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Hello, dream interior designer

PORTFOLIO SHOT 3I make no apologies for two homes posts in a week, because today’s designer is such a find I couldn’t wait to share her wonderful work and her brilliant tips.

The other day, I was tootling about the internet and looking at one of my favourite home inspiration sites, Design*Sponge,when I saw it – my dream living room, right down to the Caitlin Wilson cushions. It was part of makeover feature (and who doesn’t love a makeover?) featuring a living room transformed from drab and plaid to utterly gorgeous by a very clever designer, Jennifer Wagner Schmidt of JWS Interiors. To my delight, she agreed, in a matter of moments, to share not only pictures from her portfolio, but some genius decorating tips with W&W. Do check out her website and blog for further inspiration.

We love your design philosophy – “simple, timeless and luxurious” – what are the key components for achieving this? 

My design aesthetic is to keep things streamlined – I typically like neutral rooms that are calm, no clutter, yet nice textures. This means not using a tonne of furniture or accessories, but rather using the right pieces for the space. For example, pair a beautiful white, beige or gray sofa with textured and/or patterned pillows to pull the look together; use some high and low-end pieces and don’t spend big bucks on trendy things that you’re going to end up tiring of quickly.


And how do you combine the above with children [Jennifer has two daughters]? Has how you decorate your home/your approach to design changed since you became a parent?

I think the key to decorating with kids is your choice of fabric and materials.  You have to be able to wash/easily clean your upholstered pieces.  Choose a rug that looks stylish, but if the kids spill milk on it, it won’t be ruined. Practicality is a must. I didn’t want a show house because we live here, but I did want to create a stylish home that my girls can play in and not feel like they can’t plop down on the sofa.

Specifically when it comes to fabrics, the industry has come a long way with indoor/outdoor fabrics that not only look good, but FEEL good too.  A favorite of mine is Restoration Hardware’s Perennials indoor/outdoor linen selection, which is absolutely gorgeous and practical for families with children.  In my home, I chose not to spend a lot on our sofas. I have a four year old and seven year old and I know they can be rough, so I elected to purchase inexpensive sofas that look much more expensive they really are. I also chose slipcovers so that I can get them cleaned when needed.  I also like a little drama and that wow-factor and that’s easy to do with lighting because the kids can’t touch the chandelier!! (See pics [below] of my family room).


What’s your approach to colour? 

I love calm, serene places, so I’m naturally drawn towards neutral palettes when it comes to color. However, recently I find myself more and more drawn to bold colors–but only in small doses. I think color and pattern can be added by layering with pillows, blankets, accessories. We all know it’s much easier to switch out a pillow or two than replace an entire chartreuse sofa!


How do you tackle small spaces?

Think vertical! Use your wall space and closet space wisely. Invest in closet organisers and use double-duty furniture like daybeds, nesting tables, and ottomans. And, I am a big fan of dark walls in small spaces. A lot of people think dark walls will make a space look smaller, but I disagree. I think all dark walls can make a room look larger. It also can add drama to a space.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have limitless budgets to lavish on our homes (we wish); where do you recommend spending/saving?

Think about investing more in a sofa since that’s where you spend a lot of time –  be it watching TV, entertaining, etc. In my case, I chose not too, but most people would prefer to put extra money into at least one good upholstery piece.  I am a big believer in finding bargain lighting. Here in the US, we have really good chain stores like HomeGoods which sells great, designer lighting at a fraction of typical retail cost.  I love switching out lamps and by buying less expensive ones, I can switch out a room’s look easily. Same goes for accessories like pillows. Don’t blow your budget on pillows, unless you absolutely ADORE them and plan on using them forever!


What are your top tips for decorating children’s  bedrooms/playrooms? 

I love designing children’s spaces because I love giving them a bit more of a sophisticated, yet fun space that they can grow into.  You can invest a little more money into the room too, knowing that they can live (and grow into) with the furniture for a long time.

GRAFTON PLAYROOM-1Grafton playroom 3

1. I like to find one unique element–be it small or large–that will make the space special in some way. This could be a family heirloom, a favorite piece of artwork or special DIY project.  

2. Fabric Remnants can be a gold mine! Check out the remnants section at your local fabric store. It can be a great resources for finding designer fabric to use as pillow covers or other smaller projects at a fraction of the cost

3. Don’t overlook chain and department stores. You don’t have to spend a fortune on bedding when there are so many great deals on bedding, blankets, etc.

4. Best Kept Secret- use your dry cleaner!  Become acquainted with your local seamstress at the dry cleaner. These are talented workers can sew a simple pillow cover or hem drapes. You can even use them to embellish store-bought drapes with say a beautiful trim for a reasonable cost, yet with a designer look.

bookcase 3playroom bed

I am completely obsessed with the living room makeover we spotted on DesignSponge, Could you, briefly, talk us through the design brief and how you achieved it? 

Thank you so much! This was a favorite project of mine because I knew the room could be something really special when I first walked in and saw the plaid sofa and green lattice wall paper!  The homeowners were a retired couple who entertained family and many grandchildren often. I immediately knew I wanted to keep it light and bright and decided to go with a neutral color palette–particularly for the sofa and chair, then layer in texture and pops of colour.

The original plaid sectional sofa was very well made so we decided to re-cover it in a family-friendly gray velvet.  I wanted the room to be serene–there was a ton of natural light that came through 2 large french doors so I thought keeping it simple and bright with solid white linen floor to ceiling drapes would be a nice element. The original brick fireplace wall needed to be lightened up, so I was thrilled when my client agreed to paint it white! It immediately looked fresh and modern after we painted it.  Everything else fell into place by using some metallic accents in the mirror and then those gorgeous Caitlin Wilson pillows.  The pillows added that much-needed pop of colour and brightness to the space. I love the chest behind the sofa because it has that subtle pattern on the drawers and could serve as a great storage piece.

From this…


To this…


Thank you so much, Jennifer. It’s been such an inspiration and a real pleasure!

All images via JWS interiors (before picture from Design*Sponge).

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