My favorite homes are those that are made up of a balanced mix of textures, materials, patterns and colors, where it’s difficult to pin it down to a single style. In just a few square feet of any room in
Katie Vail‘s home, you’re sure to find leopard print, gold, Lucite, wood, metal and polka dots. Her Columbia, Maryland apartment is flirty and light while flaunting plenty of character and boldness, and it’s this complex mix that I’d use to describe Katie herself. As a former Army Captain, Katie is regimented and rises before the sun to run or hit the gym with her husband, Tom, an EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) officer in the Army. And though she’s strong-willed and hard-working, she’s also charmingly down-to-earth, super-sweet and loves exploring her creative side through her blog Life with a Dash of Whimsy and with her online Etsy store, DashOfVintageWhimsy.
Katie and Tom are newlyweds and have lived in this space for just under seven months, and though they’re aware they may have to up and move at any time given their transient lifestyle (Katie’s hoping for Germany or Hawaii next!), Katie spared no expense when it came to decorating and making their apartment a home. After all, Katie and Tom know more than anyone how important home base is.
Photography by Sarah Bradshaw.
Katie has a love for artwork and gallery walls. This one features her favorite color combo, pink and blue.
Katie got her sofa for free from her parents' neighbor, Carol, a real estate agent who had just sold the house of an elderly woman who was moving into an assisted living home. She couldn't bring all of her furniture with her, so she asked Carol to get rid of it for her. Katie just happened to be home the weekend Carol was selling it at a yard sale and she knew immediately she had to have it for the shape and lines of it alone. After a quick re-upholstery in this fun ikat print, it's one of Katie's favorite pieces, and the one she's most proud of.
Katie stapled sheepskin from IKEA onto what she describes as a once-ugly footstool. "It kind of reminds me of the little stool that was really a dog from Beauty and the Beast!" she laughs.
These two ghost chairs add seating without adding visual bulk. The Spanish posters in the kitchen were bought on a trip to Spain one spring break while Katie was at West Point.
Decorating and styling bookcases is one of Katie's favorite things to do.
Katie's gallery walls evolve over time, resulting in many holes. But the good news is you can always cover them up by adding more and more art to the cluster!
Katie and Tom used an old bamboo screen as a pseudo-headboard. The vintage campaign nightstand on the right was a Salvation Army find.
"I love this little reading nook," says Katie, "It's nice and cozy, plus it's the only place my second wingback chair would fit!"
Most of the art in the Vail home has been collected while traveling, but this colorful abstract painting of a woman was bought at TJ Maxx. "It manages to tie in all the crazy colors of our home," explains Katie, "so even though it's not a sentimental piece, I really love it."
The dresser was rather nondescript before Katie switched up the knobs to make it more fun. The garland was made by a friend of Katie's for her bridal shower last year.
"I'm a sucker for a pretty place to display my jewelry," says Katie. The black and white polka dot curtain serves as their closet door. Katie used the same fun material to make pillows in their living room.
A variety of thrifted dishes hold Katie's earrings and a large apothecary jar holds her bracelets.
The only place Katie's work desk would fit in the apartment was beside their bed, which Katie doesn't mind! She made the bulletin board using an old frame and some fabric.
Katie spray-painted the brackets of her IKEA shelf gold, along with her once-green-and-yellow pineapple jar. The nude sketch of a mother and child was bought at a thrift store.
Their bathroom is tiny, but works for the time being.
Style and function are both really important to Katie, so creating extra storage space that actually looks pretty was essential. "I had a different shelf up here earlier that I didn't hang properly and it crashed down one day and shattered the toilet lid and a few glass canisters holding bath salts shattered too," says Katie, "Needless to say, it was a huge mess!"
Katie loves using pieces in places that you wouldn't expect them, such as this little tray table. "It's perfect for tucking next to the tub," she says.
The dining area is a bit compact, but there was no way Katie wasn't going to use her beloved marble dining table in the space! It was a challenge for Katie to figure out how to make two sides of a bookcase look presentable, but it was a fun challenge.
Katie bought this handmade Afghan carpet while she was deployed to Afghanistan. "I had the whole rug-buying experience, where they bring out the different rugs and throw them out in front of you," she says, "It was pretty surreal and I'm glad that I was able to take home such a unique piece." The dining chairs were a thrift store find that Katie spray painted and re-upholstered. Can you tell she likes spots?
Katie loves hosting dinner parties and cooking for people. While she prefers to keep things casual with crisp white dishes, she loves jazzing it up a bit with vintage gold flatware.
Their small but mighty kitchen.
"Our kitchen is itty-bitty so I had to get creative and figure out a way to create more shelf space," she says, "Even though these metal shelves look super industrial they present such a great opportunity to decorate with our kitchen items!"
Katie keeps her cookbooks handy so they're available and ready when the mood strikes! The pig bookends are from CB2 and add a playful touch. "We eat more bacon than we should so they are definitely fitting."
Katie found their fruit "basket" at an antique mall in Georgia. It's actually an old wooden bowl used to raise bread dough. Katie's collection of wine stoppers has been gathered and kept from all of her travels and reminds her of countless fun trips. The Lucite and brass wine rack was a flea market find in Albuquerque.
Katie's white IKEA bookcase is such a great versatile workhorse piece for any home. It's currently holding their dishes, books, knick-knacks and crafting supplies.
"This gallery wall has morphed many times in the few short months we've lived here," says Katie. "I fully believe that you should add a little dimension to your gallery walls, so the 'V' and the animal head make it look more interesting."
The bar cart was a Salvation Army find that Katie and Tom keep in front of the fireplace when they don't have a fire going. The turtle shell was spray painted gold and fits the space between the mantel and fireplace. Katie found the bust for $25 while home visiting her parents in Atlanta.