Check Out What's Inspiring Two of Our Real Simple Home Designers

Real Simple Home designers Michelle Gage and David Quarles IV share their current likes, loves, and must-haves.


Ted Cavanaugh for Real Simple

Every year, we work with brilliant designers who bring their style, ideas, and general awesomeness to the Real Simple Home. We begin with a raw space (this time, it’s an apartment in Brooklyn, New York) and let each designer pick a room to deck out with a dreamy look. We’ll introduce more partners in the upcoming months and reveal the finished home in the October print issue, but for now, we want to share what two of our designers are currently loving and what's guiding their design process.

Michelle Gage of Michelle Gage Interiors

RS Home Preview Michelle Gage Mood Board

Ted Cavanaugh for Real Simple

Michelle (@michellecgage) is a Philadelphia-based interior designer whose love of punchy prints and cheerful colors (as evidenced by her moodboard!) has made her a regular in our Instagram saves. She started her career as a buyer for Anthropologie—thus the boho aesthetic—then opened her own interiors firm in 2015. Her vibe: sunny, airy spaces that pull from museums and her travels (Paris is a favorite destination). A faux-sheepskin chair in front of palm-print wallpaper and decorative brass birds? Yep! See below for a few of her favorite things.

Confetti Slides

Confetti Slides Peach

Llani Shop

Sequins make everything (including shoes) better! This glittery pair is extra special for Michelle—they fit her happy aura and allow her to support friend Alana Oates, who makes and sells them through her shop, Llani. "What Alana creates is so whimsical and fun, so it’s always a treat to sport her shoes," Michelle says. No need to wear these just on special occasions either! Don them when you want to glam up some basic jeans and a tee.

Price at time of publish: $160

Oiseau Salad Plate

Tory Burch Oiseau Salad Plate

Tory Burch

Sure, the delicate, hand-painted design on these Tory Burch plates is stunning, and the scalloped eyelet border is just divine. (Plus, we love how easy they are to mix with plain, white dinnerware.) But there's more to why Michelle picked them to showcase, and it has to do with one of her core beliefs of supporting women: "Tory Burch's mission to empower female business owners really resonates with me, and I was lucky enough to be a part of her fellowship program in 2020. There I made some wonderful connections with other like-minded leaders in various industries," she says.

Price at time of publish: $168 for 4

Opia Magna Wallpaper

House of Hackney Opia Magna Wallpaper

House of Hackney

House of Hackney wallpapers are a big staple in Michelle's designs and for good reason. "Their look is so fresh and color-forward, and this one is a real favorite," she says. Despite what you might think, it's actually hard to go wrong with a colorful, floral pattern—it really helps a room shine and gives it that designer touch.

Price at time of publish: From $235 per roll

Plummy Rouge 8003-2G by Valspar

Valspar Plummy Rouge Dollop


Deep, saturated colors have been having a moment in design, and we're here for it. So is Michelle: "I’m all in on rich purple hues, and I love how moody this one is," she says. Dousing an entire room in a dark shade can be intimidating, but balancing it with lighter, modern furniture pieces and accessories is key to keeping the space from feeling too heavy.

Price at time of publish: From $66 per gallon at Lowe's

Highwater Turquoise Olive Fish Scale Ceramic Tile

Tile Bar Highwater Turquoise Olive Fish Scale 2x5 Polished Ceramic Wall Tile

Tile Bar

Introducing color through tiles can be a big risk, but the reward is so worth it. Glossy, jewel-toned ones deliver an instant hit of dopamine when you see them in any kitchen or bathroom. They're like eye candy! This ceramic option from Tile Bar is beloved by Michelle. "I first used fish scale tile in my last home, and boy, was it hard to leave behind when I moved! I’m a big fan of the funky shape, and even more so when it comes in a saturated color," she says. We don't blame her!

Price at time of publish: $16 per sq. ft.

David Quarles IV of Concept 417

RS Home Preview David Quarles Moodboard

Ted Cavanaugh for Real Simple

David (@david.quarlesiv) has a wallpaper line with Chasing Paper, a design blog, a jewelry collection, and about 528 other ongoing projects. Our point? The busy Memphis-based designer is extremely creative. His cultural background—African American, Afro-Caribbean, European, and Indigenous American—influences his work. Just like his moodboard, his spaces are always vibrant and pattern packed, and sometimes feature disco balls! Read on to learn a little more about his selects.

Tigress Rug by Justina Blakeney x Loloi

Tigress Teal Rug by Justina Blakeney X Loloi

Justina Blakeney x Loloi

Plush rugs are a big component in many of David's designs, like this one from Jungalow. And it makes sense: It's a super easy way to incorporate a different texture and coziness to a space, Plus, who doesn't love that soft, cushy feeling between their toes?!

Price at time of publish: From $379

De Los Santos Eau de Parfum

De los Santos Byredo


As a self-described synesthete, David is always thinking about engaging all of his senses, including scent. This Byredo fragrance is a particular favorite of his because he believes it embodies both his playful and serious sides, and he's even mastered the art of scent layering. "In the cooler months, the woodsy notes of the palo santo set the tone for a warmer fragrance, so I'll layer it with a vanilla-forward perfume. When it's warm, I play on the fruitiness of the mirabelle to communicate a lighter, jovial fragrance by pairing it with something more floral," he says. Um, we're impressed!

Price at time of publish: $205 for 1.7 oz.

Red Moon in Venus by Kali Uchis

Red Moon in Venus by Kali Uchis Vinyl


Music plays a big role in David's design process—chromesthesia informs so much of it. In fact, as he created his moodboard for us, he listened to Kali Uchi's album Red Moon in Venus! And it's fitting because he often draws inspiration from full moons. "Most of my creative work is done during full moons. I also use lunar cycles as my calendar to measure opportunities for growth and wins," he says.

Price at time of publish: $28

Chasing Paper x David Quarles IV Lucille Wallpaper

Chasing Paper x David Quarles IV Lucille Wallpaper

Chasing Paper

We're sure it's hard for David to pick a favorite pattern from his wallpaper collection with Chasing Paper (it's like picking a favorite child!) but the Lucille print reigns supreme in his mind. He beautifully explains, "Out of all the matriarchs of my family, I feel like my personality most aligns with that of my grandmother's, Lucille. Her love of culture and sharing every bit of exactly who she is is the reason I gravitate towards this pattern the most. " Plus, this versatile pattern can blend into all kinds of spaces, ranging from light to moody.

Price at time of publish: From $45

Mosaic Pink 7001-33 by Valspar

Valspar Mosaic Pink Dollop


Blushes and dusty pinks are on heavy rotation in David's designs at the moment. "This color is good to use year-round in apparel and interiors, because it has a calming effect," he explains. The pale, powdery shade is gentle on the eyes but pair it with a few dark accents to keep it from skewing too young.

Price at time of publish: From $66 per gallon at Lowe's

Alkkemist Gin


Wooden Cork

David appreciates a well-made cocktail, especially at the end of a long week. (Hear, hear!) Staying true to his lunar-inspired brand, he says, "Gin is my spirit base of choice, and the fact that this one is distilled by the moon's light makes it all the more my favorite!"

Price at time of publish: $60 for 750 ml

Tiered Tapers Chandelier

AnthroLiving Tiered Tapers Chandelier


"Lighting will always be my suggested splurge item, because I love the mood you can create with a beautiful lamp or chandelier!" David says. This one from Anthropologie is a win in his eyes because it allows him to mix old-world influences with modernism. He adds, "In black, this fixture adds a mysterious, but also historic, touch to any space it graces. It's truly been one of my favorite chandeliers to source for a while now!"

Price at time of publish: $2,600

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