As the assistant to interior designer Kat Liebschwager, first-time homeowner Ashley Byars has an upper hand when it comes to decorating her home. She knows how to formulate a design plan, where to find the best fabrics, furniture and accessories, and has access to exclusive design resources.
But Byars, 29, also faces one great challenge: “I am not in the same budget range as our clients,” she says. “I have to do a lot more research and be more creative. But that makes it even more fun.”
Byars moved into fiancé Brendan Hanley’s 1940s brick cape in the Libbie-Grove area last spring. Armed with a comprehensive plan and budget, the couple immediately got to work making improvements to the home.
“Being in the interior design industry, I know what to expect for pricing of furniture, rugs, and so on,” she says. “It’s a lot, and as a young couple we do not have that kind of money to spend on our first-time home.”
From new light fixtures to a complete powder room makeover, the couple spruced up and decorated every room in the 1,500 square-foot house. They did as much work as possible themselves and outsourced electrical, carpentry and painting projects that were outside of their comfort zones.
With an October 2015 wedding on the horizon, the couple adhered to a tight budget, shopped at consignment shops, antiques stores and auctions and incorporated family hand-me-downs. Other pieces were purchased on sale from online retailers and big box discount stores. Byars’ knowledge of the interior design industry helped guide a few splurges: high-end fabrics, designer wallpaper, original artwork and a few custom pieces — design elements with lasting appeal.
A tour through the home showcases Byars’ ingenuity and vision. “This house really incorporates a lot of items that other people would pass over and say, ‘No thanks’ to,” she says. “I can see the potential in things.” The result is a comfortable home that reflects the couple’s shared love for family, tradition and the South, all combined with Byars’ personal style.
Previous owners knocked out the wall between the dining room and kitchen. Good-quality cabinets and a white countertop also provided a solid foundation for minor upgrades.
Their changes: They hired a painter to spray the blonde wood kitchen cabinets a glossy white and added new hardware from the Martha Stewart Collection at Home Depot. A professional carpenter added trim to the cabinets and created a paneled look by using picture molding below the existing chair rail in the dining area.
Splurge: Thibaut wallpaper in the aqua Bamboo Lattice pattern makes a huge design statement.
Save: Pendant lights in the kitchen are from Home Depot. Byars found the set of swivel stools at Susan’s Selections for $30. She painted them and had the seats recovered in vinyl.
Design tip: Byars purchased the Oushak carpet from an auction at Alexander’s Antiques. “You just have to go and unroll the rugs,” she says. “I usually do silent bids ... Rugs usually go at the end [of the auction] when a lot of people have already left.”
The small powder room was outdated and needed serious help. Byars and Hanley decided to gut the room and start fresh, knowing it would add to the home’s resale value.
Their changes: They added beadboard paneling and marble floor tile, a new toilet
and custom vanity.
Splurge: Yee-Ha! wallpaper by Studio Printworks is an homage to Hanley’s Texas roots. The marble floor, though expensive, is a classic choice that never looks dated.
Save: Byars opted for beadboard below the chair rail to save on wallpaper.
Design tip: The small powder room needed storage. Byars found a small, inexpensive cabinet at the West End Antiques Mall, had it painted and topped it with a marble remnant and vessel sink.
Living Room Rhome May 15
This cozy room provides ample seating and is decorated in an eclectic mix. “I try to mix custom with store-bought stuff,” Byars says. “It makes the house look collected and not so new.”
Their changes: They removed a set of poorly constructed built-in shelves and cabinets, to expand the room’s size.
Splurge: A high-quality new sofa by Vanguard (below left) in a neutral fabric and the designer drapery fabric by Lee Jofa Threads. (Drapery panels are a great window treatment choice, as they can be reused to fit almost any window). A surround sound system, installed by Get Wired, was Hanley's splurge. “Marriage is all about compromise,” Byars says wisely.
Save: Byars found a second sofa (below right) at Susan’s Selections for a steal. “I checked the tag and saw it was made in North Carolina, so I knew it was a solid piece of furniture,” she says. She ordered fabric from Vanguard to match the other sofa and had it recovered.
Design tip: You can order fabric yardage from furniture manufacturers, often at a lower price than you can find it elsewhere, thus enabling you to match an existing piece of furniture.
Hanley's office has a masculine vibe, with hunting prints, needlepoint pillows and rich navy blue walls.
Their changes: A fresh coat of paint, Benjamin Moore’s Symphony Blue, on the walls. This one was easy.
Splurge: One of the few new items in the room is a sea grass rug that was still reasonably priced from sisalrugs.com.
Save: Byars found the wing chair at Class and Trash for $30. She could tell it was a quality piece of furniture from its weight. She had it recovered in fabric she found at U-Fab for $9.99 a yard. Score!
Design tip: Big-box store At Home (formerly Garden Ridge) in Midlothian is a favorite source for lampshades, harps and finials. “They have a really good selection of inexpensive things,” Byars says.
Byars studied apparel design at Virginia Tech and is a vintage clothing collector. Her dressing room is the ultimate in girly indulgence.
What they did: Turned a small third bedroom into a walk-in closet and dressing room using a closet-storage system from Home Depot. Byars laid out the plan and Hanley built it.
Splurge: This was done on the cheap — need to save money for those fabulous clothes.
Save: Byars found an inexpensive gold étagère at West End Antiques Mall and spray-painted it gold (seen on Page 46).
Design tip: Glam gold bamboo-lookdrawer pulls completely transformthe look of two inexpensive Home Depot chests.
A neutral color palette and traditional furniture add a sense of calm to the master bedroom.
Their changes: A fresh coat of paint in Pale Powder by Farrow & Ball.
Splurge: Custom pillows, window treatments and two original paintings, one by Richmond artist Sunny Goode. “If you can afford it, original art is money well invested,”
Save: The bedside lamps are from catalog retailer Wisteria and were purchased on clearance. The headboard is an inexpensive find from homedecorators.com.
Design tip: Though Byars is not a huge fan of matching furniture, all of the pieces in the master bedroom are of a similar style and wood tone, providing cohesion and symmetry in the small space.