Q&A: Design blogger KariAnne Wood on how to find your unique style

May 30, 2019

Dallas lifestyle blogger KariAnne Wood of Thistlewood Farms has written many posts about finding your own look at home. Kari Anne, whose book "The DIY Style Finder" came out last March, has many ideas for DIY touches to figure out how you can personalize indoor and outdoor spaces so they reflect you. Thistlewood Farms, the blog which she started in 2011, gives lots of tips on home decorating, gardening, painting and organizing.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

In Kari Anne Wood's new book "The DIY Style Finder: Discover Your Unique Style and Decorate it Yourself",  the Dallas lifestyle blogger she gives tips on finding your one-of-a-kind look. Wood's popular blog Thistlewood Farms has lots of ideas to personalize indoor and outdoor spaces so they reflect you through gardening, painting and organizing. Let's chat.

Hello everyone!  My name is KariAnne Wood!  I write a blog over at https://thistlewoodfarms.com and I'm so excited to be here today to talk about my new book The DIY Style Finder and answer all your questions!

How do you lighten up a room with little natural daylight without increasing light fixtures.

One of the easiest ways to do that is to add a mirror on a wall facing a window. It reflects the light from the window and helps illuminate the space. Also---it's a good idea to keep the walls and moldings light in the space. That helps keep a room light and bright.

What tips do you have to upgrading our bathroom on a budget?

A simple way to upgrade a bathroom is to update the fixtures. Gold is really on trend right now and it makes a space feel fresh. Add new faucets and towel bars and other fixtures to the space.

New towels are a fun accent, too!

How can I incorporate more textures in my home to make a more appealing look?

Love this question!

Texture is such a fun way to update your space! I'd start with pillows and throws for your family room. Over-sized chunky throws can be layered over chairs or baskets or a ladder. Next, add pillows with texture---knitted pillows or woven pillows. It's an easy way to make your room feel cozy!

Hi KariAnne! I have a brick fireplace in my living room. What are your thoughts on painting brick? I’d love to lighten up the room a bit. Thanks!

YES!  I love painting brick!  We just painted our outdoor brick steps!  You can see the project here:  https://thistlewoodfarms.com/how-to-paint-brick-front-steps-and-porch/

It made such a difference!  We also have a fireplace in our home that we painted and it transformed the space! Just make sure that the paint that you choose works for brick.  Check with your local paint store before painting!

I’m painting my cabinets a darker color. They do not go all the way to the ceilings and have white molding on the top. It is a spacious kitchen, lots of natural light, and 9’ ceilings. Several have recommended that I paint the trim the same as the cabinets. Any thoughts?

I'd agree with others who suggested that you paint the trim! You don't want your eyes to stop at the white trim. I'd paint the moldings to match the cabinets. 

You also might think about extending the cabinets all the way to the ceiling.  Here's a post I wrote that explains how to remodel a kitchen on a budget: https://thistlewoodfarms.com/how-to-remodel-a-kitchen-on-a-budget/

Is the kitchen banquette style seating staying strong or on the way out?

I think kitchen banquette seating is here to stay! I've seen so many fun spaces lately with built-in banquettes. It's a fun way to add extra seating to your room. 

I'm on team kitchen banquette.

We have an unusual style home.... timber frame, mountain lodge. The challenge of decorating- - it is not farmhouse, not primitive, not really even country... I find myself watching the TV series Yellowstone and copying what I see!!! Help me!!! Teresa @ Lost Mule Lodge

Teresa---you got this friend! Your style is your own and you should embrace it. For a log cabin house---I'd work with it---not against it. 

Maybe neutrals with layers of texture? And then a pop of color every so often? That would really let the wood shine!

Hi there. I was wondering what your most favorite tips are to add color to a Neutral Farmhouse Living Room. Also... how do you feel about layering rugs? Thank you so much!

YES! I love layering rugs. 

When I do this---I start with a large neutral rug---like a seagrass or sisal. Then, I layer in a smaller rug that has more color. You can see how I've done that on the blog here:  https://thistlewoodfarms.com/easy-tip-maximizing-rug-budget/

Also---you can combine two smaller rugs together, too! It's a great budget saving tip. You can see how I've done that here: https://thistlewoodfarms.com/how-to-combine-two-smaller-rugs-to-make-one-larger-one/

Kari Anne what are some tips to make a smaller room like a bedroom (that would have a bed and dresser and nightstand) look bigger? Or what about a living room that might have a large tv and a couple tables and sofa and love seat? Is there way to make them look bigger or should we get rid of some of the furniture?

Great question!

In a bedroom to save space---I try and incorporate built-ins wherever possible---especially in the closet. For example, in a bedroom I just worked on, the room layout was a little awkward and didn't leave room for a dresser. Instead, we added a built-in dresser to the closet and saved space in the main area.

