Q&A: Joy Cho on creating your dream home

Nov 14, 2019

Joy Cho founded her lifestyle blog Oh Joy in 2005 and has been building her brand with many products since then. Joy is also a graphic designer and a lover of mixing patterns and creating design that is colorful, fun and whimsical. She has designed for Target and Land of Nod and other companies and has a large social media following. She is currently in the process of building a family home with her husband and two daughters in Los Angeles.

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 Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, 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.

Good morning to Joy Cho of the popular blog and brand Oh Joy. We look forward to chatting about her new home she's building for her family and about how to bring some joy into our homes.

I'm Joy Cho, Founder and Creative Director of Oh Joy! I've been in the process of building a house in Los Angeles for over TWO YEARS and we are working to finish it by end of this year. It's been a crazy, fun, and stressful process, but I have learned SO much. I'm excited to be here to answer any questions you may have today either on a house project or home design tips in general!

Do you have any advice for mixing patterns? I love color and pattern but don't want it to look mismatched or too much in my space, which is mostly decorated with whites, pinks, blues and purples

Hello! The biggest thing I suggest for mixing patterns is to make sure you are using a mix of scales. Scale is the size of the pattern so if you mix two or more patterns, you could mix a large scale with a small scale to balance each other out. Also, stick with a similar color scheme so they are united by color even if the patterns are different!

how involved are your kids/husband?

We've been in the process of building a house for FIVE YEARS if you can believe it! I was pregnant with my youngest daughter when we bought the land in 2014 and now she's five years old. So my kids have been here for the ride the whole time. They have been involved in some parts, but we have kept them off site most of the time since it's not always kid safe to be on a construction site. My husband is very involved as we have weekly meetings with my construction team which he comes to. But I am really the main project manager on our side and we decided early on I would make most of the decisions as it's easier to know who is in charge of what for projects like this! 

What are the best colors to use in a bedroom?

You should pick what makes you feel the most RELAXED! I don't think there are any set "bedroom" colors. But most tend to go with softer colors just because you may not be able to relax in let's say...an all RED bedroom. But, it's ultimately up to you what makes you feel most rested! Our master bedroom in our house we are working on has lots of soft blues and greens with accents of color from there.

Do you have any advice for avoiding or managing decision fatigue?

Just like anything else that may cause you some stress, I try to compartmentalize those things and schedule time to tackle them all at once. For example, if you can set aside a certain time of day (like after kids are in bed) or first thing in the AM to answer a bunch of questions or make a bunch of decisions about a project, then they aren't looming over your head. Or if something new comes to you mid-day, you can save it for later and wait until you are in that mindset. You may not always be able to do this with projects that are active but most of the time if you are prepping and planning ahead, this will help you not feel overwhelmed.

My laundry room can be seen and is next to my kitchen. My accent color in the kitchen is a slightly subdued Santa Claus red. It's very close to a French red. What color should I paint my laundry room if I want it to have a French/European feel? Thank you!

Hello! I would suggest a slate blue as it complements the red nicely and serves as a great base color for other brighter colors, too!

I am a person who loves color with all of my being. Glimpsing a brightly-colored backpack in a sea of grey at the airport fills me with a burst of joy. Walking into a colorful home multiplies that feeling tenfold. Now that I own my first home, my constant impulse is to bring in color everywhere--on the walls, in the furniture, on the backings of bookcases, in the rugs, and so on. But I also know that bold pops of color have more of an impact when they stand out against white walls and or neutral furniture. I know I need to bring in SOME neutral elements to balance my bright, boldly colored pieces. My question is--how do I navigate that balance? How to I teach myself to "edit down" all the colors that I impulsively bring into my space, and how to I know WHICH areas to go neutral for the sake of creating a home that is bold and dynamic without being chaotic and headache-inducing? Sincerely, Color fanatic in a color-phobic world

I think a lot of people have this concern! For some reason, when people get older, they get scared of color and worry more about how to use it. Yet, when we are kids, we use it without any concerns at all. I want you to want to use color however it makes you happy!

The best place to start with color for the home is to have neutrals for your larger furniture (couch, chairs, tables, etc) and then bring in color through accessories (pillows, blankets, rugs, artwork). Then, once you feel comfortable there and are ready to push it further, you could have one of your main pieces of furniture have a fun color. We have this green velvet sofa that I LOVE and it makes me so happy!

Have you ever done a TV show? Any plans for one?

I have done a few things here and there and have been a guest judge on some fun reality competition shows (taste test cake? yes! sign me up!). I have a TV project in the works, but nothing set in stone yet! Stay tuned.... :)

Putting in a link to my latest article just in time for the holidays: Five Old School Table Accessories Get Hip for the Holidays.

Are you doing all stainless appliances in the kitchen? I'm thinking that trend will have to end soon.

