Sarah & Her Home
Maintaining a clean and organized house is nearly impossible with one or two children. Now imagine trying to do that with four (soon-to-be 5) children! One of our favorite Instagramers to follow, Sarah, understands that challenge all too well. Luckily, she’s got quite the eye for interior design and style, and the Bay Area home she shares with her husband and four children is nothing short of awesome. It’s kid-friendly and fun, while stylish and organized at the same time. What’s even more impressive is that the house is a rental, which means she is only able to change certain aspects of the house. In this home tour, Sarah provides some tips on decorating a rental and reveals ways to enhance a space and match your style with a few easy additions and changes to a room. Step inside Sarah’s abode and get ready to swoon over every detail!
Tell us about your home! What drew you to your current house?
We live in a 2,500-square-foot home, just outside of the Bay Area in California. As we looked for a new rental, there were so many to choose from living where we do, and we decided to forgo the convenience of “city” for more space for our family. As a stay-at-home mom of 4 (almost 5!), having enough room was essential. I especially fell in love with this house because of all the light it gets! It livens it up and makes it feel even more airy to be so naturally lit. Being that we have a big family, we definitely needed it to feel roomy.
Your family is currently renting your home. What are some of your favorite things about renting? What are some of the biggest challenges?
I’d say the answer to this question is kind of the same both ways! My husband is a builder/contractor, primarily in the remodel area. So it’s fun for us to negotiate with our landlord for us (well, him) to do as-needed work, or even small upgrades, in exchange for breaks in rent. At the same time, not having the freedom (not to mention the poor investment to upgrade a home that’s not our own) is a challenge for me. We love to sit and dream about what we would do if the house was all ours.
Runner: Loom and Kiln (similar)
You have four little ones and one more on the way! Has having kids changed your design process?
Yes we do! And the answer to that is absolutely! The biggest challenge is probably trying to figure out how to merge a kid-friendly space with my décor aesthetic. Two things come to mind specifically: color tones and organization. I knew early on that I didn’t want to go the “primary color” route, so I did lots of Pinteresting for inspiration on creating a more neutral palette in the kids’ space. Next came figuring out ways to store all the things kids need and accumulate, such as diaper storage and toys, and create a place for everything! It helps keep my mind clear instead of looking at a disheveled room. Well, when things are actually in their designated places that is, which is for probably 5 percent of the time.
As a renter, what are some of your favorite ways to decorate your home without getting into heavy-duty construction?
This is something I’ve definitely had to learn as a renter! If you can’t knock down a wall or put in new flooring, there’s other ways of making the space your own. We do a lot of changing up with the light fixtures. It’s amazing what new lighting can do, such as adding a focal point to a room lacking architectural character by way of installing conversion kits to cans/recessed lighting. We’ve exchanged lots of fixtures that aren’t really our style to pieces we love, such as the pendant in our dining area, or the fixture in our front room. If we end up leaving, we just switch it back out and take ours with us. We’ve also repainted most of the rooms in our current home with a more crisp white, which serves to open up and brighten any space. You’ll find that most landlords wont have a problem if you’re not going off base with the color too much, and what’s not to love about a clean, freshly painted room? Area rugs have been another game-changer in our rentals; they cover up carpet that’s not my taste, and bring instant transformation to a room.
We love all the lighting fixtures in your home! Where are some of your favorite places to shop for lighting décor?
Lighting fixtures are so much fun! I shop around a lot, looking for that perfect piece to bring appeal to the room, but they can also get pricey. Some places I’ve found beautiful lighting from are Cost Plus World Market, Urban Outfitters, IKEA and Amazon.
Your bedroom feels really communal and inviting. Any tips for renters looking to create a serene space in their bedroom?
It’s always been a goal of mine to have our bedroom feel like a retreat. I’ve gone through so many styles, but in the end, I go for the neutral tones—it has such a calming effect for me. There’s enough “busy” going on that at least I can relax through minimal color tones. We brightened up the walls and then softened the look using cozy textures. You can make neutral work and not get boring when you add textures; our bedding, light fixture, rug and the wall hanging above our bed all came together to really perfect this space for me.
