Vibrant Colors and Creative DIY Ideas Revived This Family's Baltimore Home

Designer, blogger, and serial DIY-er Stephanie Watkins transformed her family’s cookie-cutter Baltimore home with bright shades and personal style.

Stephanie Watkins Teal and Green Living Room
Photo: Casa Watkins Living

Gazing at Stephanie Watkins' bright, pattern-filled house just outside Baltimore, it's hard to imagine its former look. "It was a complete bachelor pad with all-white paint, leather everything, nothing on the walls," she says. For Stephanie, a native of the Caribbean who grew up in Europe, the plain-Jane aesthetic wasn't going to cut it. So she started going room by room, infusing artisanal, collected pieces and an electric palette to create a style she's come to call "global bohemian." Along the way, she documented it all on her blog, Casa Watkins Living, while sharing her pearls of decorating wisdom for those who want to happy up their own humdrum spaces. "Your home should always be a reflection of yourself, whether that means your heritage, family, or memories from past experiences that make you smile," she says.

Test the Waters

"In the beginning, I experimented a lot with finding my style. First I tried farmhouse, and it was too neutral for me. Then I went full-blown Florida tropical, and it was way too much color for my husband. I think now we've found a healthy balance. It's a good idea to try out different things until you find something that speaks to you and your family."

Stephanie Watkins' of Casa Watkins Living
Casa Watkins Living

Collect Handmade Pieces

"One of the staples of a globally inspired home is artisan-crafted decor, which I find on my travels. I always like to incorporate either Indian- or African-inspired textiles because they tend to be more vibrant. But you can also add these vibes with handmade wooden furniture or African baskets, which I like to use as decor more than for storage."

Create Your Own Escape

"Someone who wants to have a worldly home doesn't necessarily need to travel. Your space can almost be like a wish list inspired by regions you want to visit someday. And a lot of times, those types of pieces can be bought online from places like World Market or Etsy."

Stephanie Watkins' Dining Room
Casa Watkins Living

Have One Singular Sensation

"When I'm planning a room, I first try to figure out what's going to be my statement—which tends to be whatever is full of pattern or color—and I design around that. In the dining room, that was the wallpaper. But because it was black and white, I was able to really play with colorful accents in the space."

Find Middle Ground

"Funny enough, my husband actually does not like having a lot of color, which goes completely against what I prefer. Our house used to be all neutrals with greige walls and tan sofas. So what I did was gradually introduce some color to kind of ease him into it. First I'd add a bold wall hue, and once he was comfortable with that, I'd bring in little touches here and there. Now he doesn't seem to mind."

Stephanie Watkins' Living Room Wall Feature
Casa Watkins Living

DIY with Confidence

"I've gradually become more sure of my skill set when tackling home projects [like the paneled living room wall], but in the beginning, I was very scared of getting it wrong. I've learned that, once I've planned and measured out everything, I just have to go for it. If it doesn't turn out well, I'll fix it. It's my home, and I'm allowed the grace to mess something up."

Stephanie Watkins' Open Shelving Kitchen
Casa Watkins Living

Don't Hold Back

"When it comes to decorating, I really like to go more toward the maximalist side. I've found that it makes the space feel cozier. So I believe the more the better when styling open shelving, as long as there's a cohesive story. Maybe you group pieces in a similar color family or items that are all from one region together. Most of the pieces I have are either collected or were gifted to me over the years. I think if you decorate using the things that feel meaningful to you, then you'll get it right."

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