Emily & Her Home
The farmhouse style is totally having a moment right now when it comes to interior design, so imagine how cool it is to live in an actual farmhouse. Just ask Emily Starr Alfano of mStarr Design! Even though she wasn’t specifically in search of a farmhouse when house hunting, Emily and her husband fell in love with one during their two-week search for a home. With so much charm and character already found in the house, Emily only had to make little upgrades to transform the New England house into its dreamy state. While she admits that there are more upgrades and changes that she’d like to make to the 1830s house, for now, it’s a place that she, her husband and their little girl call home. It’s comfortable, cozy and full of character. So join us on this incredible home tour and get ready to fall in love with all of the amazing details found in every room. It’s farmhouse style at its finest!
We love your home! How did your work as a designer for events and interior styling influence your own design decisions at home?
Thank you! I think many of my fellow creatives might agree that we’re our own worst clients and that nothing truly gets finished! I am constantly adding and removing items and constantly restyling. It drives my husband nutty! While generally seen as a pro, having access to designer discounts and an abundance of both established and new businesses certainly doesn’t help this problem. I wouldn’t say I’m one for trends per se, but I can get so excited when working with clients that I often think “OK, now how can I do something similar in my house?”
You have some really unique accent pieces in your home, like that awesome driftwood hanging. Any favorite spots either online or local you love to hit up for fun décor?
I love that driftwood piece, too! It’s from One Kings Lane and surprisingly, it was one of the first things I purchased for the house when we moved in more than 3 years ago. I often stumble upon new resources through Instagram, blogs or via general web browsing, but I have some consistent go-tos as well…Etsy, HomeGoods and HomeSense (the first one in the U.S. opened 10 minutes from us), Wayfair, One Kings Lane, Rugs USA, and of course, Target. In addition, my friend Kathryn of The Everyday Co. has some beautiful linen-based pieces (kitchen towels, pillows, etc.) for the home, I often pop into a great vintage shop just down the street from me called Renew, a bride of mine has started an incredible vintage rug shop (one of which is in our living room) and I can’t ever get enough Farmhouse Pottery!
You utilize a lot of open shelving in your house. Do you have any tips for homeowners looking to switch it up?
Our house is old (as in from the 1830s), so there is very little storage, something that is difficult for me to deal with because I have a lot of stuff! We inherited the open shelving in the kitchen and I have a mostly love, slightly hate relationship with it. I love the versatility and that they are a design feature, but their practicality and dust factor can be a pain. With that said, I will always recommend open shelving as they look good, provide endless styling options and can really open up a space. Just keep that Swiffer easily accessible!
Vintage Botanical Canisters // Vintage Hamilton Beach Juicer
We love the rustic and cozy feeling of your dining room. What was the vision you had in mind when designing that room?
We only had one day between closing and when we moved into the house, so this wasn’t a room we even painted! If I had my way, I’d probably want a dark blue paint color, but because it’s a small room, I worry it might be too overwhelming. The gray works though, especially with the existing white beadboard paneling, so I built off of that by incorporating black accents (something I’ve done around the home in general) and a variety of woods. One of the only things the previous owners took with them was their chandelier, so the first piece we purchased was the fabulous light fixture! I commissioned the table from an Etsy vendor, and in the past year or so, have swapped out an old rug for the jute one you see here, replaced metal bistro chairs with these bentwood ones from IKEA and purchased the large display cabinet, which is a great way to showcase favorite pieces but keeps the dust to a minimum.
What drew you to the farmhouse style? Any tips for new homeowners hunting for a similar style home?
Our home is an old farmhouse (or antique colonial as it’s often referred to here in New England). I can’t say we were actively looking for a farmhouse, and after years in apartments, I had so many different thoughts on what I ideally wanted in a home. I also knew we’d be limited based on a variety of factors, so we were very lucky to find this house! With just a two-week search, a quick offer acceptance and an easy closing, we know how fortunate we were. Finding something similar is probably going to depend mostly on where you live in New England. There is an abundance, but you have to contend with age, possibly historical designations and price. Even though there are so many charming qualities and original details, I can see the appeal of a newer home built in the same farmhouse style! If you can’t find something that totally suits you, remember that little upgrades can make a world of difference. Add beams to your kitchen or living room or commission someone to make a built-in that looks like it’s been there for years.
Your bedroom is so inviting! Where are some of your favorite places to shop for cozy linens?
Which room in the house was the hardest for you, design-wise?
I’d have to say our bedroom because it’s really not even close to where we want it to be. It’s an awkward size and has little storage. We did paint it before moving in, but we haven’t bought any new furniture for it. It really does come down to the size and most importantly, layout. It’s a rectangle shape with existing built-ins, which leaves just one place for the bed (we have a king), and you walk right into the bed when walking in the room! One of these days, I’ll dedicate some time determining next steps, but for now, the bed is cozy so that’s what matters most.
Tell us about your daughter’s room! It seems like there are so many special pieces there.
It’s probably my favorite room in the house. It’s tiny but chock-full of personality, just like her! It’s been really special to be able to incorporate meaningful heirlooms including a framed illustration of bunnies that used to hang in my room growing up, a romper I wore as a baby that Max was photographed in for her newborn photos (framed by Framebridge) and favorite details such as the vintage rattan rocker I found from a wonderful Etsy shop and Max’s birth poster!
The wallpaper in her room is so beautiful! Is there a story behind that particular art?
I’ve been a big fan of Anewall for awhile now, having used one of its murals in my home studio (currently being converted to a playroom, hence why you don’t see it here!). Because Max’s room is so small, I knew I wanted to do something bold on one of the walls. When I saw the Oh Deer mural, I knew that was just what the room needed. Max is obsessed with bunnies, deer and birds, so it’s pretty much all her favorite animals together in one place! We say “hi” to each animal, even the flowers, every time she’s getting changed.
If you could offer one piece of decorating advice to new moms, what would it be?
I think investing in pieces that can be flexible, as it goes without saying that babies and kids are messy! I’d place myself somewhere in between being constantly on edge and not really caring about the mess. That means I acknowledge that our living room rug is just going to have spills and stains, but every time milk spills or a strawberry falls, I cringe just a bit. I recommend choosing items that you do love and speak to your design sense, but aren’t so expensive or special that if they get damaged you’re not completely devastated. And try to look ahead to the future and think multi-purpose. For instance, last fall when Max was 5 months old (and wasn’t mobile), we needed a new coffee table. We decided on a round one on wheels that has open storage underneath. Now that she is very mobile, she’s able to take out her own toys, we can move it aside easily and often do to make cozy nests on the floor and if (OK, when) she bonks her head, she’s not hitting a corner. Sorry, that’s more than one piece of advice!
Pendleton blanket (similar)
Driftwood stag head (similar)
Rug (same resource, similar)
Custom shelving (similar)
Vintage kids chair (similar)
Elk photograph and frame
Vintage ladder (similar)
Large mudcloth pillow (similar)
Small dot pillow
Grow wild growth chart
Vintage rattan rocker