Designing my parents’ house has provided a ton of opportunities and challenges. The main opportunity is to design a space for people I love. The main challenge is incorporating a lifetime of furnishings, decor, art and objects into a home that is a completely different style than the one I grew up in. I was raised in a little craftsman bungalow in Yosemite National Park, a historic structure built in 1929, which we weren’t really allowed to do anything to because it is a historic building and also was a rental (all homes within the park are rentals as they are for park employees only and you have to move when you retire). The home my parents bought after they left Yosemite in 2012, which I call Casa Soria, was built in 1977 and is a combination of ’70s modern, suburban tract home, and 2011 flip.
[Quick Side Note: As I’m writing this, a huge fire is burning in Yosemite. As far as I know, Yosemite Village, the area where I grew up is still okay but Yosemite West, another residential community, is in danger of burning down. Hoping it gets under control soon.]
One of the prettiest rooms at Casa Soria is the guest bedroom. There are three guest bedrooms, but one rises to the top as the favorite for guests. We call it The Japanese Room because it’s filled with all my mom’s art and objects inspired by her childhood in Japan (she spent her childhood there, studied and taught there as an adult, and passed her love of Japanese art and design down to my siblings and me). The room is bright and inviting but before I got to work on it, there was little more than a mattress and some bookcases in there. My goal was to make it a bit more formal and tailored while keeping with the cozy California casual vibe that suits my parents.
When my parents moved into the house, every wall was painted a nauseating color of beige. My parents quickly remedied that by selecting a very beautiful gray and painting the whole home’s interior (it’s Alaskan Husky by Benjamin Moore and it’s a great go to for light grays that provide contrast with white trim while still being bright and airy). Other than the tasteful paint color, the guest bedroom was kind of a blank slate. orMOMdo and orlanDAD pretty much gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted in here, with the exception that they didn’t want to paint or do anything permanent to the walls since they’d just painted. This provided the first challenge: how to add bold color and design without painting the walls?
I came up with three simple solutions for adding bold design into a space without doing anything requiring any sort of commitment: 1) Adding in textiles in pretty patterns and luscious hues of blue 2) Adding removable wallpaper to my parents’ hideous/cheap sliding closet doors and 3) Swapping out their ugly light fixture for a more beautiful one.
I came up with a few different solutions for adding color. Firstly, I added in a BEAUTIFUL rug that I’m obsessed with from Annie Selke. The floors are covered in a light carpet that I actually like a lot (the whole house was carpeted when they moved in but they installed wood floors as that color isn’t durable for use in living rooms, entryways, or anywhere high-traffic). People always ask me what my rules are for layering rugs. Anyone who’s read my book (which you can buy here, at this link!) knows I don’t really believe in design rules. The general rule of thumb with rug layering is that you should try and make sure the rug you’re putting over another rug (or on carpet as I did here) is a distinct texture and color from what is below. However, gonna be honest and say the beautiful Annie Selke rug isn’t THAT different in texture than the carpet below it (it’s flat woven and the floor below is kinda berber-ish). They’re different textures for sure, but not so distinct that they probably meet that “distinctly different textures” rule. But it still works for some reason.
I’m a big fan of rugs under beds. It freaks a lot of people out because they’re like “BUT HALF THE RUG IS COVERED BY THE BED!” but it helps anchor the bed in the space and, in this case, is a great way to incorporate some pretty color that will make your eyeballs pop directly out of your head. Since the room was already carpeted, we didn’t need the rug for coziness, just for some pattern and color.
My mother’s art collection has a lot of blue in it, probably because I get my love for blue from her. In decorating Casa Soria, I’ve struggled not to make EVERYTHING blue (which is why we went blush pink in the other guest bedroom, which we’ll be featuring here soon). My dad loves red, so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to incorporate that somewhere, even though I definitely do not share a love for that color. Seems like a good design challenge, though…
The upholstered bed from Wayfair was one of my favorite finds in the room and was a relatively approachable price, coming in under $800 (which isn’t cheap but isn’t crazy for a big, beautiful upholstered bed like this). Word to the wise: this bed doesn’t come assembled so you have to spend some time putting it together. orMOMdo and orlanDAD did it in a few hours but it’s not something to be taken lightly; it requires some patience. I wanted to hire a TaskRabbit but that’s basically against everything my parents stand for so they demanded we do it ourselves (I immediately ran out of the room and ignored them while they yelled at each other during construction). I guess Wayfair offers assembly, which I might spring for if you don’t feel like risking divorce to put a bed together.
