Meet Kathryn Price, 36, of Western Springs, Ill., a stay-at-home mother of three (ages 2, 3 and 5). Has a law degree. Getting her master's degree in divinity. Believes the home is "a sacred place." Believes being surrounded by beauty is good for the soul.
Loves: thrift shops, flea markets, eBay, the "thrill" of a bargain, and the "whole idea of recycling, of giving new life to something." Obsessed with: decorating magazines, Anthropologie catalogs, mixing old and new, and a look she has heard other people call French Bohemian. Feminine, classic, and slightly offbeat.
The house: Late-1950s split-level.
Confessions: "I never really felt like I had my own sense of style. I know when I see something I like, but I don't know how" to put it all together in a room.
"I can get a houseful of good junk. I just don't know what to do with it."
Enter Julie DiOrio, 25, a Chicago-based designer. Also a keen "alternative" shopper. Also a lover of vintage. Also allergic to matched sets.
"Kathryn has a good eye. . . . She had all these antiques and vintage things . . . all this cool, eccentric stuff."
These would include an old Pottery Barn dining table (found for $200 at an antiques mall); a set of four midcentury modern dining chairs ($20 at a garage sale); vintage egg prints (about $120 for 20 prints, purchased on eBay).
DiOrio's strategy: Get rid of very little. Instead, repaint, reupholster, rejigger. The theme: Feminine, pretty, Asian-inspired, but kid-friendly.
"At 36, finally I can say we have an adult house," Price says "It's so nice to not have this crooked chair that doesn't really match with that outdated couch. It's nice to be able to feel that things are actually connected. . . . Walking into this room makes me feel good every single day."
To transform Price's dining room, DiOrio bought rose-colored silk curtains, 108 inches long.
"They should always puddle at the bottom. It makes your windows look like they're wearing short pants if you don't make the curtains long enough," she says.
She added trim molding, created a rose accent wall, moved a thrift-shop rhino from atop a buffet to a showcase setting, and replaced the chandelier with a vintage black one.
She framed and grouped together vintage Italian prints of saints bought on eBay.
For a splurge, she chose hand-painted wallpaper inspired by chinoiserie.
DiOrio gave Price's table a new look with high-gloss gray paint. She took Price's vintage buffet and painted it black.
A vintage cane-and-straw chair was painted light green, then adorned with a tribal-look pillow.
Price's living room got a face-lift, too.
DiOrio added crown molding. "It takes the room to the next level," she says. "It makes it more elegant and more pulled together."
A new gray-upholstered sofa was purchased, and a small glass-top table was brought in. "I really love having [the table] in here, just to be able to do work," Price says.
A vintage side chair was recovered with pink faux leather. A vintage coffee table got a coat of high-gloss gray paint.
In came a blue/gray braided rug. A cabinet with bamboo details was painted a soft yellow.
Art panels were hung above the sofa - a steal at $125 for the set. "They look like old Asian panels, but are plastic covered in some type of resin that's been hand-painted," DiOrio says.
A framed group of egg prints bought on eBay also was added.
Last but not least, a vintage fake fireplace was set between windows in the living and dining areas, creating a subtle division between the rooms. It was painted the same color as the trim work, then accented with a gold mirror bought at a Salvation Army store.