interior design

Design Confessions: Our Team’s Guilty Design Pleasures

by Grace Bonney

While most of us who work in the design community like to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and hottest new looks, styles and products, we all have a few guilty pleasures we return to over and over again. I’m of two minds about “guilty” pleasures. First, I don’t think guilt should actually enter into the equation at all (most times): because if it’s something you love and it’s in your home, that’s all that matters. Who cares if it’s overdone or in everyone’s Instagram feed? Your home is about creating a space where you’re surrounded by things that make you happy and you definitely don’t need to share that with anyone or change out your home decor so it’s current and seasonally appropriate. You do you, basically.

That said, I love digging deeper and figuring out what design secrets or trends people still indulge in long after our community at-large deems them “over.” Whether a much-reviled (but still popular and hot-selling) “Keep Calm” poster or flocked wallpaper, or just an obsessive gallery wall of pictures of your pet, I wanted to know what design elements our team was secretly hiding at home and let them out into the open. Hopefully that will encourage YOU to share some of yours, too. At the end of the day, the term “guilty” is being used here with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Each one of us here loves and celebrates quirkiness, individuality and character in a home — no matter what shape, size, color or pattern it comes in. So I’ll get this started below… xo, grace

Grace: Hi, my name is Grace and I’m completely and totally obsessed with . Think “early Laura Ashley.” The softer and powdery-pink the better. Maybe it’s because my mom dressed me in until one fateful day when I switched schools and realized all the cool kids wore (I felt like some invisible DJ yelled “REMIX!” and I ran home to change). To this day, these prints will always be my weakness. I let myself indulge in these patterns in the form of (sometimes scented — oohh) drawer paper liners.


Annie Werbler: “I love figuring out ways to make “bad” wall art look good. Whether it’s sweet still-lifes from my sister’s childhood painting lessons, or salvaged 70s abstract colorwashed canvases, popping these pieces in pretty frames and giving them context within an overall design scheme is a favorite decorating challenge.”

Image via DS Best of Turquoise

Garrett Fleming: “Cameos! Growing up, my grandmother’s entryway featured giant, 4-foot-square, wooden panels with cameos of my mom and uncle. Before I even knew what a cameo was, I just loved how simple the black and white outlines were. I’ll never forget that pair, and being around them as a child instilled in me a love for the technique. I adore how, just like a photo, cameos artistically capture a moment in time. Some people think they’re old-fashioned, but I’ll be the first to admit they always catch my eye in antique shops.”

Image above via

Sabrina Smelko: “Loud, colorful statement pieces! Anyone who knows me knows of my love for pink, and the gravitational pull I have towards boldly-colored, large pieces of furniture and decor — hence why my living room couch is yellow and my office rug is a bright, gem-stone magenta. I’ve reined it in as I’ve gotten older, and more and more, I see the value in neutrals (I am proud to say I now own a beige and brown rug!), but I will never tire of an emerald green velvet sofa, a glossy yellow cabinet, or an all-pink bathroom. I’d paint my exterior brick blue if I didn’t think my neighbors would freak, but on that note, while it might seem contradictory, I also adore rooms with super-light (white) or super-dark (black, deep navy) walls, rarely anything in between — exposed brick being the exception.”

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Caitlin Kelch: “I have a weakness for over-the-top window treatments. I love swags, pleats and glitzy trim — especially in stylistically inappropriate spaces. My massive bedroom window is topped by what I call my “White House Child’s Bedroom Valance.” Its a tiny room dominated by this pleated sea foam beauty, complete with ivory braided trim. It makes me feel like my childhood hero, Amy Carter.”

window treatment
Image via

Kelli Kehler: “Though this trend is forever in a cycle of when it is and isn’t overdone, too trendy, or currently in style, my heart beats true for brass and gold metallics. I’m constantly balancing the right amount of brass and gold accents in my home, afraid of going too wild with this tricky trend. There’s just something about that glint of amber metal from an old vintage mirror, or a mid-century modern-style lamp — or let’s be honest, anything Nake Berkus makes for Target — that I can’t get enough of. And I’m totally okay with that.”


