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Spare Change: Bold Colors in a Contemporary Home


Mary and Tom Korsan on the deck

Downsizing to a three-level 2,000-square-foot cottage in Santa Monica, California, gave Mary and Tom Korsan a clean slate for kicky colors and patterns that had been missing from their life. Joining forces with design-pro friend Sasha Emerson, Mary scrapped the bland furnishings she'd had for years in favor of a bolder, more contemporary look that emphasizes feet-up comfort. "Our two older boys moved out so we didn't need bedrooms for them anymore," Mary says. Taking care not to clutter the space, the couple—owners of Great Guns USA, a film production company—chose fewer pieces that serve multiple functions, and they jazzed up walls with playful art by local emerging talent. "Whatever you put on clean, white walls looks great," Mary says, describing what friends call her and Tom's "brave" approach to decorating. Many items are vintage. Nothing's precious. Not one thing demands to be taken more seriously than a day at the beach. Which is where they often are when not at home—hitting the surf with their youngest, 11-year-old Hank.

Sasha on Style

The designer gives her strategy for casual living.

—A simple all-white backdrop lets colors and objects pop with personality.

—A small space like the Korsans' cries out for less stuff. Before filling a home with things you don't really need, ask yourself what will be fun, unique and define your family's style.

—An uncluttered house allows you to kick back and relax. It's also unpretentious and fun because there's just not as much to take care of.