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Interiors

Infusing Color and DIY Charm into a Cookie-Cutter Home in New Mexico

by Sabrina Smelko

There’s never a dull moment in the Naranjo family’s household. With three daughters (ages 13, 15 and 20), and two dogs (Liberty the Great Dane and Luka the Yorkie), time has flown by for Nichol and her husband Dominic.

After buying this starter tract home in Albuquerque, NM a decade ago, the plan was to tackle some light renovations and flip it a few years later. But, as Nichol points out, “then the market crashed.” Forced to stay in this home for longer than they anticipated, Nichol has since gone above and beyond to infuse it with some much-needed character and charm. “We actually bought our house before seeing floor plans or a model home, and luckily, we still love it. The lack of character has only been met as a challenge, one that I welcome,” she shares.

Throughout the process, Nichol found a passion for interior decorating and design, one which has inspired her to make it a profession. She’s still homeschooling her youngest daughter, Téa, but after she enters high school in the near future, Nichol plans to launch her business beyond Instagram. Despite the fun she has designing her own home, she was quick to realize that there’s only so much that decorating can fix. “My wheels are constantly turning as I walk through or sit down in any room in our house,” she says, “but I wish I had more living space for dinner parties, etc. Our bedrooms are quite large and if ever we move, I would rather have that square footage in the areas where we entertain!”

A functional and beautiful refuge for the whole family, “and anyone else who comes into our home,” Nichol’s goal with the interior was to create a space that feels safe and comfortable. “Life can be difficult for everyone at some point,” she admits, “and I want my home to feel like an escape from any difficulties, if even for a moment.” –Sabrina

Photography by Dominic Naranjo

Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The Naranjo family's entryway is narrow, but still welcoming -- thanks to the bubblegum pink door and the loyal canine welcoming committee, Liberty and Luka. "I had been wanting a pink door for quite some time, so I ran a few options by my husband and tackled it one day while he was at work," she says. "The fresh coat of paint turned a builder-grade door into something fun and people always ask about it, or try to talk their own husbands into a pink door. I love it."
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The whole family enjoying the sun in their backyard. From left to right: Liberty (Great Dane), Michaela, Téa, Luka (yorkie), JeNée, Nichol and Dominic.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"I have always loved galley kitchens," Nichol explains, "so it was a pleasant surprise when we discovered our house had one." Again, Nichol was challenged to make the best of the builder-grade features, such as the cabinets which hung low, leaving oodles of unused space above them. Rather than investing in new cabinets, Nichol and Dominic created their own storage solution out of PVC piping that they spray-painted gold. Inspired by french bistro shelving, their shelves totaled $100! In addition, they also painted their countertops white. "Another easy, inexpensive DIY," she says.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The view of the kitchen on any given week: Luka inspecting as Nichol gives the household plants a check-up and bath. String lights illuminate the open shelves and add some warmth to the space. The star light pendant is a vintage hand-me-down from Nichol's mother, and the brass birds on the wall were found at a local thrift store.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"Our dining area is small, so I took advantage of our 9 1/2 foot ceilings and tried to force the eye upward with the velvet curtains," Nichol shares. The multi-colored rug hides a multitude of spilled food, drinks, and dog/people traffic. The curtains and curtain rods are from West Elm, the Carrera marble table is from Crate & Barrel, the chairs are from Jay Companies, and the sheepskin throws and pink driftwood whale are from HomeGoods.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The vintage chandelier that hangs above their dining table was found at a local antique store. "It's from 1963, and I often think of the dinners it has been a part of and illuminated," Nichol says. "I mean, it sat above someone's dining table while John F. Kennedy was president for goodness sakes!" Atop the table are geometric candleholders from Nate Berkus' collection for Target.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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On a small section of wall hangs a print of the Beverly Hills Hotel by Slim Aarons on top of some fun palm wallpaper. "I love the feel and color it brings to the space," Nichol says. Beyond Liberty, you can spot the banquette.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"Our living space is an awkward rectangular shape that has a lot of wasted space," Nichol explains. "So I wanted an area where we could have breakfast, play games, or where my girls could do homework and still feel like they're a part of everything going on downstairs. I knew what I wanted for the bench and could not find anything that met my wants, so my husband offered to try and build one. Again, he is very handy!" After Nichol sent him a few DIY tutorials she found on Pinterest, he tackled it. The velvet curtains were found on sale at Target and the rattan swivel chair was found on Craigslist for $15.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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Part of Nichol's design philosophy is about creating zones. By building a banquette in a corner of their living room, she practically created a new room dedicated to homework, breakfast, crafts and hanging out.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"Our living room has a couple of fur throws for nights in front of the television when we want to watch the latest show we love," Nichol shares. The ship chandelier gets a lot of oohs and aahs, which Nichol relishes in. "I really don't like to take myself too seriously when it comes to design." The large photos above the sofa were taken by Dominic (a hobbyist photographer) from a vacation they took to Hawaii. "The various leis/necklaces you see throughout (on lamps and above the mantel) are also from various vacations."
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The view opposite the sofa. The rug is from Costco, the coffee table is from World Market, the mirrored dining buffet (which Nichol uses as a TV console) is from Pier 1, and the turquoise encrusted jaw above the TV is a vintage piece from the 70s. In a shadow box beneath is a sawfish bill that Dominic found on a beach while on vacation.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The floor plan of their family home.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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Nichol and Dominic's master bedroom, which just underwent a makeover. The Elvis and Priscilla print above the bed took a little bit of convincing for Dominic on Nichol's part, "but he loves it now! It's obviously a totally personal choice, and I knew people would either love or hate it, but all that matters is that we love it," Nichol says. "My mom is the biggest Elvis fan, and her fandom wore off on me." The bamboo frame is a DIY project made from materials Nichol and Dominic already had, the bed is from West Elm, and the little fringe stool is from Target.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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The view opposite their bed. "Our eight-foot Norfolk Island Pine was a free Craigslist find," Nichol explains. "The lady who gave him to us (Linda) had him for 23 years and simply didn't have the space for him anymore. She never named him, but said they had lived through a lot together and she nearly cried as we drove off. I have since named him Linda's Tree." The wallpaper in the fireplace insert was leftover from the dining room feature wall, and the light fixture is from IKEA.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"Our middle daughter's bedroom represents her well," Nichol says. "She is such a free-spirited and very artistic girl. She listens to her records almost anytime she is home and she loves mixing patterns." The white and pink floral quilt came from Nichol's childhood home. "I love that she loves it as much as I did as a girl," Nichol adds.
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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In their eldest daughter JeNée's bedroom is a huge collage wall she created on her own. "She, too, is free-spirited... She created all on her own and I absolutely love it. It's very telling of who she is."
Infusing Color, Life, and DIY Charm to a Cookie-Cutter Family Home in Albuquerque, New Mexico
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"Our youngest daughter's bedroom is very much her as well," Nichol begins, "It's very glamorous and sparkly!" Téa loves fashion, which is reflected in the amount of clothing she has as it spills out of her closet and onto a clothes rack.
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People, pets, plants and good vibes. That's what the Naranjo family and their home is all about!

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