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House Tour: Redecorated Modest Home

To make the most of her modest home, California mom Shawn Reinhart relies on a mix of punchy patterns and a few really bright ideas.

By James Servin

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Shawn Reinhardt
James Baigrie
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After Shawn Reinhardt and her husband, George, bought a 1920s two-bedroom nine years ago, she couldn't wait to fix it up. "Though the house was chopped into tiny narrow rooms, I envisioned it as spacious and airy," says Shawn. To open up the cramped quarters, she set about brightening walls with white board and batten paneling and refinishing all the floors in a dark stain so that one room visually flows into the next. Since furnishing minimally only draws attention to a lack of space, Shawn created groupings with lightweight chairs and sofas from design stores, thrift shops and garage sales. "The house feels a lot bigger because of the way everything's positioned," she says.

She further unified the space with a simple palette of black and white punctuated with shots of chartreuse. "I'm strictly an amateur decorator," Shawn explains. "My big trick was repeating colors and lots of patterns to connect the living areas with the kitchen." With plenty of seating throughout, the house comfortably accommodates guests at holiday time and has become a prime hangout zone for the couple's son Georgie, 10, and his gang of friends. "Despite its size, our home is now perfect for us," Shawn says.

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Small Wonder

A sea grass sectional with matching ottoman, upholstered in stain-resistant Sunbrella fabric, creates an area off the kitchen for kicking back. "When there's a party, most everyone gravitates here," Shawn says. She painted the walls a favorite shade of rich gray. (Sherwin-Williams Gauntlet Gray is similar.) "High-gloss white bead board dresses everything up," Shawn explains. "I was going for that comfy, classic look from the movie Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Who didn't love that house?"

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Cooking Up Style

Shawn selected marble counters for the kitchen and created a prep island with bar stools for extra seating. Glass-front cabinets and drawers beneath offer plenty of storage. She displays a collection of multihued Bauer bowls on a shelf above the Jade range.

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Dinning In

Shawn carved out a snug spot by the windows for a table and chairs.

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Details Count

In the living room a pair of toile-upholstered wingback chairs flank the mantel, which was an antiques shop find. Among Shawn's favorite accessories are flea market buys like a pair of Staffordshire porcelain dogs and silver candlesticks. "I like symmetrical arrangements," Shawn says. "It's old-school but I find it calming."

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Photos of family and friends in black frames give a wall in the upstairs hallway personality.

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On the far side of the living room, a medley of stripes, paisley and houndstooth fabrics play well together. "You can be daring mixing patterns if you stay within the same palette," Shawn says. "A sisal rug tones down the formality of antiques," she adds.

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A Louis XIV gilt mirror that belonged to Shawn's late brother-in-law makes the cozy den appear larger than it is. Graphic fabric and bold rugs in Shawn's signature color combo deliver a modern punch to traditional furniture.

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Playing Time

With its storage bed and matching chest, Georgie's bedroom is all about maximizing a compact area. "Mustard walls with red furnishings make it sophisticated," says Shawn.

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Shawn's Small Space Secrets

—Too many different colors can look chaotic—limit your palette to no more than four shades.

—Bare floors with throw rugs make a house look cleaner and more modern.

—A lot of little pieces clutter a room. Start with one large item, like a sofa or a settee, and then balance it with a pair of comfortable chairs.

—Keep light fixtures simple and timeless. They're integral to the design of a room, so choose a beautiful one. Put recessed lighting on a dimmer.

—Glam up cheap tables and chairs with high-gloss black spray paint. "It's my secret weapon for ugly maple furniture," Shawn says.

—Black looks great with anything. "You can switch pillows out, change a chair here and there," Shawn says. "You'll never get tired of it."

Originally published in the August 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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