I want my house to look updated, but don’t have a lot of money to spend. What are some key things you would tell me to do without breaking the budget?

I'm all about saving money when it comes to decorating. Here are my top three tips:

1. It's yard sale season now! I try and shop at yard sales whenever possible---they have some of the best bargains out there and it makes it easy to decorate a room on a budget!

2. Bring the outside in. Create vignettes on your mantel and your coffee table with simple branches that you've clipped from your yard. You can also add branches to a flower arrangement to make a $5 arrangement from the grocery store look so much more expensive.

3. Sometimes shopping your home is one of the easiest ways to "re-decorate" on a budget. Look around and find things that work in new places in your home. Move a chair or a rug to a different room and make your home look like new without spending a dime.

What are your three ways to incorporate family photos into my home?

Family photos are wonderful!

Here are three ways to incorporate them into your space:

1. gallery wall---I love the idea of a gallery wall going up the stairs or on a big blank wall in your home. Mix the pictures in with different items to keep the look fresh.

2. over-sized---One fun way to display family photos is to enlarge the photos and add a row to a wall over a mantel or focal point in the room.

3. personalized frames---I like to personalize family photos from an event or special occasion with a personalized frame engraved with the date of the event.

What types of lighting should I consider to make my style? Should I use table lamps, floor lamps or fixtures?

The ideal option would to have three sources of light in a space. For example, you might need a table lamp in a corner by a chair for conversation, an overhead lamp for reading in another corner of the room and lastly, an overhead fixture for overall room lighting.

Also, let the tasks you need to work on in the room dictate the lighting needs for the space.

Hi!! What are some of your favorite places to shop???

LOL!  Shopping is my favorite thing to do on the planet. :)

I'll start with yard sales! You can find so many bargains there and it's a great way to decorate a home on a budget.

I love to shop at Hobby Lobby for signs.

I love to shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond for bedding.

I love to shop at Target for inexpensive home accessories that are super trendy.

I love to shop at Lamps Plus for lighting.

I love to shop at thrift stores for vintage finds.

Basically---I love to shop anywhere. :)

Hi Kari Anne - as a bachelor I find the color blending a challenge for me because I am more conservative in style but I don't want drab and I don't want anything too over the top (Im not that creative) are there certain accessories or home décor items you recommend for men that would appeal to guests and impress women? I know many have a man cave with sports memorabilia and cars etc but that isn't necessarily my style but Im not one that can hang plates etc... I need your help :) Thank you Bob

Bob---you got this! I'd start with neutrals in your home. Maybe a basic neutral (leather or khaki couch) and a set of chairs in a neutral as well. Look for unique accessories for your home that represent you and let your style shine through. You want your home to let others know about your personal style through the accessories that you choose for your home!

What is your suggestion to those who dont favor the color white - what are the best colors to brighten a room especially in places where sun light is limited during the year and for those who may not want really bright colors? Or should we rely more on the furniture and accessories to brighten a room?

I completely understand! White can seem a little boring to people who like color in their spaces!  What about a light neutral? Maybe a khaki color for the walls? Sherwin-Williams makes a great neutral khaki called SW Sandbar that I have in my own home and recommend all the time for clients. Then, I'd add color to your space with accessories and textiles. You can change those out when want to change up your look!

I’m working on a bathroom remodel and have been on the hunt for gold fixtures and sconces, but can’t seem to find anything I love that won’t break the bank. Any suggestions? What are you favorite sources?

I just ordered the cutest gold fixtures for the space from Wayfair. You can see them in this space here:  https://thistlewoodfarms.com/bathroom-remodeling-ideas/

Wayfair has a great selection of gold fixtures. For sconces? I'd recommend Lamps Plus! They have a great selection, too!

What are the most effective ways to achieve a French eclectic style in my 1978 condo? Sharon in Seattle

French eclectic is such a fun style! I'd shop vintage shops and thrift stores for unique finds with French flair. Look for woven baskets and chairs with a beautiful patina and aged textiles. Stack monogrammed french linens in baskets or on top of white ware. Create a display for your wall with decorative white plates.

You might also look for beautiful french frames or clocks for your space.  

Hi, My teen daughter's room is painted BM bunny gray with light oak furniture. She has a yellow throw on the bed, teal blanket, white duvet, and white curtains. Any suggestions for a color or pattern for a rug? I think it could use some pattern, although it's not a large room.

 Maybe an overall floral pattern that might help ground the space? What about coral? That might mix nicely with the color palette that you've already put together.

You could also go with a multi-colored pattern that picked up all the colors that you have in the space. I love the idea of a rug pulling the entire room together. 