Lauren Chorpening: “I love at least one room in the house to have dark, dark walls. I know it makes a room look smaller and I know it’s not as welcoming as bright-and-light, but there is something dramatic and stunning about it to me. My dining room is as close to black as I could get, but the wood trim and my white dining table keep it from being a hole. I guess I like my rooms to look small and uninviting.”


Suggested For You


  • Inexplicably–and I’m not even sure when this happened–I have developed a thing for cows. A cast iron cow on a wood pedestal, a small ceramic cow, a large scale photograph of cows grazing–all things that are in my home. I’m forever contemplating those painted portraits of expressive cow faces; sometimes they are in Warhol-esque palettes and sometimes they are realistic, but they are all wonderful.

    Growing up in the early 90s, my best friend’s mother had a cow-themed kitchen (like ALL OUT, wallpaper, border, kitchen towels, the whole suite), and I recall even at like 8 or 10 years old being kind of judgey about this woman and her trove of matching cow decor. Now, 20 years later, she has surely remodeled, but here I am with all the cows. It’s a funny universe.

    • Brittany, that’s too funny. I remember that cow trend ;) Kind of wonderful you’ve come full circle…

  • I agree with Grace, the “guilty” should be ommitted. In my case if I could I would have a Victorian influence in my decor. Not straight out of Victorian magazine but certain touches :)

  • I really this topic, it’s fun to learn what others have as ‘guilty” pleasures. I would have to say mine is bright colors, fuscia, magenta, teal, jewel tones of all sorts. I have learned to be restrained with my brights and sprinkle them in where I can, making sure my house doesn’t look like a theme park. I wish I had Kelly Wearstler to help with my decor but so far I think I’ve done ok.

    I think a home should be a reflection of who we are, it should be personal and not what the latest trends report. Otherwise, a home feels impersonal and staged. I don’t want to live in a Pottery Barn.

  • Scented drawer liners! Oh my! I’d forgotten those even existed! I feel it’s time for a revival!

    I’m a bit worried I’m slipping too far into boho, to be honest. Love a bit of beaten-up natural wood furniture and some tie-dye…

  • Even though they are “over” and everywhere, I am still in love with Edison lightbulbs. They give such a warm glow and are so pretty– more intricate the filament the better!

  • I LOVE really, really awkward amateur art, particularly portraits. Lopsided trees, gratuitous fluffy clouds, awkward shading, off-center noses…mmmmmm.

    • Addendum: it’s not snobbish/ironic love, as I’m a terrible painter and have created many an awkward, amateur work myself :) I just love the vulnerability of them!

  • Teal. Anything teal. Any shade of teal. I know it’s so overdone. But if given the option, I will always choose it. I do try to balance it out with neutrals of black/white/grey/metallics. And to set it off, I love pops of orange.

  • All of these are on trend now. I don’t think they were really guilty pleasures at the time…just burgeoning trends. It is a little bit more guilty pleasure to enjoy a trend that has faded more recently. Not to knock anyone’s guilty pleasures but I do think it is weird in the design community when designers play “guilty” for being on trend (wallpaper is very trendy right now, as well as dark wall colors). Sort of reminds me of those parenting articles were people guiltily admit to buying cupcakes from the bakery instead of baking them, or that they occasionally give their kids macaroni and cheese or cereal for dinner. Is that really something we have to “confess?” Somehow confessions like that make me feel worse about my parenting…and these confessions make me feel worse about my design decisions!
    These confessions are about design Trends from the 70s 80s and early 90s which are now firmly in “vintage” category although we don’t want to admit it because that makes us vintage as well! Target is awash in Laura Ashley style prints for juniors and women. Now if somebody wants to admit that they have a real thing for the Tuscan style of the early 00s or wants to dress like Christina Aguilera it in the early 2000s… Or really loves those little plastic drawers that you get at big box stores… I would be impressed with that guilty pleasure.

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