Before trying out new ideas on her clients, interior decorator Amy Spearing uses her own Goochland County home as a laboratory. While conducting her design experiments, Spearing has transformed her standard-issue transitional Colonial into a showcase for fearless creativity and accessible design.
Although she loves nothing more than a custom-made window treatment and designer-
exclusive furniture, she knows not everyone can afford high-end design. Through trial and error, and strategic use of funds, she is an expert in achieving a put-together home without breaking the bank.
Spearing has lived in her house since 2002 with her husband and three children. She earned her interior design certification from the University of Richmond School of Continuing Studies in 2010, and since then has done real estate staging and worked with her own design clients on projects big and small.
“I’m mostly traditional, but I like to throw in things that keep it from looking ‘old lady,’ ”
Spearing says of her aesthetic. “Something modern, geometric or graphic to throw off the old-lady vibe.”
She loves antiques and family heirlooms and is all about the mix. “Old things give a house soul,” Spearing says. “Don’t go out to Pottery Barn and buy everything new.”
The Spearings' kitchen before Amy made it over. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
After: When the Spearings first moved into the house, the kitchen featured “oak as far as the eye can see.” Amy fixed that by painting the cabinets with Rustoleum black in a satin finish. Because she did not want to replace the granite, she used that as a starting point for her color scheme.
The Spearings' kitchen, after the grand redesign. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Amy Spearing at work in her redesigned home office. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing is a huge fan of temporary wallpaper, used here in her home office. “The busier the pattern, the easier it is to install,” she says. She even covered the back of the wood Ethan Allen wall unit in a subtly patterned temporary paper to lighten up the look of the piece.
2. Books covered in black and white wrapping paper, black and white lampshades, and a cowhide rug stenciled in a zebra pattern add layers of pattern and texture to the room. “I love to mix patterns,” she says. “I really don’t think you can go wrong as long as you stick to
a color palette and vary the scale.”
As part of her living room's redesign, Spearing painted the fireplace herself using Annie Sloane chalk paint in Paris Grey. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing hired a carpenter to beef up the fireplace surround, using mostly MDF and trim pieces. She painted it herself in a driftwood finish, using Annie Sloan Chalk paint in Paris Grey then brushing it with a clear glaze mixed with burnt umber. To create the look of stacked birch logs, she cut a piece of plywood the same size as the firebox, painted it black, then used wood glue to attach birch medallions. (She ordered the birch logs on Etsy and had her father cut them into rounds.)
2. The wrought-iron coffee table is from Arhaus. Spearing painted it gold, and replaced the glass top with mirrored glass for a more glamorous look.
3. The striped drapes, from Home Goods, add graphic punch. “I always double up my drapes,” Spearing says. “Regular 54-inch panels are never substantial enough.”
These bookcases underwent a startling makeover by Spearing. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Can you believe these are the same bookcases? Spearing transformed it by removing the upper doors and painting them in Benjamin Moore's platinum, with turquoise accents. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing hung two matching mini chandeliers from Arhaus above the long dining table in the narrow room. “If you still have the light fixtures you bought your house with, chances are they are not good,” she says. “There are so many places you can go for cool lighting. It just makes a room.”
2. The Ethan Allen bookcases were a Craigslist find Spearing transformed by removing the upper doors and painting them in Benjamin Moore’s platinum, with turquoise accents. The hardware is from Home Depot, spray-painted gold.
This couch was a $10 thrift store find. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Flooded with natural light, the sunroom is now an updated escape spot in the Spearing home. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing hired a carpenter to transform an old bed into a sweet bench.
2. Inexpensive sheers from Ikea are hung from wooden dowel rods mounted on cup hooks. They are so economical that Spearing replaces them every season after they have been exposed to harsh weather.
3. The sofa was a $10 thrift-shop score that Spearing transformed with Annie Sloan chalk paint. That’s right, she even painted the fabric, which now has a slightly leathery feel that holds up well outside. She repeated the sofa colors — Paris Grey and Graphite — in the striped floorboards on the porch.
This master suite is now fit for a king and his queen, after several updates by Amy Spearing. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing hired a carpenter to add architectural interest to the master bedroom by applying molding to the wall to create a paneled look. She used temporary wallpaper from Target in each panel to highlight the feature.
2. To create her own large-scale art, Spearing has original photographs blown up and turned into 4-foot-by-three-foot engineering prints at Staples for less than $10. She then wraps them around a ready-made canvas for instant art. “It covers a lot of wall space if you do not have a lot of money left in your budget for art,” she says. “Your art should reflect who you are, not Target.”
3. To create a custom-look bed skirt, Spearing used purchased drapery panels that she cut and attached to the box spring using upholstery tacks.
The Spearings' master bathroom, complete with an antique claw-foot tub purchased on Craigslist. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. The Spearings completely remodeled the bathroom, replacing a Jacuzzi with an antique claw-foot tub purchased on Craigslist. They chose not to reglaze the inside, and painted the exterior black. The chair is a family heirloom recovered in a graphic print.
2. Spearing found the large standing mirror on sale at TJ Maxx. The mirror was cracked, and she replaced it with a new one cut to size. The mirror above the sink was a Hobby Lobby find she painted white to mimic a similar, more expensive mirror.
Bailey, the Spearings' 11-year-old daughter, now resides in a made-over room, bedecked with a monogrammed clock, printed with her initials. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. Spearing created a personalized piece of monogrammed art for daughter Bailey, 11, by transforming an ornate clock with spray paint and attaching painted craft letters. “Since then I have repeated this in lots of my clients’ daughters’ rooms,” she says.
2. For the window treatments, Spearing cut decorative cornice boards from plywood and covered them with fun polka-dot fabric. To create the look of Roman shades, she draped fabric over three tension rods and accented it with ribbon trim.
3. Spearing marked off rectangles on the walls with painter’s tape and filled them in with blue paint to create a decorative paneled effect. She says she “free-handed” the scalloped corners.
The media room was dominated by colorful furniture and paint that screamed, "This is a children's area!" (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Neutral colors and graphic appeal make the new media room comfortable for all ages. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
1. The family’s media room combines neutral colors and graphic appeal to create a comfortable retreat for all ages. The kids’ artwork is displayed on curtain wire from Ikea with curtain clips so that it can be easily switched out.
2. Spearing glued ribbon to inexpensive curtain panels to add a simple detail that makes a
3. The walls are painted with Sherwin-Williams’ Dorian Gray, a rich, versatile neutral.