A few weeks ago, a reader messaged me, asking for advice on how to design a home that flows nicely… where all of the rooms feel like they belong under the same roof. I thought that was a totally valid question that deserved a long winded answer, so here we are… discussing and dissecting it. Click through for eight of my tips on designing a cohesive home that flows!
I’m just going to dive right in! I’m also going to use our previous home as an example, since it is totally finished and more representative of this topic. Our current home isn’t even close to being “finished”… we’ve only renovated a few rooms (the guest bath, the kitchen, the formal living room, and the basement bath), so the home in its entirety isn’t a great example of our aesthetic or a house that flows nicely from room-to-room, at this point. We literally have flooring that stops exposing the subfloor connecting the new and old materials (just to give you an idea of how broken up our home currently feels). Anyway, all of these images are from our last house, which we finished in September of 2018. Catch the entire tour here, and all of the source links here. Ready for the tips? Let’s do it!
Envision Your Home, and the Rooms Within It, As a Family
I’m a visual person and this example is an easy one to comprehend. Think of your home as a whole… the rooms are all apart of the same family. Perhaps they’re siblings or maybe even cousins, but they’re all related. While they may look similar and you can tell they are cut from the same cloth, they have plenty of differences and are also unique. The rooms within your home should feel cohesive, but since they are located under the same roof, you should also try to design them to look related and cohesive. So, how exactly do you go about doing that? Keep reading!
Use Repetition to Your Advantage
What are your favorite elements in your home or a room you’ve recently designed? Repetition of your favorite materials, paint colors, and textiles is a good way to make your home feel cohesive. Here are a couple examples… that wall color you loved? Use it in another room close by as contrast trim. How about the light fixture finish in your master bedroom? Repeat that same exact finish in the connected walk-in closet! Do you love the marble tile in your powder bath? Try installing the same variety of marble on your laundry room countertop or backsplash. By making these small, intentional design decisions, your home will feel more cohesive.
Keep Architectural Elements Consistent
Think of architectural elements, like millwork, as the “bones of your home”. It ties everything together and keeps it connected. The easiest way to make your home feel consistent is by keeping architectural elements and millwork cohesive. Install millwork from the same collection, keep your millwork dimensions and measurements the exact same, and repeat architectural elements. Here’s an example… your home has beautiful arched doorways. You wouldn’t want to swap the arched doorway for a rectangular version when renovating. It would feel totally out of place, and vice versa. Stay true to the architecture so it flows nicely!
Treat Open Concept Spaces Similarly
Open concept spaces are a bit more tricky to design. Given they’re very connected and within eyesight of one another, you have to design the space as a whole. For example, in our previous home- the kitchen and laundry room were open concept. They flowed into each other with a large opening in between. I repeated the cabinetry style, color, and material in both spaces, as well as the flooring and countertop. Although the spaces were styled differently, they felt very similar because of the open floor plan and repeated materials. To break them up, make them feel more defined, and insert personality, I used an area rug and unique light fixtures in each space.
Contrast is actually a really good thing. One of my pet peeves is walking into a home where all of the bathrooms look the exact same (same tile, same vanity, same faucet, etc). While repetition is good, duplicating a room is never a great idea, and is a serious missed design opportunity to insert personality. Believe me when I say- I know it’s easiest to go into a home improvement store and order X amount of the same bathroom vanity for the sake of efficiency and time. Why design four bathrooms when you can design one and repeat it? Because it is cookie cutter… which is never the goal with design of any sort. Wouldn’t you rather your home feel more customized, curated, and unique? It also adds value!
Stay True to Yourself
Remain true to yourself and aesthetic. It’s easy to see a trend and want to mimic it exactly in your own home. Before jumping on the bandwagon, make sure it fits your current style. Sticking with your personal aesthetic and staying true to yourself is a big part of having a curated home that flows and represents its inhabitants (aka- you and your family). Editing your home in your own way is another opportunity to create a cohesive home that feels timeless.
Choose Cohesive Finishes and Decor
While I don’t like things to be “matchy matchy”, using your favorite materials and textiles can act as a common thread. For example, rather than buying three identical rugs for three different rooms, choose different rugs with a common denominator… wool material, color palette, texture, etc. It’s a less obvious consistency that will provide a cohesive look. Another example? Linen window treatments… perhaps you use natural linen drapery in your master bedroom. Curtain panels are always soft and beautiful! Repeat the natural linen material in a roman shade in a guest bedroom, which feels more casual and inviting. The window treatment is a different shape, totally different look, but they still feel consistent.
