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Designer Stephen Saint-Onge leads us through a transformation of a tired old room into a welcoming place for guests



This is the first in a series of home makeover features by the locally based and nationally celebrated designer Stephen Saint-Onge.

I am a firm believer in the power of design having a positive effect on a person’s life. Good design can transport, uplift, motivate, and re-energize you. With that in mind, here’s how I transformed a “catch-all” room and made it come to life as an inviting guestroom. Watch the video.

All of my makeover projects—whether it be for a magazine, TV, or a client—start by identifying the “good things” a space has to offer. Then I remove what does not seem to work well, and build the room from there. A clean slate is a good starting point.

The good things about our sample room include great windows and a Dutch door that let in natural light, wood floors in fine condition, and enough space for an inviting layout. Too much clutter, paint colors that are too dark on the walls and trim, a bed that blocks an outside door, and furniture pieces that are too bulky are elements that need to go. 

Once I know what I want to keep, I “shop” the rest of the house. I am a big fan of being able to re-use, rework, or repurpose pieces from other rooms in creative ways. It’s a matter of seeing everything in a variety of ways. 

In this home, I switched out the bulky TV cabinet and replaced it with a light-wood dresser that had been relegated to their basement. I also upgraded the flat-screen TV to a thinner, more streamlined model from Philips that can be enjoyable for guests but also be stylish in the overall room. A table with matching wood that was not being used is perfect for a new desk area near the bed. Lastly, a vintage headboard stored in the barn adds a bit of history and is a perfect look for what I wanted in this summer-inspired room.

The next step to bringing summer into the room is paint. I use “Simply White” OC-117 from Benjamin Moore to brighten the vintage headboard as well as the dark doors, trim, and windows. For the walls, I use my new favorite neutral tone, “Jute” AF-80, also from Benjamin Moore. I love how the soft, sand tone with a hint of fern-green allows the crisp, white accents of the other elements to stand out. 

Once the room is painted, the next step is floor covering, which creates a foundation for the room. A natural choice for any spring-summer room is sisal or jute. I chose a Jute/Wool Loop Rug from The Company Store in “Natural.” To continue the use of white elements in the room, I hung drape panels of “Linen Optic White,” done in a casual-pleat style from Smith & Noble, from satin-nickel clips and rods. Flanking the Dutch door with the same panels gives balance to the bed and still allows access to the garden. 

With the repurposed bed, dresser, and desk table in place, new pieces can be introduced. Two chairs—the “Rebecca Chair” and “London Chair” from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams—both with white-cotton slipcovers that are washable and relaxed for summer living, complete the furniture layout. The existing desk chair is painted in “Richmond Gray” HC-96, from Benjamin Moore, for the new desk area.

For lighting, which is so important in any room, I opt for a crystal-base desk lamp and a pair of satin-nickel, wall-mounted, swing-arm sconces for the bed. 

To add the last layer of softness, I chose bed linens from Pottery Barn—starting with their PB Classic Sheet set in white, then topping it with their French Stripe Duvet and Solid Linen Duvet. The mix of cotton and linen pillows matches well with PB’s Paper Crochet square pillows behind them, tying the whole look together. Now the bed is the focal point instead of an afterthought. 

Finally, setting the stage with details completes this guestroom. A simple white shelf and hooks creates an area of interest by the door. Flour-sack throw pillows from Iron Accents offer inspiring thoughts. A stack of favorite books turns a rustic wood bench into a cozy bedside table. Original artwork—like this landscape-inspired, white-framed series of paintings from one of my favorite painters, Jonathan MacAdam—elevates the entire room.

In the end, a room comes to life whether you simply rearrange what is already there or freshen the space with new things. Design and style touch your overall life in ways that you may not expect or imagine. That is why I love what I get to do as a designer. It’s all about setting the stage so you can live your best life. Change is a very good thing! What are you waiting for? 

 

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