contrast, If I visit your deco-inspired house, I hope to encounter very few feathers, find shapes inspired by sequins (simple & geometric), and encounter carefully-placed mirrors… while still enjoying so much bootlegged scotch! 

If you find yourself drawn to a certain style, do a bit of research (even a quick google search) to note some of the basic elements of the design that might be drawing you in…. Then layer in pieces inspired by this. 

Our example: My client’s desire for ‘rustic/farmhouse’ didn’t result in mounting game on the wall (though it could in the right space). Wood and linen finishes pull in the right touch. A desire for ‘Moroccan/boho/worldly influence’ didn’t result in color and pattern tile from wall-to-wall (though I’d LOVE it)… Instead, we landed with neutral shapes, color, and organic elements inspired by said desire. You get it… ‘farmhouse traditional’ can be found in the T&G finish finishes. ‘Postmodern-colorful’ inspired the art wall. ‘British pub’ resulted in the COLOR DOOR paint that can be found throughout CAMBRIDGE? And the traditional, brass finishes of the hardware. Modern is instantly achieved through sculptural pops of black. Unless you are going for an elevated, high-concept recreation/interpretation of a style (done carefully) OR a ‘kitschy’ spin, loosen your grip a bit. 

Abstract Figurative Art | Wood Block Print | Wall Color | Dining Table | Chandelier

7. You’re Contemporary, and That’s Okay – Ready for a surprise? (Maybe not, for many of you)… Trends and styles circling through today (while ever-inspired by movements of the past) are not ‘modern’. They’re ‘contemporary’. Contemporary, as I always thought of it, was that super bland version of the late ’80s/early ’90s… and I was RIGHT…. When I was 5. Now, contemporary is 2020 (Lord, save us).

‘Modern’ remains the architectural style in the early/mid 20th century. (ie. mid-century modern). This blew my mind when I learned the difference and has helped me hone in on what a client who truly loves ‘modern’ is drawn to…. vs someone who loving a current trend. 

Why care? Well, unless you’re set-designing the offices of ‘Ratched’ or holed-up in a stellar, mid-century time capsule in Joshua Tree, you will almost certainly have some contemporary influence. So what do you do with this new-found identity? You call your Licensed Design Marriage and Family Therapist… and you consider pulling in a bit of ‘contemporary’ art. It’s a good, safe place to start your growth.

This project, thanks to Covid, took longer than any of us anticipated, yet still, our ‘hero’ family is coming to me with ideas for future projects! Amazing. Can’t wait to work with them again…. (?) ….said ideas include a master bathroom that is:

Per Partner 1: Moroccan-inspired, scandi oasis
Per Partner 2: comedy-spa 

Someone please, tell me what this means!!!? See what I’ve had to deal with? 😉

Again… a quick aside, until styling (thanks Emily Bowser) and shooting (thanks, Sara Ligorria-Tramp) I did this project without a team. And to other designers,  I recommend doing this 0%. Since this project, my EHD-Alumn teammates, Julie & Grace, have joined me in the new venture! We’ve also formed an E Design team to work with people who are on a more-limited budget/scope or aren’t near Los Angeles (thanks,  Courtney and Hina – E Designers). So, if you’re interested in Full Service OR E Design, please check out our site. And if you’re looking into starting your own design business (as I naively opted to do THIS year), there’s no better place to start than a consultation with Carly Waters.

It’s been such a joy returning to share the first freelance project here with the EHD family and I’m soooo appreciative of all of the outpour of encouragement. It’s like coming ‘home’! Can’t wait to show you what’s next. Hang in there, friends and don’t forget to vote!

Design by Velinda Hellen Design | Styling by Emily Bowser | Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp


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59 thoughts on “Velinda’s First Freelance Client Reveal Part II: Her 7 Expert Tips On Mixing A LOT Of The Styles

  1. Just… wow! That kitchen makeover is incredible!! Can you share where you sourced the kitchen runner rug? Bravo!

  2. Velinda, this post was soooo excellent. I really learned a lot! You are awesome. I wish you much success with your own design team!!

  3. Velinda, can you share where the exterior door is from?

    Everything is beautiful!! And do thoughtful!!

      1. Hi Sunny, good catch, yes we did… this gave quicker/less awkward access to electrical switches along that wall (and also made the flow within the space instantly more ‘open’/bough us space for the entry bench).

  4. So the lack of a source for the dining chairs means they are unavailable? Or custom? Or a family heirloom kind of thing? Those chairs are awesome and I’d love to know a good source for them or similar?

    1. LouAnn, she answered on the original post “We found them at a restaurant liquidation.” You can try searching for French Rattan Bistro or Cafe Chairs to find something similar.