Keep Your Preferred Aesthetic in Mind
Similar to staying true to yourself, knowing your style, and sticking to your preferred aesthetic is important in creating a cohesive home. I’ve got an easy example. It wouldn’t make sense to design a stark, minimal, and modern dining room, only to walk into the connected kitchen that is filled or cluttered with layers of objects, art, and curated decor (a maximalist approach). The goal is to keep the vibe and styling on a similar level throughout.
I hope this was helpful if you’re also wondering how to create a cohesive home that seems to flow nicely, while remaining representative of your personal style. In design, this can be a daunting topic or one that is easy to overthink because homes typically take a long time to design, change, and update over time.
My biggest piece of advice is this… stay true to yourself and keep your eyes on the end goal, checking back in with yourself along the way. With SO much interior inspiration out there, it’s easy to lose yourself and the big picture. Figure out why you love that inspiring image and determine how it fits into your personal aesthetic, then make it your own and keep editing.
Questions or thoughts? You know I love hearing them in the comment section! Oh- and many of you have been requesting an updated home tour of our current house, and I realized I haven’t done one since we moved in almost two years ago. I think it’s time! Stay tuned for that later this month. Happy Tuesday, friends!
BrittanyJune 16, 2020 at 5:42 am
Sarah, thank you very much for doing this post. This is a definite struggle for me in trying to determine how to approach our new to us house. My problem is that I like so many styles (face plant), but I love your blog because I think this new traditional, classic style is my favorite and you take it to another level! We recently bought a big ol cape cod style house on a farm so much of the home is kind of open in the center. Millwork gives me all the warm fuzzies, so it’s been a challenge to imagine how or if I can make it work here. Your idea of using repetition I think is going to help me a lot! Thank you and take care!
SarahJune 16, 2020 at 10:18 am
My pleasure, Brittany! I hope it is helpful :) I don’t think you have to box yourself into a certain aesthetic… or even define it. Just understand what you like and keep consistent. That can even be a variety of styles mixed to create your own look. As long as your tackling each room with that same mindset and sticking to what you like, it will feel cohesive! Your cape cod sounds absolutely incredible. Congratulations on your new home! Have a great day. xo
TawnyJune 16, 2020 at 7:04 am
I have kind of the inverse of this question: When is it okay for areas of your home to *not* be cohesive? My house was built in 1915 and has many of its original features (flooring, mouldings, etc). The basement was added in 2012 and the previous owners went totally modern; absolutely nothing matches the main house. I have read that basements and outbuildings don’t have to match the rest of the house… do you agree? If not… any advice for making modern additions feel like they belong in older homes? :)
SarahJune 16, 2020 at 10:16 am
Great question, Tawny! While I like eclectic spaces and don’t prefer everything to match (I’m all about that contrast), I do think it should feel cohesive (again- apart of the same family). I’d add similar millwork to your basement or bring in some traditional elements to make it feel like it belongs. Whether that is in your decor and furnishings, or architectural elements- I do think it should feel consistent and not like you’re traveling into a totally different home. It doesn’t have to be on the same ornate level, and you could dial it back quite a bit, but repeating some of the elements you see on your main level would be nice. I guess to answer your question, while I don’t think basements and outbuildings need to perfectly match, I do think they need to feel like a cohesive extension of the main home. If you’d like your home to feel more modern, leave the millwork and architectural elements alone (original to 1915), because those are incredible!! Instead- use furniture, art, decor, and lighting to insert modern personality. I promise it makes for a beautiful combination :) Hope this helps! xo
PeggiJune 16, 2020 at 7:15 am
Great advice, as always! I definitely think the key is staying true to yourself, so figuring out what you like and why is really important. (That’s one reason I think your Pinterest discussions are so fun!) When we first bought this house, I decided to use four words as parameters for my purchasing decisions. This helped me focus in a way that didn’t require putting a name to my style. If something was cool, colorful, comfortable and quality, it passed the test! #alliteration Checking in with yourself along the way is another excellent tip! Making a home takes time, and keeping the big picture in mind also encourages patience. (At least for me!)
Thank you for another thoughtful, illuminating post. You’re so great at including both technical and affective approaches.💜 Have a lovely Tuesday, Sarah!