I know Emily does a lot of stuff with Target, so please don’t think this is #SponCon (I paid for these lamps) but every time I go in there I’m like “WHAT IS GOING ON WHY IS THERE SO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN HERE?” They have so many cute lamps right now. I loved these celadon table lamps so much that I took inspiration from their shade to add in as an accent color (also featured on the very cute wallpaper from Chasing Paper).
I’ve been working a lot with Hedge House on various projects and was so stoked to have them make a custom bench for guests to put their luggage on and sit while they tie their shoes (or buckle their Birkenstocks). There’s a cute story behind the flag-bearing wooden pole to the right of the bench. My mom hiked Mount Fuji as a child, where she got her original Fuji pole. Later on, she took me and my sister to Japan (on two separate occasions) and we each got our own Fuji pole. Sadly, her original Fuji pole got lost on our trip (we left it on the Shinkansen—the high-speed bullet train—in a shuffle to get from town to town). But, we got her a new Fuji pole on our trip (pictured here). Basically, it’s a walking stick that you get wood-stamped at various outposts along your journey to the top of Mount Fuji, which is a staggering 12,000 feet in elevation (it’s so high, they sell little cans of oxygen, the legitimacy of which we never determined). I have one of these poles and so does my sister. We made orMOMdo buy us every stupid flag they were selling along the way. It’s the object I value most in my life and would be the most devastated to lose. It encapsulates so much for me. A wonderful memory. My mom’s desire to show us as much of the world as she could afford to. A love for the world passed down. It’s just a stick but I’d die if I lost it.
My mom’s collection of Kokeshi dolls has long fascinated me. I’ve always found them so cute and endearing. Each one has its own character and story. They also have the added benefit of making amazing decor accessories because they come in various shapes and sizes.
The preppy chandelier from Serena & Lily replaced an extremely lame boob light that previously occupied the center of the ceiling. There are actually boob lights all over the house we are slowly replacing. I love adding a chandelier above a bed (since overhead clearance is less of an issue there). It helps bring light close to human level and provides a sculptural focal point.
You’ll notice I didn’t try to do a Japanese theme room here. While the objects and art are predominantly Japanese, I didn’t want to try and make it seem like I was trying to make a film set for a movie set in Japan. This is a very eclectic space whose main goal it is to celebrate all the pretty things in it. So while the indigo blue color I brought in is definitely a reference to shibori fabric (something I grew up with which I LOVE is having a moment right now), mostly I just wanted the space to be cohesive and elegant. We are living in sensitive times where having objects in your home from around the world can be misconstrued as cultural appropriation. So I even felt a little self-conscious about sharing this space. It’s a tricky thing to talk about. But the way I was raised, and the way I still feel today, is that being excited and interested in cultures around the world is a good thing. Honoring the beauty and ingenuity of diverse cultures helps create understanding and connects us. So while I think a certain amount of research and sensitivity about a certain culture is required before you go and showcase their art, seeking it out in a genuine, responsible way is a good way to be a conscientious world citizen, to see outside your own small bubble.
So yeah, that’s my small disclaimer about why my parents have all this Japanese stuff everywhere (and other objects from around the world in the rest of their house which you’ll see in upcoming posts). Carry on!
I love the way this room turned out and I always love staying in it when I visit my parents. The collection of vintage and contemporary pieces in here, along with the huge collection of Japanese art and objects, makes it a cozy, eclectic room. Adding color in textiles, swapping out the lighting, and covering the doors in removable wallpaper were the three biggest ways to customize the space and add bold color. See?!? You can have it all! Fun, bold design AND NO COMMITMENT! Party on, commitmentphobes!