They are stainless steel, but we are paneling our appliances so you won't really see it. I don't know if it's still a trend but I am seeing more and more new options that have other colors and finishes which I love!

How do you design a kids' room that will grow along with the child?

When designing kids' rooms, if you want a theme, make sure those items are pieces that can be easily changed and not too expensive. ie. maybe not a jungle wall mural but jungle bedding and art prints instead. Give your kids base furniture that's neutral enough that they'll still love as they get older. Also, don't be afraid to go up in size. Just like you would for kids' clothes, if you think you eventually want a full size bed, just get the full size bed when they are ready for a bed instead of doing a twin, then having to upgrade later. I think it's about thinking ahead a little bit but also giving their room a great base of pieces so they can change up accessories as they grow!

Hi Joy! Big fan of your blog. I'm a recent college grad am renting a room in an apartment with roommates. I can't really afford to buy any big investment pieces right now, but I would like to start buying things that I really like and will hopefully take with me as I move into nicer places. I want to incorporate color into my room, but currently live in a spot without a lot of natural light. What do you suggest for getting stuff that incorporates color and pattern that I would be able to bring with me and not look out of place in a new living situation?

For right now, I would stick to accessories that can easily move with you....rug, pillows, bedding, fun art, lamps, etc. Those are also great pieces to use for bringing in pops of color and pattern and they aren't as expensive as major furniture pieces!

So many shades of gray! I'm searching historical paint palettes (because of our home & decor) for a warm neutral gray to repaint walls, but honestly I can't tell, when looking at the many options, whether they have red or blue undertones. Any tips?

Hi! When it comes to deciding between paint colors, large swatches are best. You can check out a company like Clare who send large sheets of swatches that you can adhere to your wall so you can see and better imagine it. Or if you narrow it down to a few, you can get smaller test samples to paint a 1-2 foot area on the wall.

I’m currently talking to an architect for a house project and I don’t know if it makes more sense to pay them a percentage of the project’s budget or a flat fee. How did you do it?

Every relationship with an architect is different depending on the size of the project and the architect's fees and preferences. Some do charge based on a percentage of the overall project's budget, some have a flat fee, and some do retainers for on-going projects. For us, since our project has been going on for five years, we have had a retainer (monthly payment) that has ebbed and flowed based on busier or slower periods of their work on the project. 

Dear Jura and guests, We love our home; however, it is much too dark inside. We have added more lighting, changed paint to reflect light, added mirrors to do the same, lightened the carpet, pillows and furniture, and yet, the room is still feeling dark and closed in. I'd love to receive your ideas. Thank you.

It's tough to say without seeing the room and what is causing it to be so dark. Are there any windows? Are the ceilings low?

Some tips:

-Keep it less cluttered which will help it feel more open and lighter. That could mean making sure the furniture isn't too big for the space or keeping it less cluttered with other smaller things you may have around.

-If you have the ability or budget, I have heard great things about Velux light cans which are a more affordable skylight to add to darker spaces.

-Wood flooring also helps to reflect the light as carpet absorbs light.

Where did you put the laundry room in your new house?

The laundry room is on the 2nd floor (same floor as the bedrooms). Since we designed the house from scratch, it sits on the other side of our master closet. So we have a fun detail where the hamper in the closet connects right into a cabinet in the laundry room!

Do you like to set tables for dinner or do buffets? Any tips for holiday entertaining that is fun but not too casual?

It depends on how many people are over. Under 6-8, I would set a table. Anything over that, I would do a buffet. But I think you should do whatever is easier and less stress for you. Some people love having everything pre-planned and set out. Some love the more casual buffet style. I also lean towards buffet for holidays and food/treats/drinks where the guest can choose their own adventure a little bit. Is there a ice cream sundae table where you can choose topping or a champagne bar where you can add some fun holiday garnish, for example!

How much smart home technology did you add into your new home?

We have not finished the smart home plan yet (working on that now) but we will be incorporating it for sure!

What's the best kitchen flooring?

I would recommend tile that is easy to clean, not slippery, and very durable. We are using terrazzo tile in ours which is one of the most durable materials (they use it in airports and schools). Some people hardwood which I don't recommend if you help it as water/food will eventually spill and damage those floors.

What is your favorite color for a basic white paint for walls?

It's hard to pick just one but we are currently using:

Snow Day for a bright white

Timeless for a soft white

Both are by Clare Paint.


I deeply understand what that poster was talking about! I'm likely going to finally get to properly decorate my itsy-bitsy studio soon, and I'm going to really need someone's assistance to rein me in so I don't use allllll the colors and allll the patterns.


Joy we will be excited to see photos of your new home and thanks for being with us today. Next Thursday we will be joined by Ronda Carman who has a new book "Entertaining at Home" and who has lots of ideas for holiday tables, parties and decorating. See you then.

Thanks so much for joining us today! If you want to see more of my house project, check it out here and over at @ohjoy on Instagram!

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.

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