SarahJune 16, 2020 at 10:11 am
Thanks Peggi! I totally agree… knowing what you like and sticking to your authentic self / vision is the only way to go. You also just reminded me to add a Pinterest post to the calendar (YAY!)… tomorrow maybe? I have nothing planned and that sounds really fun to compile on this rainy day. I love your idea of using words as parameters- so smart! It’s so tricky to define your style and I honestly feel like it’s not necessary as long as you know what you like. Creating a home you love really does take time and I think it’s sometimes easy to rush or get lost in the process. Keeping the big picture in mind has definitely helped me. Hope you’re having a great day so far :) xo
StacyJune 16, 2020 at 7:29 am
Excellent tips, Sarah! A couple of specific examples from my own home – for my wet rooms, I chose to use one single hardware line for all of the fixtures. I’ve mixed metals all over the house, so the finishes aren’t the same, and the exact fixtures will have some variation as well (my guest bath has a deck mount faucet but the master will likely have a wall mounted one), but the profiles are the same. I also have a similar setup to your previous kitchen and laundry area. When I renovated I chose to do those two rooms together, so the cabinetry in each has the same shaker profile and the same drawer/door pulls, but the kitchen cabinets are black with a white countertop, and the laundry cabinets are white with a wood countertop. I didn’t want them to match exactly but they speak to each other nicely, I think.
I have a question about millwork. My house is a non-descript ranch and I’m trying to push it in the modern craftsman direction. I’d love to add a simple (VERY simple) crown moulding to some of the rooms, but I have a great room layout with a vaulted ceiling. I have never seen crown on a vaulted ceiling that I like, but would it be weird to add crown to say, just the bedrooms, and leave it out of the main living spaces entirely? This is something I’ve been struggling with for months and you always seem to know exactly the right millwork for a space, so I’d love your input!
SarahJune 16, 2020 at 10:06 am
Thank you, Stacy! I think that is the perfect way to make them feel cohesive without duplicating the look entirely. Amazing work! It sounds beautiful. To answer your millwork question, it would NOT be weird at all to skip crown in your great room with the vaulted ceiling. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to pass on that room and keep it minimal (especially since your crown will be very simple to begin with). You’ll just have to create a miter “return” so the crown dead-ends before traveling into that space… with a nice finished edge profile. As long as you keep things tailored and consistent, you should be fine to add millwork to the bedrooms and leave other spaces alone. It’s all about balance and consistency :) Hope this helps! xo
LaurenJune 16, 2020 at 9:07 am
These are great tips. I constantly have this battle going in my head between what my OCD brain likes to see, and what my design aesthetic wants. It tends to conflict me at the most inopportune times, but I have found that I have to let one or the other sit in their discomfort and figure out what it is in the design that I’m truly struggling with. Sometimes it’s the dumbest thing (cue our bathroom discussion🤪). Keeping the desired aesthetic in mind generally helps me resolve those conflicts in most cases. I’ll find that maybe an object or piece of art that I love, just doesn’t work with the look I’m going for. Why are you always so perfectly timed with your posts Sarah?? It’s truly a talent!! I’m off to buy paint for the bathroom and ready to jump in! Last night I sketched up my original plan, and turns out I love it. Lol. Now hopefully they have what I need. Have an amazing Tuesday!
SarahJune 16, 2020 at 10:02 am
That’s always how it goes, Lauren! I can relate :) I’m so excited to see bathroom updates. It’s going to be beautiful! Crossing my fingers they have what you need, so you can finish up and start enjoying the space. Have a great day! xo
Adair KeytonJune 16, 2020 at 12:25 pm
This is so incredibly helpful! My husband and I just bought our first home and I have been poring over your blog for tips and inspiration. Just wanted to say thank you! Your advice is specific and so helpful. Sometimes design tips can feel a little too broad or vague but I never have that problem here. 🖤
SarahJune 17, 2020 at 9:22 am
I’m happy to hear that, Adair! Congratulations on your first home- that’s so exciting :) Thanks so much for your kind words and for reading and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate that. Have a great day! xo
LenaJune 16, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Great post, as always! Our neighbors bought a home where they joke each room looks like it was done in a different decade – the 70s addition, the 80s basement, the 90s kitchen, etc. I was happy our home was all original except the master addition, which was done less than ten years ago and it drives me absolutely bonkers that they didn’t do the same window style in the master as the rest of the house! We also redid our kitchen/dining/living area and we didn’t notice until after the contractors were done that the closet bi fold doors didn’t match the other doors. There was a slight difference. It’s crazy that even small differences can make a room feel off!
SarahJune 17, 2020 at 9:15 am
Thank you Lena! Ha! Your neighbor’s home sounds like a fun time warp. Those little details definitely make a difference, but I don’t mind when things don’t exactly match. We used varying windows in our previous house and it still felt cohesive :) Don’t sweat the small stuff! I bet you’re the only one who notices. Xo
MakaylaJuly 30, 2020 at 6:42 pm
I just stumbled across this blog post thanks to Pinterest and I am sooo glad I did! This is exactly what I was looking for. Your style is classy and fresh – love it! I will be reading your blog for weeks to come now. Thank you for the great tips!
SarahAugust 3, 2020 at 10:11 am
Thank you so much, Makayla! I really appreciate that. Hope your week is off to a wonderful start :) xo