Interior designers make their living by decorating clients’ homes, but what happens when the professional turns personal and embarks on decorating her own rustic farmhouse? Leah A. White of Leah A. White Interiors & Home Staging shares the “game changers” she used to turn her house into her dream home.
Set in the quaint town of Hope Valley, Rhode Island, the home’s architecture reflects the area’s rural surroundings. “The overall design of the home has a rustic, modern-farmhouse feel with a lot of traditional elegance,” Leah says. It was built as a split-level ranch in 1974 and renovated in 1988. The additional space from that remodel was a major selling point for Leah and her husband because they have four children. The home has four above-ground bedrooms and three bedrooms in a finished basement, but the couple knew they would have to make some modifications to create the home they envisioned.
COME ON IN
“I wanted it to have a rustic elegance that’s livable and comfortable for a family with children.”
“When we bought this home, we could see through its outdated appearance,” Leah says. “It’s a large home with tons of character. It had some great bones. Elements such as stone fireplaces, a butler’s pantry and cedar vaulted ceilings added to its wow factor. My husband and I worked for years to reveal its beauty. We don’t regret buying a fixerupper; it’s truly a labor of love. What you put into a home makes it your own, and it shows in its character and charm.”
Among the renovations the couple undertook was remodeling four bathrooms and the kitchen, which Leah says was the biggest improvement. There was also a wall between the dining room and kitchen that needed to go. “I wanted a more open layout on the main floor. Taking down that one wall made it a better space for entertaining guests,” Leah says. “After renovations, it felt like a new home.”
Once the renovations were done, Leah was able to reach into her designer toolkit and pull out what she calls the “game changers” to create the ambience she desired.
“I wanted it to have a rustic farmhouse elegance that’s livable and comfortable for a family with children,” she says. “I love a home that can be lived in and still look great. That’s why the rustic farmhouse design works so well for our family.”
One of the ways Leah achieved her dream-home design was through her informed furniture choices. “Furniture placement and style can make or break a room. You have to consider so many things, such as the finish, placement and styling. It defines a space,” she says. “It has to speak to the overall feel you want to accomplish.”
“Furniture placement and style can make or break a room. You have to consider so many things, such as the finish, placement and styling. It defines a space.”
MIX IT UP
Leah is a firm believer in mixing over matching when it comes to placing furniture in a room. “Mixing finishes helps create drama in the space. Gone are the days of ‘matchy-matchy’ furniture,” she says. “Mixing color and style adds interest. I love shopping in antiques stores and finding a great piece to refinish with paint and new hardware.
Sometimes you get lucky and find an antique piece that doesn’t need to be touched and coordinates nicely with newer pieces.” For example, Leah purchased an antique desk from Craigslist for $40 and didn’t need to do a thing to it. “I just love the way old pieces tell a story. It contributes something unique to a room that a brand-new piece could not.”
KITCHEN FURNITURE: MIXED, NOT BLENDED
When homeowners buy furniture for their homes, the kitchen is often an overlooked room, but adding an island to the space provides dimensional interest as well as practicality. Leah suggests mixing styles to achieve your desired ambience.
For example, if you want a modern-farmhouse style kitchen, she advises combining a wooden island with industrial pieces. “I really love the way our kitchen island turned out. It was designed with the intent that it would be a substantial piece of furniture in the room. It needed to be both beautiful and functional for seating a large family around it, and it had to be unique. I chose large legs that are traditional and a khaki/sage paint color to create a furniture look. When an island looks and feels like furniture, it can really make the design.”
“Having the kitchen island stand out instead of blending with the rest of the cabinetry makes it more of a beautiful piece of furniture.”
COLORS AND CONTRASTS
Leah likes to contrast colors and textures to create a layered effect. Her choices in the foyer illustrate her design aesthetic. “We stained the stair railing with a darker stain because I love the light walls with the dark contrast rail,” she says. “I also painted the door a dark gray. The gray paint was a game changer. I love the cream wreath against the dark color.”
“I’m big on adding texture. It’s what gives a simple design coziness.”
Mixing different textures is another secret weapon in Leah’s decorating arsenal. In the living room, baskets and a shag rug were added for texture. “I’m big on adding texture. It’s what gives a simple design coziness,” she says. “I always add lots of baskets to warm up a cooler color palette.”
A VISION COME TO LIFE
Leah loved the process as well as the outcome of her redesigned and reimagined rustic farmhouse. “My husband and I worked for years to reveal its beauty and couldn’t be happier with our dream home becoming a reality,” she says. “There’s something special about a home that evolves over time, especially when you build an emotional attachment to it and you see the vision slowly unfold. This home embodies our love and commitment. That’s what makes it my most favorite design project.”
Want more simply beautiful ideas? Check out this post on a Farmhouse Beach Cottage.