After spending so much time sheltering in place this year, many of us discovered just how important our spaces can be. For our third annual Real Simple Home, we partnered with a roster of talented designers and organizers to share ideas for making every area inviting, calming, and ultra-functional. Step inside, and make yourself comfortable!

By Leslie Corona and Stephanie Sisco
September 18, 2020
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Entryway

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This area sets the tone for your entire home, so you want it to feel welcoming. But it also needs to be outfitted with everything you might need as you head out the door.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

Transform the dead space under the stairs into a semi-custom “book nook.” Entryway designer Katie Holdefehr topped two inexpensive TV consoles with a made-to-order cushion, and she added cane fronts to store off-season accessories out of sight. Stick-on panels imitate shiplap on the back wall.

High Style

Credit: Christopher Testani

Lean art on the shelf above your hooks. To keep the arrangement in place despite frequent jostling, use adhesive strips to secure frames to the wall and each other.

Made You Look

Credit: Christopher Testani

The small space at the top of the stairs has a wet bar. Little doses of wallpaper make it feel special. Try a peel-off option, or cut foam core to fit inside the shelves and cover.

Living Room

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Create vignettes throughout an open-concept space to define zones. Warm woods and shades of blue connect each zone without being too matchy-matchy.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

Think beyond the traditional gallery wall and consider framing textiles, like bandanas or cherished vintage wardrobe pieces. Play within a particular palette, and tack up the contenders before committing to framing and hanging.

Wall Treatment

Get the sophisticated look of wainscoting with budget-friendly paint. The two-tone treatment draws the eye upward and makes the room feel larger. Rather than styling one side of a space to be the mirror image of the other, add variety with a different accent color or unexpected twist, as designer Max Humphrey did above with the throw pillows.

Floral & Fragrant

Credit: Christopher Testani

Graphic botanical prints look modern—and play off the long-lasting and redolent arrangement of thistle and eucalyptus.

Kitchen & Dining Area

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Hits of indigo and plaid give these workhorse spaces a laid-back vibe.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

Thanksgiving is exactly one meal a year, so don’t design your dining room around it. Instead, go with a setup that works 24/7—as a breakfast nook, homework spot, or (in a pinch) home office. Use a settee for the comfiest seating and a round table that’s easy to scoot behind.

Light Touches

A multipurpose space should have several light sources, ideally with dimmers on all. If someone is working at the table, the pendant fixture provides focused light—without creating a glare for anyone watching TV on the sofa.

Frame That Fashion

When they’re too beloved (and fragile) to wear anymore, turn archival wardrobe pieces into art by placing them in shadow boxes.

Add Warmth

Credit: Christopher Testani

Gray cabinets and marble tile are on trend, but they can make a kitchen feel sterile. Warm it up with wood accents and a few colorful anchor pieces—like your go-to pot that lives on the stove (finally, permission to not put everything away!).

Home Office

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If you have space to spare (whether it’s a whole room or just a comfy corner), make it your sanctuary—an area where you can reflect and relax...and work, if you must.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

There’s a reason spas use shades of blue and green—these soothing colors can calm the mind, whereas intense hues, like reds and oranges, are more stimulating. The teal sofa adds vibrancy and character without overwhelming the space.

Read the Room

Place plants, candles, and prints among your books for a meaningful and layered display. Sort spines by shade to enhance the tranquil vibes.

Power Down

Credit: Christopher Testani

Designate a spot, like this fold-up secretary desk, to stow your laptop on weekends or hide office clutter.

Tween’s Room

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As kids go from toy kitchens to texting, their space should adapt to new stages. Yellow is youthful, and gold hues will keep the room from feeling “ugh, so babyish, Mom” two years (or minutes) from now.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

A graphic, easy-to-apply mural packs a colorful punch— without the need for paintbrushes and drop cloths. Limiting it to just one wall prevents it from overwhelming the space.

New School Setup

Credit: Christopher Testani

Your kid can ace at-home learning, thanks to a station with space for supplies, note taking, virtual classroom sessions—and good old natural sunlight.

Owner’s Suite

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The combination of natural elements, textures, and patterns in a muted palette creates an oasis for sleep.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

The safest way to mix patterns is to unify them thematically (these are all small, repeating designs) and tonally (all neutrals here).

Trick of the Eye

Use the same wallpaper in a darker shade behind the bed and frame it with black molding to form the illusion of a giant headboard.

Leave-’Em-Be Leaves

Credit: Christopher Testani

A bedroom should be a serene retreat, requiring few to no chores beyond making the bed. Artificial plants infuse calm without any upkeep.

Terrace

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Deep, cushioned furniture and weatherproof floor lamps bring elements of interior decor outside, giving the deck cozy vibes all day long—and after dark.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

To give the terrace a thriving-greenhouse look—while providing privacy—designer Roxy Te covered a fence with faux boxwood “wallpaper.” That’s just one example of the no-maintenance fake plants she mixed in with the real deal to achieve an always-lush environment.

Inside Out

A pergola creates the sense of a room outdoors—particularly when enveloped in curtains that block the sun on hot days and provide privacy when you want it.

Tie It Together

Strive for a recurring element among the items in a space. Above, woven wicker chairs mimic the trellis pattern on the planters, which echoes the crisscross pergola roof.

Divide and Conquer

Credit: Christopher Testani

The key to making a large outdoor space functional is to separate it into sections, and anchor each with a pretty outdoor rug. If you have a lawn instead of a patio, use stepping stones to outline zones.

Storage & Organization

The setup inside closets and drawers has as much impact on the overall experience of a home as the decor.

Big Idea

Credit: Christopher Testani

Give your closet an instant face-lift by sorting clothes by type, sleeve length, and color—and using the same type of hanger. You’ll maximize space and immediately be able to identify what you’re looking for.

Big Idea

Left: Credit: Christopher Testani
Right: Credit: Courtesy of Alex Frank

Corral smaller items into groups and store them in labeled containers for a no-fail system. These bins keep deep shelves neat and tidy, especially in a pantry or utility closet. In the fridge, labeled shelves make unloading groceries a breeze.

On the Rise

Credit: Christopher Testani

A shelf just a few inches off the floor keeps you honest—so you stay mindful of what fits and don’t end up just tossing stuff on the floor.

Developer

Credit: Courtesy of the Marbury

The Marbury, developed by Greystone Development

The Marbury is a historically landmarked redevelopment conveniently situated on tree-lined West 74th Street between Amsterdam Avenue & Columbus Avenue in Manhattan. The 14 residences at the Marbury were designed with contemporary layouts but also respect the wonderful old-world architecture elements of the building, including high ceilings and beautiful large windows.

Charity Partner

Credit: Courtesy of Win

WIN is the largest provider of shelter and permanent supportive housing for NYC’s homeless families, to raise awareness of the organization and its mission to break the cycle of homelessness.

Sponsors

Credit: Logos courtesy of sponsors

Key Contributors

This story originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Real Simple.