  5. Amazing, all of it. I’m a color person too, but have learned a lot (or I’m trying to…) from ya’ll. I painted my entire first floor a pale neutral and I hated it at first. But now that I’ve added a colorful gallery wall and am about to chose a fun fabric for roman shades, I’m loving it. PS: the “before” of the swing on the front door makes me almost as irrationally angry as the before of the tile transition into the kitchen. Whyyyyyy???

  6. Thanks for generalizing some of the know-how that pulled together this amazing space! I really loved your take on lighting, and I think I just found the perfect sconce for my entry!

  7. From a design perspective, can you explain why there’s no rug under the dining room area? Even if you used a neutral one so as not to compete with the gallery wall, it looks like it’s missing that grounding element of a rug under the table and chairs. Feels like there could be some softening from a rug, amongst the hard surfaces and angles of the furniture and frames. Not to mention, adding a rug makes it much easier to keep clean, as pet hair, crumbs, dust bunnies always accumulate so fast under the dining table and chairs when no rug is there. Would love Velinda to provide insight! Many thanks. The project is beautiful!!

    1. It’s a mix of Target, West Elm, the citizenry, Ikea and filling spaces, but some of these were pulled from Emily’s inventory and may be ‘old’/unavailable now. But we always love these sources for pillows and tend to mix mostly ‘low’ with a couple ‘high’ when it comes to styling them. Great pillows don’t have to be pricey.

  8. I love this – having a home that is curated and a style developed over time instead of being in a box. I struggle with this.

  9. So. Fun. To. Read!
    Velinda, your writing style is hilariously relatable!
    I appreciate your explanation of how (on Earth!) you interpreted their “style.”
    Beautiful, homey, calm and inspiring.

    1. Thanks Rusty! BTW Velinda the brief for the rest of the house is now “beautiful, honey, calm and inspiring”! Plus Moroccan comedy bathroom…smh.

  10. Velinda this is soooo f-ing great! I love the mix of styles. It doesn’t look “designed” and I mean that in the best possible way. Brava!

  11. Love the concept and execution of the “daintier coffee tables,” but remain a tad skeptical of their long-term functionality.

    1. Based on a comment concerning no rug in the dining room, it seems they have young children, so all of the small round tables are probably great for them now. It doesn’t mean they won’t change in the future. I can see it going either way.

      1. Homeowner chiming in 🙂 no dining room rug because…highly destructive and messy toddler! And I actually prefer the look of it.

        1. And the tables are constantly getting moved around and repurposed for various play activities for our son so it actually works great!

  12. Hi Velinda
    Beautiful job, well done!
    Would you mind sharing some info on that cute bench by the front door? Custom?

    1. Hi! Yes…. it was custom, but an ‘affordable one’. Check out @uniqueconstruct on IG.

  13. Does anyone else see the “face” on the new fridge??
    – –

    It’s all I can see! 😁

  14. Velinda you are so talented! I hope you keep posting your projects on the EHD blog, they are so inspiring.

  15. I love this makeover, but the remodel on that front door makes me super uncomfortable. I love everything about it except that they changed the door to swing outward. Exterior residential doors usually open inward for security reasons. Opening outward makes a door harder to secure and leaves the hinges exposed–a significant security risk.

    1. Hi, Christina! Thank you so much…. re: the front door, we have this feature: Non-removable pin (NRP) option available with fixed pins to prevent door from being taken off hinges by driving out pins. It provides security on outswing applications with exposed hinges!

  16. Beautiful! Can you please share the source for the large fabric boxes storing pillows on the shelves in that appear next to a TV? Thank you!

  17. Beautiful, can you please share the source for the two large (felt?) boxes holding pillows on the shelves — that appear to be next to the TV.
    Thank you!

  18. I’m looking for sofas for a living room that we want to be comfy but will also be the first thing you walk into in our home and is our “formal” living area for entertaining (with the movie watching happening in our family room). Wondering how that Sixpenny couch holds up when it’s not formally styled. I love the look/comfort level, but am worried that I’ll be CONSTANTLY fluffing/steaming wrinkles and it will drive me crazy.

    1. It’s holding up great in terms of wrinkling, the back cushions just need some fluffing once a week or so because they get a little squished down. But we spend SO MUCH time on this couch, it is honestly heaven. Highly recommend!

  19. Every bit of this is beautifully done and inspirational. Bravo. I also love how EHD+ EHD-alums collaborate long after moving on to other endeavors. It speaks volumes about your organizational culture.

  20. Absolutely beautiful! Velinda, you have a great eye for design, color, and scale. I see a bright future for you and your new design firm!

  21. From a design perspective, can you explain why there’s no rug under the dining room area? Even if you used a neutral one so as not to compete with the gallery wall, it looks like it’s missing that grounding element of a rug under the table and chairs.

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