11 Seriously Smart Home-Design Ideas

Think outside the box to make every inch of your home work for you.

Lilli Lee with her dog
Photo: Francesco Lagnese

Serene and hardworking: Really, what more could you want in a family home? Lilli Lee's is a treasure chest of smart storage and soothing style. Take the tour and grab some tips for your own place.

01 of 07

Darken Your Doors

Kitchen with blue cabinets
Francesco Lagnese

A sunny kitchen can handle moody blue cabinets and still be cheery, especially with gleaming white counters that bounce light around. The house, designed by Maria von Hartz and Annie Fitzgerald, is ultrapractical in places (the beverage refrigerator in the island, durable oak floors) and personality-packed in other spots (herringbone tile on the walls, vintage pendants hanging from the ceiling).

02 of 07

Mix Patterns, Not Colors

Living room with navy patterned rug and textiles
Francesco Lagnese

In navy and neutrals, the Lees' living room sings, thanks to lively prints that spill out onto the patio. A simple palette makes pattern mixing foolproof. With soft, roomy seating, a generous rug, and flea-market touches (stools, side tables), the space is crisp enough for guests but casual enough for the boys: Mason (left), 10; Vincent (right), 5; and Spencer (with Dad outside), 8.

Three related prints in one frame. Not expensive, but looks it!

03 of 07

Try a Paint Trick

Dog in blue bedroom
Francesco Lagnese

In a light-filled space, like Mason's bedroom (above), a dark ceiling turns up the cozy factor. (This one is painted Indi Go-Go by Benjamin Moore.) With a wide-striped rug, stark white curtains, and a batik-style throw, most of the decor is modern; the antique bed brings a comfortable, lived-in vibe. Carrying the home's blue-and-white theme through makes the whole place feel connected; bright yellow and orange touches add spunk to this kid zone.

04 of 07

Choose Kid-Size Furniture (That's Not Kiddie)

Kid's room with chalkboard paint wall
Francesco Lagnese

Children-specific pieces can be an eyesore, so the designers balanced the playroom's dark gray draw-on wall (right, painted in a mix of Deep Space by Benjamin Moore and chalkboard paint) with some sophisticated but just-right-size accents. The Ikea coffee table and the West Elm poufs are ideal for board games and art projects.

05 of 07

Set Up a Secret Clubhouse

Secret clubhouse under the stairs
Francesco Lagnese

The four-by-eight-foot area under the stairs (opposite) was originally earmarked as storage space for luggage and other bulky items. But designers Fitzgerald and von Hartz coaxed the Lees into creating a Harry Potter–style hideaway for the boys. All it takes is some drywall and, if the floor in that space isn't finished, easy-to-install laminate flooring. If you don't have the same kind of stair space, you can adapt the idea by taking the door off a closet and propping it as a play nook.

06 of 07

Put a Window to Work

Kitchen window through to patio
Francesco Lagnese

The ultimate in pass-throughs: Instead of going from kitchen to dining room, this one connects the kitchen and the patio. To rig up a version under your own large window (at least four feet wide), use industrial-steel shelf brackets and a shelf-size common-board counter (at least 12 inches deep); paint the counter with a protective marine coating. The Lees' setup goes all out, with sliding glass that opens automatically, so passing the potato salad (and keeping out bugs) is extra easy.

07 of 07

Use the Pantry as a Cook Space

Pantry as storage and cook space
Francesco Lagnese

A spacious pantry can do more than store food. The Lees keep (and use) their toaster and microwave in here and consider this spot their command center for entertaining. It holds all their serving pieces, spare beverages, and baking supplies. Even with limited space, replacing some lower shelves with drawers lets you keep table linens neatly tucked away.

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