With everything from business meetings to math class happening at home these days, it can be tough to find some space to clear your head. So when Liz Vaccariello, Editor in Chief of Real Simple, twin mom, and proud paw-rent of Milo the rescue pup, tapped Etsy to create a welcoming workspace as part of the annual Real Simple Home designer showcase, she knew the key word was going to be “calm.” “I wanted it to be a home office, but also a place where someone could read a book or have a conversation with their kids,” Liz says.
Always up for a challenge, Etsy’s Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson went to task creating a sanctuary inspired by Liz’s personal style that would foster the balance and comfort we all crave. Part library, part office, the Etsy room—one of nine designer spaces unveiled at this year’s Real Simple Home—is chock full of personalized, one-of-a-kind finds that make everyday life more easeful. To help you achieve the same, we caught up with Liz and Dayna to tour—and shop—the zen space.
How did you use Liz’s unique personal style as inspo for the room?
Dayna: When I first chatted with Liz, she said she wanted to see a space that was comfortable, calm, and cozy, but I wanted to dig a little deeper and really unpack what that means to her.
Liz: Dayna and I actually got on the phone, and we talked about things that are important to me—like the natural world, my dog, and my favorite colors. She really wanted to have a conversation with me to get a sense of my personality. When I walked into the finished room, it gave me such joy, and felt really personal to me.
What stood out to you immediately?
Liz: On the wall there was a watercolor painting of my beloved dog, Milo. I don’t know how Dayna got it—she must’ve gone onto my Instagram and shared a picture of his face with the artist, Kartik of Coconuttowers. When I saw it, I shrieked, I cried—my heart exploded. I wound up taking it off the wall and holding it. That’s the kind of joy that something personal and customized can bring.
All of the pieces in the room are from different Etsy sellers. How did you weave them together to tell a cohesive story?
Dayna: I decided to let nature be the star, not necessarily in the literal sense, but in terms of the colors and the types of materials used. First, I created a palette that was based on calming ocean and forest hues. Then I pulled in different textures inspired by the natural world, like the linen pillows on the loveseat and the wooden secretary desk, which has beautiful carvings on the front that mimic the rings of a tree.
How is the nature-inspired palette pulled through the entire room?
Liz: When I walked in and saw the wallpaper by Kate Zaremba on one of the walls, I was so charmed by it. It’s a gorgeous, seafoam green pattern that felt very, very fresh. Also the loveseat stopped me in my tracks. It’s a beautiful, dark teal velvet—a sort of mid-century-style piece—that really played off the wallpaper well. I wanted a calming space, but I also like jewel tones, and I think the loveseat was Dayna’s way of giving me that.
Dayna: A lot of people are nervous to go with such a bold color for a big statement piece, but because the material is velvet, it really feels warm, cozy, and inviting.
What else was top-of-mind for you when designing the space?
Dayna: Especially right now when our homes have several functions, having different places to hunker down and be comfortable is really important, so I wanted to create distinct sitting areas within the room. It’s also important to establish some boundaries between your job and your personal life, and the secretary desk is a great example of how to solve for that. It allows you to tuck away your work at the end of the day.
In what other ways does the room design make creative use of space?
Liz: I opened the closet, which is very small, and Dayna had transformed it into a little meditation area with a meditation pillow and a sound bowl. Talk about a surprise! She turned that small nook into something really meaningful.
She also did a lot with shelving. I’m a big reader, and since the room was supposed to function as a library too, Dayna hung up lots of open shelves so that I can bring books in and out as I read them. That way it doesn’t feel so stiff; it feels like a living, breathing place where I’m reading and displaying books.
Which piece were you most pleasantly surprised by?
Liz: Lighting has always been tricky for me, and Dayna went with a custom, handmade chandelier from Illuminate Vintage. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at their shop since then, because I want to change up some of the lighting in my own home. The Illuminate Vintage designs are really modern and unique, so I feel like they might be a good solution for me.
What was your favorite part of this collaboration?
Dayna: I personally love being able to walk into a space and get the true essence of the person it’s made for. I think because I was able to work so closely with incredible Etsy sellers to customize all these pieces, you could really see Liz in this room.
Liz: As somebody who’s sometimes overwhelmed by searching for things for my own home, Etsy was a revelation. The whole experience really opened my eyes to Etsy as a way to discover new artists. I feel like it’s going to be a comfortable place to find my own design voice, where I can play and dream and go down a rabbit hole of things that would be delightful around my house.
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