How To Make Your Style A Reality :: An Interview with Stephanie Bradac

Does anyone else find it hard to translate the amazing decorating ideas you have in your head to your home? Sometimes it feels like I have great taste on Pinterest when in fact my own home is just like of…blah. But then there are some women who seem not only to have a vision for their home, but a supernatural ability to make those ideas come to life. I have a couple friends like that and this month they’ve agreed to share their secrets. We’ve already heard from ErinMargo, and Maria, all with their own brilliant ideas of what it means to bring style into your home, and today is the last installment of this fun series. Stephanie Bradac, author of the Mostaza Seed blog and the designer behind Mostaza Seed Graphics, lives in Joplin with her husband Nick and two adorable boys, Collin and Killian. I’m so excited to share her enlightening tips :: 

You have such a distinct taste. How do you think you developed and honed your style over the years?

I think my love for design started early. I can clearly remember admiring sorbet colored melamine dishes in my Swedish grandparent’s cupboards, the smooth teak of their Eames era Scandinavian chairs and the flecks of color in my great uncle’s ceramics. Their home was, and still is, such a cozy, artful place and source of inspiration.

When I was seven my family moved south of the border to do mission work. Growing up in Mexico fed my imagination as I learned to appreciate the heart and soul of rural, post-colonial Mexico with it’s adobe homes, terra-cotta roofs and colorful markets. All throughout childhood, one of my favorite things to do was help my mother decorate— be it our home or for church events such as weddings and quinceañeras.

In college I managed to squeeze in time, between studying and socializing… but mostly socializing, to hunt down goodies from the thrift stores and street markets of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. I prided myself on having real furniture in my pocket-sized dorm room, plenty of framed artwork to cover up cinderblock walls and a bevy of lamps so as to never turn on those horrible fluorescent lights!

Throughout my marriage to Nick, we’ve lived in four homes. I consider each home to have been a learning space/rough draft for the next. I can see how my style has evolved and matured with time. Last year, upon moving to Joplin, we purchased a 1913 American Foursquare. It needs a lot of TLC, but it’s been so fun to decorate! 

Even if I have ideas of what I’d like, I often feel frustrated when I can’t pull it off in my own home. What are some ways you bring your vision for your home to life?

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking through and visualizing the overall feel I want my home to have. Decide ahead of time, what style(s) you’d like your house to take on. Sometimes it’s helpful to rule out the feels you don’t want. If you are into a super modern aesthetic, then slowly phase out pieces with ornate details in favor of cleaner lines. If you consider yourself a cottage style person, then heavy, dark pieces aren’t going to help contribute to your home’s decorscape. There are trends and styles I greatly admire but do not use in my home— industrial minimalism or Southwestern decor, for example. It’s okay to say no to some things in order to say yes to others.

I try not to limit myself to just one particular style, so as to avoid the big box furniture showroom look. The juxtapostion of two looks like coastal and French or bohemian and farmhouse can be really powerful. Honing in on your combo style is helpful when shopping and a million and one pretty things of different styles jump out at you. Once your combo style is firmly established, bring in a few pieces that break the mold, but don’t introduce these items early on or else you’re likely to veer off from your intended look.

I love to decorate with vintage items, both for their interest and cheap price tag. Even if your style isn’t retro, pick up a few vintage pieces to make your space feel collected over time.

Finally, I don’t pin things on Pinterest that I wouldn’t or couldn’t execute in my home. Make your pin boards a true reflection of what you want and can achieve. Weed out looks that don’t go well with the style you settle on or would be impossible to pull off in your home. Write down specific colors/pieces you are interested in incorporating into your home and take that list shopping. Look for these items at Target, thrift stores, Craigslist, Etsy, flea markets, Ebay, estate sales, yard sales, etc. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things that aren’t on the list. It may take a few months or years to find everything you are looking for, but it will be worth it!

In your opinion, what’s the key to designing a living space that reflects your style?