Which room is always your favorite to decorate when moving into a new home?
I love to set up our living room the most! It could be because that’s where my favorite pieces are, and because we keep the décor relatively minimal with clean lines (our coffee table, planters and sofa), it’s easy to create a good flow visually. Our living room is also the place our whole family gathers in general. It’s where we have our downtime and get to just be together. So having that area set up and ready for us to hang, despite what the rest of the house feels like, is my favorite.
Where are some of your favorite spots to shop for furniture? Do you prefer to shop online or hunt for treasures in person?
I do enjoy shopping in store so that I can touch and experience the piece in person, sometimes it’s not easy with little kids. One of my favorite online shops is Article, as it not only has stylish, well-made pieces at reasonable prices, but also an excellent FAQ section, which I find super informative. Skimming through customer reviews is a must for me before making purchases such as our sofa, so I love how the site has hundreds of honest reviews. One added plus is that because it’s online with no showroom, you save money by skipping the middle man. For accessories, I like The Citizenry for modern, minimal accents, like these pillows and the tabletop décor. I also love to scour HomeGoods to accessorize! It’s fun to look for those designer-inspired treasures at non-designer prices! We’ve also “restored” a lot of our furniture, adding new knobs, handles or legs, and sometimes repainting (our boys’ dresser, my dresser and the credenza in the living room were all re-done). It’s amazing what you can do with what you already have if you think outside the box!
If you find you thrive in a fun, playful, carefree environment, then have fun with your décor! It’s simple, if you are happy while in your space, your kids will feel it and everyone will be so much more at ease.
You have a lot of really fun rugs in your space! Do you have any tips for finding the perfect rug?
Choosing the perfect rug for a particular space has to be one of the most challenging aspects of decorating for me! The rug serves as one of the biggest focal points in a room, and can either tie everything in perfectly, or throw it all off—I take this part so seriously! Usually I take my time choosing, going back and revisiting the options for days until I am certain it’s THE one. It helps tremendously when the store has a “see it in your space” feature. As far as choosing colors and textures, it depends on the goal you’re trying to achieve with it. I ask myself if I’m trying to add color with a statement piece, or go for a calmer, low profile look. If the room is already exciting enough with furniture and art (such as our blue velvet sofa and gallery wall in our front room), understated tones similar to those in this rug pair nicely, but in our hallway/entry the space begged for some color to make the art pop and liven up the neutral woods and whites.
Talk to us about your daughters’ room! How did you go about designing such a fun, shared space?
Their room was so fun for me to get girly in! After two boys, I couldn’t resist the urge to decorate in all the sweetest little girl colors. I started by creating a color palette on Pinterest, and pulled from there. I went to The Land of Nod for most of the pieces, and drew inspiration from designer Joy Chen of Oh Joy’s collaboration with the company at the time. I couldn’t wait to get my youngest out of her crib just so I could get her a matching little bed; I’ve always adored that setup for a shared space!
What’s your best piece of advice for growing families looking to design their dream space?
If I could speak to those with young/growing families, definitely consider your parenting style. Are you someone who loves order and is big on organization? Then implement all the bins, research how to keep clutter to a minimum and use systems (storage baskets are my BFFs!). If you find you thrive in a fun, playful, carefree environment, then have fun with your décor! It’s simple, if you are happy while in your space, your kids will feel it and everyone will be so much more at ease. Also, consider the ways of your family. I’m a homebody who loves structure, so having a spacious environment where we can move around and maintain that structure is conducive to that. On the other hand, if you’re big on being outdoors and are out and about a lot, space may not be quite a necessity. Another important thing to remember when designing in general is to make sure the design styles are what YOU love, and not just a current trend. After all, it’s going to be what you live with and are surrounded by, so you better make sure it will stand the test of time in your eyes.
Shop Her Home:
Runner: Loom and Kiln (similar)
Throw Pillows: The Citizenry & Article
Coffee Table: All Modern
Tabletop Planter: The Citizenry
Art & Frame in reading nook: Max Wanger and Framebridge
Large Planter: Modernica