On season four of HGTV Design Star, contestant Torie designs an artist loft for 8-year-old Carina, whose favorite colors are green, red and blue. Her big wow factor is a focal wall with her name illuminated over an assortment of fabrics.
The final room in the home is the guest bedroom. Rachel wanted it to be colorful but relaxing, an intentional effort reflecting one of her overall goals for the home - to create a place where family and friends can come and find rest. Reflecting on the design she says, “I consider my home a refuge. My dream was to create a space where people can come over, relax, take a nap and be comfortable while doing so. A space to come lay your head if only for a weekend.”
The bar on the fourth floor features one of Rachel’s crowning achievements for the space - a major DIY moment gone right. “I knew that once I owned a home, I wanted to have a bar and for the surface of the bar to be decorated in bottle caps. Even before I bought my home, I spent years collecting bottle caps. Once I placed each bottle cap where I wanted it to go, I finished it with resin. I love that I get to share my artwork with so many people. My dreams have literally come true.”
As one might expect from an artist’s home, Rachel has many favorites among her collection. These range from a painting by famed artist Elizabeth Catlett to a yarn blanket that she inherited from her mother. But when asked about her favorite room in her home, Rachel’s immediate answer is, “The fourth floor.” Calling it her, “getaway,” she calls out the childlike themes, the toys and skateboards on the walls and the collection of artwork by Hebru Brantley as reasons why this room is her favorite space.
In the hallway landing a feature wall commemorating the landmark Brown v. Board of Eduction Supreme Court decision is one of Rachel’s favorite moments in the whole house. Rachel’s collage wall is a pastiche of moments surrounding the integration of American schools. Her clippings profile the March on Washington, examples of resistance to school integration and even political cartoons outlining the arguments for change. The papier-mâché of historic events is a backdrop to a colorful portrait Thurgood Marshall. “This space is so important to me,” remarks Rachel. “I have dedicated my whole life to educating Black and Brown children and I wanted a space in my home that spoke to my passion.”
The dining room epitomizes Rachel’s approach to her open plan living and dining area. Modern, streamlined furnishings like the rope dining chairs around a solid concrete table add a textured feel to the space while making it clear that the real visual attraction is the art on the wall. The walls carry all of the color, pattern and energy of the room, while the furniture offers a comfortable respite from which to take everything in.
As definitional as painting is to Rachel’s life and her family, it’s no wonder that it plays such a large role in the design of her home. “My artwork defines my home,” she says. “It's the first thing you experience when you walk in. Every single wall has art on it - mostly Black art. I want to tell a story on every floor and in every room.”
One surefire path to great design is to lean into your strengths. For Rachel, it wasn’t hard to figure out what the main focus of her living room would be. “The living room was the easiest area to design,” she remembers. “I knew the paintings would take over the space so I chose furniture that added to the space but didn’t take away from the paintings.” This clarity of focus let Rachel remain understated in her furniture choices while the art says everything. “After that, the room pretty much designed itself,” she says.
Rachel’s home was an undeniable find. Her four-level townhouse features four bedrooms, and each bedroom has it’s own private bathroom. It’s a dream for families and houseguests alike, but it wasn’t always a marvel. “I bought this house as-is, so the previous owner walked away without doing any repairs,” she recalls. The process of rehabilitation took years, and included everything from replacing faucets to building a bar. Three years after taking over, however, Rachel feels the moment of completion is in sight. “I only have a few more spaces to hang paintings before I’m completely out of space,” she says.
Neutral Contemporary Living Room With Sunburst Mirror
Bright blue contemporary artwork and a bold sunburst mirror pop against the neutral walls in this sleek living room. A glass-topped coffee table complements the acrylic ghost chair while a dark wood credenza displays simple orb-shaped decorative items.
Seana’s bedroom is a seamless mix of the opulent and the effortless. While she finds that natural colors make it difficult for her to create the bold looks that she prefers, her bedroom has been designed to be a tranquil retreat. Providing the flair she needs in the space falls to the mix of gold tones that she weaves throughout the space, including a pair of leopard print side chairs and the framed Egyptian papyrus art that hang over the bed. The room is the final note in a song that Seana spent four years learning how to sing. Now that it’s out, she’s pretty happy with the results. “I love everything about my home,” she beams, “The windows, the plentiful art, the balance of bold and tasteful elements, and the fact that my decor documents the story of my life.”
Global culture is as constant a presence in this home as Brooklyn or Virginia Beach. In this guest room, the play of soft neutrals, natural wood tones and rich blue tones mixes with Seana’s green thumb to create the perfect oasis. As in her other rooms, creating the aesthetic is a matter of mixing new pieces and vintage finds. Considering the whole of her collection she states, “I’ve thrifted a few really cool mirrors and objects. Pretty much all of the pieces I love are vintage.”
Cavern of Color
One of the ways design helped Seana explore her creative side was by giving her a chance to explore her bolder side - something she did by going big with color in her second-story rooms. “I started slowly,” she remembers. “I had to keep reminding myself that I could change it if I didn’t like it, or just close the door.” Her experimentation led to masterpieces like this Moroccan-inspired room. The blue walls are amazing, but the gold ceiling simply steals the show. Together with poufs, masks and framed fabric, the room is an instant trip to a far off land.
North Carolina homes have room to spare and Seana’s is no exception. The dining room boasts a classic use of blacks, whites, browns, and green plants. It’s elegantly simple, but surprisingly presented one of Seana’s bigger challenges. “I actually find styling and decorating with neutrals to be more challenging,” she confides.
Between Virginia Beach and North Carolina, Seana spent fourteen years in Brookyn, NY. As excited as she was to buy her first home, she felt she needed to grow her apartment-based design style to fill a whole house. “I didn't want to lose my urban vibe,” she confides, “so I did my best to incorporate glimpses of my old life in this new home.” Art became a major way to bring a bit of New York City street style to her Charlotte home, and can be seen in her gallery wall on the stairs.
The living room is a study in neutrals, and the subtle layering of objects, textures and color. “I am eclectic,” Seana says of herself, “you can actually find a bit of every design style in my house.” It’s a personal combination that she refers to as “glamohemian.” But pulling influences from everywhere doesn’t mean that she wants a crowded space. “I don’t prefer a space to look overly crowded or over-done,” she says. “I like to be elegantly eclectic.”