Journalist Composes Color at Home

San Francisco-based lifestyle journalist Julia Walsh turned to many of her own featured subjects to create the design of her apartment's writing lounge and living room.

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For the past four years, Julia Walsh has been writing and editing lifestyle-based stories for national and local online editorial outlets. Her research made her eager to put some of the tips, tricks and products she covers to good use in her own home. "There's a symbiotic relationship between my decorating and the things I cover as a writer — be it San Francisco events or emerging art world talents," Julie says. "I've culled artwork from past interviewees, filled shelves with books I've reviewed and picked up linens on travel-writing trips to Europe. It was important to me that my apartment become a visual resume for what I do."

After finding a 900-square-foot apartment on San Francisco's iconic Lombard Street, Julia realized its potential to become a designer-caliber space. She looked forward to surrounding herself with some of the fantastic finds from her editorial work. The writer/editor explains, "Overall, I wanted to make my home primarily a place to unwind, work when I need to and socialize from time to time. Just add wine."

To create a home packed with references to her career in lifestyle journalism, Julia relied heavily on the same keen editing skills she puts to use in her articles. When asked about the living room in its original, unedited state, Julia says, "Everything was so cluttered and poorly arranged that it just felt uncomfortable, physically and visually. Not to mention that the gorgeous bay windows were covered up."

Julia envisioned taking a curator's approach to her apartment, including only meticulously chosen pieces which, when put together, would tell a story as clear and colorful as many of her shelter-based stories. From classic furniture pieces and fine-art photography to silk-screen prints and do-it-yourself projects, Julia's collection gave her a rich palette with which to work.

First up on her to-do list was to incorporate color. "Adding paint and fabric is the surest way to make a drab rental feel personal and vibrant," the journalist explains. "Even though I'm not paying a mortgage, I want my place to feel like I'm here to stay." In addition to surrounding herself with many of the subjects she's covered in articles, Julia was determined to turn the previously underutilized living room into a personal writing lounge. There she could work from her laptop and indulge in reading new books, many of which she reviews for work.

While turquoise dominates the walls of her writer's lounge, honeysuckle-orange was used solely as accents in Julia's entryway and in her master bedroom. Julia also opted to bring in touches of violet to accent the turquoise. A pair of upholstered chairs and matching throw pillows feature shades of violet. Of the chairs bestowed to her from her mother, "I've had my eye on my mother's amazing chairs since I was a kid, and she finally gave in and shipped them to me," says Julia. "I was never a purple person, but something about them just called to me. Now I'm a purple convert. I even wrote an article about decorating with different shades like eggplant, lilac, etc."

Although she's pleased with her apartment's new cheery, upbeat palette, there's one thing she may have done differently. "I love the blue walls in my lounge, but the color is so color-forward and high-energy, it's more conducive to socializing than chilling out with a book," notes Julia. Another thing she learned about using color is the impact that saturated tones have in small spaces. The citrus tone of her bathroom is the perfect color to start each day with; it instantly puts Julia in a cheerful mood. Julia advises using bold colors in smaller, briefly used spaces such as bathrooms or hallways.

With her color choices complete, Julia decided to address one of the apartment's main issues: a lack of storage in her bedroom. The editor explains, "The biggest turnoff for me when I first moved in was that my closets are actually in the hallway, not the bedroom. But after finding a large faux bamboo dresser at a local thrift store and refinishing it with coral paint, the hallway instantly made sense. The dresser stores all of my jewelry, accessories and even art supplies, but it moonlights as a foyer console."

Happy with the well-curated approach she took in designing her writer's lounge, the design-savvy journalist turned her attention to the rest of her apartment. "I'd curated a collection of timeless pieces and a few investments, like artwork from a photographer friend, an antique Venetian mirror and an industrial side table made from antique milk crate, but I needed to find a home for them," Julia says.

While curating a mix of diverse subjects for the front page of CasaSugar is part of her daily routine, creating a well-rounded collection for her own home was uncharted territory. "Although editing stories and curating pieces in a home seem like two different arts, they're quite similar," Julia notes. "Just like it's important to use the right words in a sentence to convey a story, you should curate accessories or furniture that you absolutely love for your home to tell the narrative of who you are."

Julia also believes that, as far as curating is concerned, it's best to mix in custom designs, antiques and original, limited-edition artwork with your simpler or trendier furniture pieces.


Browse Before-and-After Pictures

While the apartment's bathroom, entryway and bedroom were relatively easy to create design plans for, the living room presented a few challenges. "I really didn't want the TV taking up a lot of space, decoratively or functionally," says Julia. Her landlord outfitted the living room wall with a recessed niche. To create the niche, he cut drywall with a reciprocating saw and reconfigured 2x4 framing studs into a 48-inch wide by 42-inch tall by 16-inch deep rectangle meant to house a flat-screen TV. "A lot of people would go for a big 50" flat screen in that built-in space, but I saw it as a blank canvas for books, artwork, candles, and other odds and ends that show more personality," she says.

Julia's landlord supplied her with an integrated shelf tucked in the corner of her living room. The 4x2x5-foot shelf was placed in the wall that separates Julia's bedroom from her writing lounge. This augmented the book storage in her bedroom and gave Julia a designated place in her writing lounge to keep books on display, particularly handy for keeping review article subjects close by. Better still, the space was installed just a few inches away from the sofa and within reach of Julia's black leather wingback chair.

With the design of her colorful apartment complete, Julia is armed with a new understanding of interior design and decorating. She's got a designated room in which to focus on both reading and writing, and an entire home packed with bold hues and one-of-a-kind pieces by the same local artists she often writes about. "The biggest lesson I learned from the whole experience is that you don't have to be finished," notes the avid reader and writer. "Just continue to edit and move things around until it finally feels right. One day, when you fall in love with a large-scale painting that throws the whole thing off, just rearrange and fine-tune until you find balance again."

Above all, her favorite place in the apartment is her writing lounge. There she's reading and writing more efficiently than ever, thanks to her collection of inspiring design elements and meticulously chosen furniture. "Having such a cozy, functional and inspiring place to spend time has made me a homebody." she says. "Whether I'm working, lounging or hosting friends, I just love to be here." With a place as colorful, well-curated and packed with stories as Julia's, it's likely that the writer herself is soon to become a highly publicized subject.

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