I know it may sound a little kookie, but I like to assign an imaginary inhabitant to my house. Let’s call my home’s muse Suzy. She’s an artist/beatnick from the early 60’s— a time period where interior design had started to embrace a more modern aesthetic, but your average home was still pretty rooted in the romantic looks of the 40’s and cheerful looks of the 1950’s. It would be totally normal to see both mid-century modern and more traditional pieces in her home with punches of bold color and art. It would, however, be unrealistic to see her decorate with 1970’s macrame hanging baskets because they would be from the future. Does that make sense? When you are out hunting for pieces for your home, ask yourself “Would Suzy have this in her home?” Putting a face/personality to your home can help sort things out in your mind— at least it does for me.

You’re not a professional stylist, but I think your house makes you look like one! What is some of the best advice you’ve found for making your home look put together?

Gosh, that’s quite the compliment! Well, I know it flies up in the face of what I just said about adding in styles from the “future,” but I always like to incorporate some modern, on trend touches to my decorscape, like a chevron rug or bold horizontal striped curtains. Bold lines and solid colors can anchor a room that feels all over the place, making it look more styled and less like an episode of Hoarders.

I also pay attention to scale, color balance and depth. If the wall is large, I need to have lots of small things on it or one large piece to cover the space. If my room is light gray and my sofa is dark gray and my rug is blue, then I need to add some warm colored throw pillows and terracotta pots to balance things out and keep it from feeling too chilly. I try to keep the shades of the same four or five colors running throughout the entire house. If you have primarily flat items on your walls, consider hanging three dimensional items like shelves, antlers, shadow boxes or mountable knick knacks to add interest and depth.

And just because you bought something for your living room, doesn’t mean it needs to stay in the living room. It may turn out to look better in your bedroom or office. Don’t be afraid to move things around until you like how things look. I constantly revise and edit my spaces. Nothing is sacred.

What do you think is one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they’re trying to decorate?

Playing it safe. Identify what is trendy and what is classic. While it is wise not to spend a lot of money on trendy items that won’t stand the test of time, don’t be afraid to purchase a few fun pieces that will make your space pop. Some of my favorite décor moments involve big gambles.

What resources do you use for decorating? Pinterest? Magazines? Inspiration boards?

Yes to all of the above, but film sets and wardrobes are also great places to gather ideas for your home. I love the color scheme and combination of textures and fabrics in the movie Pollyanna— lots of 60’s mustard yellow, lace, pinstripes, nautical navy and crisp white. In The Sound of Music, the so-called ugly drapery used to make the Von Trapp kids’ clothing is a favorite. I also admire the combination of buttoned-up mid-century schoolgirl infused with rebel bohemian seen in the movie Mona Lisa Smile— earth-toned plaid with Navajo turquoise, floral embroidery with tufted velvet sofas, Jackson Pollack, muted pastels and vibrant reds… all set against the backdrop of beautiful Wellesley College. It’s so dreamy to me! Design*Sponge has a column called “Living In” which pulls décor inspiration from popular movies. That would be a great place to check out if you are in need of a launching point.

Another resource for home décor is current fashion. What is trending in the fashion world— color texture and print will likely show up next year in interior design. Right now, Radiant Orchid is Pantone’s color of the year and it’s all over clothing brands. Next year, you’ll see more variations of it in home furnishings and accessories.

Who’s your greatest design inspiration?

Hands down Emily Henderson. Homegirl can make the frumpiest chair look amazing. I admire her layering style and incorporation of vintage into everything she designs. When she was on Design Star I blogged about her being my design crush and she commented on my blog! So, I’m pretty much famous by association. ;)

Thanks so much, Stephanie! I’m totally geeking out over the fact that Emily Henderson talked to you!!! Eek! Also, the idea of imagining a character who lives in your house is just brilliant. I immediately saw how this could help making choices for your house that creates a cohesive style. I can’t wait to start putting all of these ideas to work in my house! 

What about you? Do you think Stephanie’s house is amazing? Any of her ideas strike a chord? What has stuck out most to you from this series? Do you have a particular combination of styles that make up your home? Farmhouse and boho? Beachy and French? How do you make design choices for your house? Do you ever feel like there are too many gorgeous styles to choose from?

Posted by Aanna on Monday, May 5th, 2014

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