What wood you do?

Remember the design plan I created for this bachelor pad? I wanted to share the final product.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
This bachelor was in the market for a modern design. He loved the idea of the black, gray and orange I proposed, but I had a hard time convincing him that we needed some natural wood tones to warm up the large room with vaulted ceilings.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
Natural wood grounds a modern space and gives a room a warm, layered feel.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
To prevent this space from looking cold with the largest furnishings reading very modern—the couch, the Barcelona-style chair and dining table, I introduced wood tones slowly so the homeowner could see the warming-up process evolve. I brought in black-lacquered café chairs with natural cane seats.
Cane seat chairs
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
I painted the bar high-gloss black but left the rattan cabinet panels untouched.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
I painted a mid-century modern end table russet but kept the drawer front au natural.
Painted end table
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
The coffee table came last. The modern couch and chair’s metal base craved something that didn’t look so new (even though the chair is vintage). The wood table, a Craigslist find, gave a more inviting collected-over-time atmosphere.
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Photo by Jennie J Sullins
Do you have a room that could use a bit of natural wood? I would love to see photos. Remember a few key points:
1. You don’t have to mix paint and wood finishes like I did on the end table and bar. Start with blocks of color. Maybe you have a black dining table and white sideboard. Introduce natural wood chairs or start smaller with a wood-frame mirror.
2. Resist your urge to match. Don’t match furnishings to the floors or to other pieces in the room. Instead find complementing undertones in the wood. Does your wood have warm brown undertones or cool gray undertones? Find tones within the same family.
3. Put touches of wood throughout a space. It can be as small as the coaster set I added to the end table or as large as the coffee table itself. The trick is not to gather all your wood in one spot. Pepper the room with it.

Make an impact with neutrals

Neutrals are not boring. Grays, browns and whites come in such a variety of shades (from light to saturated, matte to metallic), textures and patterns that they can add more visual interest to a room than a single bold color.
Michelle's before
Lots of espresso decor and not a ton of natural light made this space very dark, but the furnishings were still in great shape so there was no need to toss and start new. Instead I lightened things up with lots of light accents and surfaces with different finishes, like replacing one of the end tables (and repurposing it in another room) with a white pedestal marble table.
A neutral and bright living space
I started in the living room. I removed all of the oversized brown pillows and added new decorative cushions in gray tones made from materials like wool felt, silk and metallic cotton blends. I also added a white cable-knit throw to the mix.

To eat up a good chunk of the large wall behind the sofa, we commissioned one of the clients’ friends to take this fantastic black-and-white shot, then blew it up on a canvas at Costco. The smaller sketches came from a British artist on Etsy. I loved the touches of red each had because the room needed a little pop. I framed each print in a different black frame and created a small collection.
A neutral and bright living space
My clients didn’t have a dining room in their previous apartment so we went with a light wood farmhouse table (a Craigslist score) and repainted the chocolate stools the same light gray we used on the console table in the entryway.
Michelle stools before
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I hung a floating shelf to take up space in the dining room, then layered handmade artwork. You can read how to create my crackle paintings here. To make a few sophisticated chalkboards for the room, I purchased thrift-store frames in different sizes and spray-painted the glass with chalkboard paint. The clients use some of this art to let friends and family leave their mark when they visit.
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The new look of Ikea

Ikea is my go-to store for so many things–frames, pots, throws and rugs. This month, Ikea launched a new Stockholm collection that will make the budget chain my go-to resource for high-quality (you read that right!) timeless furnishings. Inspired by the 50s and 60s, these designs nod to nature and include materials, like full-grain wood and bone china. For me, the highlights of this new collection include bright colors and crossover pieces that I can see working in an entryway, living room, bedroom, dining area, even a nursery or kids’ room.

Here’s the fun dining room design Ikea’s new Stockholm collection inspired.
Ikea Stockholm
I am enamored by Mexican embroidered otomi fabric and love this wallpaper version, which I would hang on one wall in the room. (I stretched this for the inspiration board. Wallpaper would obviously have a repeat.) The rug came out of Ikea’s previous Stockholm collection, but I still love it and use it in many of my projects–black-and-white stripes create a perfect neutral. The dining table is my splurge in the room. In all honesty, I would wait and hunt down a black, round dining table with fluted legs on Craigslist or at one of the many second-hand shops of San Diego. And I would pair this more rustic table with these modern chairs and make seat cushions with this fabric.

I would create storage in the dining room with this bright cabinet and put this gold lamp on top. I like the natural simplicity of this collage of ferns that I would hang on the wall adjacent to the one with the bold wallpaper.

I would mount this fun, clear chandelier on the ceiling to light up the room.

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