I’m finishing up my dining room, which is in a big open space, but situated away from windows so we don’t have much natural light. We have a great big farm table. It’s my favorite piece in the house, but the beautiful natural wood is getting lost in the darkness. I’d like to hang cluster pendants, but we’re only wired for a single fixture. What do you suggest?

There are so many lighting options out there right now that might work. What about a fixture that has a horizontal aesthetic? You can see one option that I just used in this living room:  https://thistlewoodfarms.com/how-do-you-say-peony/

You can see how the light fixture visually extends the space. A horizontal light fixture (instead of a cluster of fixtures) might work over the table instead.

What are some easy & affordable ways to update/transform a space with lighting?

I love changing out the light bulbs in a space. It's amazing how different colors of light bulbs transform a space from warm and cozy to bright and inviting. You can also put your fixtures on a dimmer---that's an easy way to change the room depending on your mood.

I also always recommend three points of light in any space! You want to illuminate all the corners of the room and the easiest way to do that is with lighting!

Post Point Code


Where can I look for inspiration if I DON'T want to follow design trends? Not that I'm above trends per se, but I'm personally not crazy about a lot of current trends (besides plants) and I know I don't have the budget/energy to continue "updating" and keep my house from looking dated a couple years down the road. I looked at the Style Week series on your blog and none of the styles are really what I'm looking for, and all the other magazines and blogs I find are so same-y I can't find enough images of things that speak to me to even figure out what to search for or figure out how to describe what's "my style" (or train my pinterest algorithm, lol). Help!

You are amazing friend! And I love the idea that you don't want to follow design trends---because truly---your style is your own. Categories of design style are there to provide options and help people figure out what they like---if they are drawn to farmhouse or contemporary or classic or coastal. It's a great place to start.

But truly?

Your style is your OWN.

I'd start by finding a few pieces that you LOVE. Don't worry what style they are. Just find pieces that speak to you and make you happy. And then? Use those to guide you for the rest of your house.

Your thoughts on walls in a small room: Light colors ("looks bigger") or dark colors ("looks cozy")?

It really depends on the type of space and what it's used for. 

For example, for living rooms, I'm drawn more to lighter, brighter colors. But for a study or bedroom or media room? I'm drawn to darker colors. Lately, I've been keeping most of my wall colors neutral and accessorizing with color.

I'm going to replace the light bulbs in my family (actually it's a home office/computer room now) and my bedroom with LED bulbs. I see the bulbs are available in "Daylight" and "Soft White". I'm thinking I should choose Daylight for the home office, and Soft White for the bedroom. Do you agree?

This is a great question!  Light bulbs are so much more important than people realize!  I'd choose Daylight anywhere that you needed a bright, white light---especially for task lighting.

Then, I'd choose Soft White for everywhere else. I love the warm, soft glow of Soft White. It's what I use in my home.

My house itself is a boring 1940s Cape Cod box. I really dislike 1940s home decor. Would it be weird to decorate my living room in Victorian style? It's the room you walk into from the front door, so would it be too jarring?

I like the idea of adding Victorian to your front room. If it's the style that speaks to you---then it will work in your home. I'd try to mix up a little and sprinkle in a few other design styles to make the Victorian work. One fun idea is to take Victorian furniture and reupholster it in a neutral fabric. This updates it and makes it feel fresh!

Do you have any advice for training yourself to look at other people's houses and figure out what part it is that you like? I find myself looking at a lot of blogs (and friends' houses) and saying "oh, I like that!"/"wow, your place is so nice" but I can't copy the whole thing and I can't put my finger on what exactly is sparking that emotional response. Is it the color scheme? Is it the rug? Do I like the style of the couch? Is it an architectural thing I don't have in my house? Am I just envious of how tidy it is?

I know, right? I like tidy, too. :) It's hard to decide when you like so many different styles! I completely understand! I think the best thing to do is to find something that you LOVE. Something that makes your heart happy.

And then?

Decorate to that. Let it help you decorate the rest of your home!

You’re well-known for your vintage farmhouse and country cottage style - how do you make rustic accents still look modern and contemporary?

I do love rustic, but lately, I've been mixing it up a little. There are so many different design styles that I love that I try and incorporate different design aesthetics in the space and tie them all together with color. For example, in my living room:  https://thistlewoodfarms.com/how-do-you-say-peony/

You can see rustic baskets and antiques and contemporary pieces that all work together. It works because I keep the design palette simple with blue and white.

It's been so much fun hanging out with all of you over here today! A giant shout out to the Washington Post for having me and to all of you for a lively and fun discussion on design.

Have a day as amazing as you are!

Thanks for zipping through these Kari Anne. Lots of  good thoughts in your answers. Thanks for being here. Next week join me and Caroline Carter, founder of DC's Done in a Day who has just written a killer book on how to move called Smart Moves.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily Twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

Home Q&A archiveFind Jura on Instagram
Recent Chats
  • Next: