interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: lauren nelson

by anne

lauren nelson
is a prop stylist and interior designer who dabbles with art and currently lives in cambridge, massachusetts with her fiance gabe. the two moved to massachusetts from california with nothing but their clothes, bikes, books and a handful of things they just couldn’t live without (quite opposite to the life of a prop stylist who makes a living collecting things). but what it meant was a blank canvas and a lot of creativity (tight budget meant lots of diy). so lauren re-purposed used and found furniture, salvaged materials, and employed local craftsmen to help (which is a great way to meet people, turn neighbors into friends, get to know a new area and support local businesses). we hope you’re as inspired by her home as we are! enjoy the full post below, and click here for additional images. {thanks, lauren!} anne

[photos by hector sanchez and lauren nelson]

[above: Our front door has the most character of anything in this house.  I am not a stain-glass kinda gal, but this is so old and geometric and charming. And the light that comes through in the late afternoon is amazing. We’ve never been cold-weather people, so coming to New England was an adjustment for both of us. We stay well-stocked with scarves and boots at the ready by the door. What can I say, scarves are in my blood, I don’t leave home without them.]

The coffee table is my favorite thing in this room. I found an old barn door at a salvaged wood lumber yard in Cambridge, bought it for $50 and planned to use it as a tabletop by raising it on old wheels. So I went on the hunt for the perfect casters and found some during a trip to NY, where I found a set of old steel caster wheels that were once used on railroad carts. I found a local woodworker (friend of my neighbor) to finish & seal the tabletop and attach the wheels.

The chippendale bamboo chairs were a hand-me-down from my mom. They came with dated floral covered seat cushions, so I had those recovered in a neutral herringbone fabric, and decided to keep the original finish (despite my original intentions of painting them a fun color).  I thought it just worked with the rest of the pieces in the room, and I can paint anytime if I get inspired! With neutral cushions, it’s a blank slate for any re-decorating mood I’m in.

My desk space is tiny, but I try to utilize the walls as much as possible, with fabrics, tearsheets, anything that inspires me ad my projects at the moment. My makeshift wire clothesline works well for to play around with fabrics, mixing and matching, and not take up needed desk space.

The white chairs are part of a dining set I bought from a sweet older couple in Waltham (found them on Craigslist) who invited me in for tea when I went to go pick them up.  That was my first week here, and it was a pleasant surprise after people warning me that people aren’t as friendly in Boston as in CA.  They were stained an unattractive brown with seat cushions in a dated rust-colored fabric.  I primed and painted them an antique white, then covered them in a blue & white ikat fabric.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Lauren’s sneak peek after the jump!

The table was one of the only pieces of furniture I bought from a store, Anthropologie – a favorite. I had been eying it for a months, but out of my budget.  Then saw it for 80% off because it was defective – the base was tilted.  All it took was a rubber mallet and some muscle to pound it into shape! The vintage glass jars are from antique shops in MA and CT, and the large soda bottle in the middle is from a trip to Argentina. I like to put fresh cut flowers in these during spring & summer, and use them on the dinner table.

Cooking is a second love, maybe even a first, next to decorating. I keep my spices and loose leaf teas within arms reach on my magnetic stainless steel board I mounted on the wall near the stove.

The T-back dining chairs came from a sweet old man up the street from me who had a warehouse of antiques that he’d been collecting for decades and restoring – anything and everything you could imagine. I recovered a few of the seats that were covered in an old printed fabric. I kept the leather ones as is – I loved the look of the old worn leather.  Taking apart the seats was like a time warp into the past, seeing the padding they used to use (shredded raffia-like wood) and the rusted tacks. the overhead lights in nearly all of the rooms are pendants from old schoolhouses that my landlord installed when he renovated several years ago. I fell in love with the place as soon as we walked in to view it.

I’m a big fan of using mix-matched dinnerware and vintage silverware – you can find loads at estate sales and on Ebay.

The idea behind this room stemmed from my approach to cooking recently: rustic, simple, communal. That starts with a big table.  I’ve always wanted a huge wood slab dining table, long enough for tons of people to enjoy meals together.  I partnered with a local woodworker (a friend of my upstairs neighbor) to source oak from fallen trees outside of his woodshop.  I sketched a design, and he worked his magic to make us our dream farm table.  I love that the wood was used from an old tree that had died, and had been sitting in his woodshop for years waiting for a purpose.  We use the table all the time since we love to entertain.  Having a local CSA share, with more food than we can possible eat ourselves, we’re constantly cooking dinners for friends & neighbors.  I’ve also used the table for my Homegrown Supperclub dinners too.

I made the shelf from a piece of salvaged walnut wood (from the same lumbar yard), cut it in half, and then mounted it on the wall with brackets from Anthropologie that I painted.  The other half of wood is in our kitchen.  I found the brass & silver candlesticks at a local thrift shop and perched air plants in each one. I sometimes keep potted herbs and bud vases up here too.

The wall of frames is always changing….I bought a ton of frames from thrift shops, and deconstructed them when I got home.  I started with empty frames,  layered with no pictures….and sometime we rotate in photos we take from travels, and weekend trips. I took the glass out of the frames because it felt less formal that way, and shows of the texture of the paper I have them printed on.

Gabe’s always been into music, and luckily this house gave us enough room to set up his turn tables AND have enough space for my office. He plays records at local bars, and the painting above his table is one I made while living on Los Angeles.

I love reinventing my bedroom with each move.  I’m usually a huge fan of color, but this time around I wanted a simple, soothing palette of grey, black and white.  With the exception of the red lamp because I couldn’t help myself. After lugging it 3,000 miles I figured it deserved the spotlight in a neutral room.

On our dresser, we have a collection of odds and ends from both Gabe and I, mostly from our travels.

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  • This is the most amazing and inspiring Sneak Peak I’ve ever seen! Lauren and Gabe’s home is full of such warmth and personality and I am re-inspired to get at my DIY projects that have been accumulating. Love it!!!!

  • I’m not sure what I love more, the coffee table or the magnetic spice tins!

    Would you mind sharing what your bedding is? It looks amazingly comfy.

  • Beautiful house! It’s great that the chippendale bamboo chairs were not painted over. They look great as they are! The white chairs with the blue and white ikat fabric and white table look perfect too!

  • The spice tins get my vote! I have them on my fridge but mine are alphabetized *blush* I’d love to be able to step outside of myself and make art out of them!

  • what a beautiful space! i love that red lamp. and that table in the living room is gorgeous.. old and the pieces were repurposed beautifully!

  • sigh, just lovely! the breakfast table and chairs are to die for. I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of the day….:)

  • Absolutely love what Lauren did to her place; stylishly eclectic!

    Her creative use of things out of context from the barn door coffee table to the candlesticks used as mini planters are too cool. It’s just how we like to think!

    Our Chief Home Design Officer, Theresa Strickland, says that all the time. “Break the rules” and use things out of context to get creative. And, Theresa is all about mix-and-matching dinnerware too! She shared this tip with our deck makeover winner recently.

  • I need that magnetic board with the spices in my life. Like, right now. that is so hot! truly, all of these pics were just a joy.

  • It may be because I’m from the area (and now live in Los Angeles!) but this is one of my favorite houses. I love what you’ve done with all the thrifted and re-purposed furniture, especially the kitchen table.

  • Your staghorn ferns are so happy and beautiful! Your home shows what interesting and fun people you are!

  • I have a habit of collecting empty antique frames too, but I hadn’t thought of framing smaller framed pictures!

    Loved every picture.

    My only criticism is that old desk fans, coral, and of course, antlers are predictable decorations for hipsters. I can’t blame you though, I’m attracted to them myself. It’s like when everyone starts naming their babies Jack and Clementine.

  • Lovely home! I’m continually amazed at how versatile the IKEA expedit bookshelf is. It is so fun to see it used in other spaces. The dining room shelf with glass bottles and bedroom shot are some of my favorites.

  • Wow. I love everything she has done. I especially love how she’s been creative with grouping things: candlesticks, vases, frames on the walls. With a pop of color here and there (loving the lamps) she keeps the background neutral which, she’s totally right, allows for more flexibility in changing around the decor on a whim.
    Love this. And, I might add, I just searched this blog for the first time. I am in-love and at home here…

  • I love the rugs! If you don’t mind my asking… where did you get the living room and office rugs?
    Thanks for the peak!

  • I have those magnetic spice jars too, they are found at Costco’s World Market. I placed mine on metal pizza trays, and everyone does a double take once they realize it’s functional art!

  • I love, love, love your home! I currently have a set of ‘antique’ frames hanging on my wall. Was planning on putting mirrors in htem, but now i have changed my mind. Your frames look absolutely wonderful!

    One question…. what kind of wall paint did you use for that wall? Thank you.

  • i am OBSESSED with this house… this is my exact design style, to a t. i just moved near cambridge, i’m very inspired. :)

  • Great house! And nice to know you learned that we New Englanders are not unfriendly, we’re just a different kind of warm than Californians. ;-)

  • Beautiful! I love the chippendale chairs and sheets the best! Also the kitchen still life with the artichokes! Just lovely, Lauren!

  • from one lauren to another, sweet christ, woman, your DIY is awesome. these spaces make me want to start six projects at once (and overrule with gusto when my husband claims that hoarding frames is a bad idea). thank you for the inspiration!

  • what lovely home!

    that front door is so charming, amazing!

    the spice jars are great! i need those, i hate having to put mine away so neatly all the time to prevent knocking them all out of the cabinet when i reach for one.

  • Um, I might have drooled a little. Totally gorgeous. I especially covet those black and white tile print sheets.

  • Such a beautiful home! I recently moved & have been pulling my place together. Thanks for sharing your inspiring design ideas – I just love the frames in your dining room!

  • I realize that the dining room set I inherited from my parents is the same as the chairs you got, painted and reupholstered with the blue and white Ikea fabric. I’ve been agonizing about the set as it doesn’t really fit into our CA ranch in it’s current condition: dark stain with rust color fabric seat covering! I think your post just might have resolved a HUGE dilemma!
    Thank you!
    P.S. I’ve been coveting that Anthropologie table, too!

  • Their front door is so beautiful – I love all the stained glass. And the breakfast room has a lovely warm and fresh feeling (I can’t get past those lovely old bottles, and the print on the chairs).

  • what a charming place! I love the way they mixed and matched! fabulous style…and looks so comfortable as well!

  • I was at a baby shower this evening and the house was decorated with stuff from Hobby Lobby or somewhere… yawnful vases and irrelevant fake flowers and boxes and other crap. It was sad and cold.

    Thank you for making me feel better with this sincere, warm and worth-a-second-look sneak peek!! :)

  • You’re a design genius, Lauren! I love your strong point of view & eclectic style. Are you taking on new design clients? You would be a dream to work with.

  • Really, really lovely. Would you please share the name of that watery light green paint on the walls of the dining room?

  • The dining table is beautiful, but my favorite is the coffee table is a great idea. Industrial wheels are spectacular.

  • It’s beautiful! Any idea where the wall hanging plants came from? I believe that’s what they are…thanks

  • Wonderful sense of style and such warm and humble descriptions.

    If cooking and decorating are your first loves, gardening must be up there too. I’m inspired by the geometric flowers and houseplants. I’d love to hear more about the staghorn ferns on the walls – how are they planted and cared for?

  • Beautiful home! To me it always refreshing to see homes that are DIY but don’t have that crappy DIY look. Ok- that didn’t sound like such a great compliment, but I swear it is!

  • You were right about the chairs. Lime, hotpink or orange would have looked cool but I think it would be really dated in a couple of years. Going with your instincts is best.

  • As a fellow Cambridge-ian, it’s always inspiring to know what amazing things your neighbors could be doing… and with resources right down the street. Really makes me want to take my diy to the next level!

  • Wow, I absolute love this home. It looks so beautiful yet comfortable. I would also love to know the colour of the paint in the bedroom. And I love the empty frames as wall decor. Genius!

  • Oh, I love the coffee table. One day when the kids are grown I will get to have a cool coffee table. My kids would see that as an indoor roller coaster.

  • Hi everyone,
    First thank you for all the wonderful comments – you’re too kind!

    I also wanted to answer some questions…

    1. Yes, I am taking new clients! Please e-mail me at lnelson22@gmail.com to discuss. You also can see more of my work on http://www.laurennelson.net.

    2. the rugs are from West Elm – still selling last time I checked

    3. paint colors – don’t have on hand and am overseas…will have to get back to you on that

    4. staghorn ferns – I’m starting to see them more and more at nurseries, call ahead and ask if they have staghorn ferns. I soak the bases once every 1-2 weeks in water for 20 mins, and they’re good to go.

    thanks again D*S family!

  • What a beautifully styled home! I’m in love with the wood dining table.

    Does anyone know the name/designer of the yellow and gray fabric hanging above the desk?

  • Amazing home! I also live in Cambridge and am wondering which lumber yard you found some of your salvaged pieces. If anyone has any good suggestions for someplace in the cambridge area please let me know :)

  • i’d also love to know where i can get the blue ikat fabric, been looking for something exactly like this!

  • I’d love to know where the yellow and gray fabric tacked on the wall above the desk is from. Thanks!

  • Wow! Lauren you are a truly talented designer!! One of my very favorites that I’ve seen lately for sure!

  • Dear Laureen,you transmitted,a very cozy home,and hope you carry all this beatiful stuff to L.A.,but I am sure ,that you`ll make a home wherever you end with Gaby,to both of you ,lot of LOVE for your togetherness,from URUGUAY,Tìa Sara de Hirsch

  • any chance you can tell me the name of the yellow fabric pinned up on the wall above the desk – i have been looking for something exactly like that!

  • Alrighty, I am back from a 2 month traveling hiatus in Africa, and can now hopefully answer all of your questions (apologies for the delay!):

    Ikat fabric: Pindler & Pindler (sorry don’t have pattern #)

    Yellow & Gray Fabric: Duralee 20946, 66 Yellow

    Lumbar Yard: Longleaf Lumber

    Paint colors:
    (All ACE)
    Kitchen & living room: Desert Palm D23-3
    Dining room: Fresh Olive, D26-3
    Office: Tara 191 E
    (can’t find bedroom color for the life of me)

    I think that covers it…?
    Happy decorating!

    • hi kiki!

      i’ve gotten nice casters at home depot in nyc, but you can also find vintage ones at olde good things and ebay/etsy.


  • Hi,
    I was wondering what fabric designer that yellow swatch all the way to the left above your desk is? I really love it!

  • “My, my, my…my dear,
    Lauren, you instinctively have sublime taste, creativity and talent, surging through your veins. Honesty and boldness, along with forthright thoughtful design statements abound without being fussy. Effortless style and grace permeate your rooms. The mere fact that you had a spare room to very cleverly use as Gabe’s dj studio, exemplifies your inclusion of your partner’s hobbies, while clearly making your home day to day livable, not only for yourself and guests, but for your man. Believe you me, YOU are a whirling dervish design force to be reckoned with…. kudos!”