From idea to completion, this is what it was like to design a room in 2023’s Real Simple Home – and make the cover!
What Is the Real Simple Home?
This year, the sixth annual Real Simple Home 2023 was a modern penthouse in Brooklyn, New York. Over the course of 10 months, seven designers took over one room in the house and put their spin on it. You may already recognize some of the names that took part in this year’s Home, but if not, I urge you to take a look around their portfolios. The talent is phenomenal, and we’re still pinching ourselves that we were asked to be in such great company!
- Bobby Berk, living room
- David Quarles IV, primary bedroom
- Michelle Gage, home office
- Megan Hopp, guest bedroom
- Linda Hayslett, roof deck
- Kim + Scott (us!), dining + kitchen
We were asked to take part in February of this year, and after a Zoom meeting with the Real Simple team (who admitted it was our recently completed kitchen renovation that caught their eye!) and a few chats with friends who have designed a room in the past, we said Yes! We were nervous. And excited. And before long, the ball started rolling, and it was time to get to work!
The Design Process
The most common question I’ve been asked about the process is, How do you know if your design will flow with the others’ designs? Which is totally valid, and one of our first thoughts! So I’ll tell you exactly how: Each designer must submit a mood board of our dream space, and the Real Simple team gets an overheard view of seeing all the mood boards together. From there, they can ask you to make tweaks, consider other materials, etc. They’re looking for cohesion while also being mindful of the Home’s sponsors, such as Valspar paint and Minted art. And before you ask – no, we had no idea what the other designs before seeing it in person ourselves!
You can see that the final approved mood board, above, was our third rendition. Our first concept included an L-shaped linen banquette and a simple line drawing diptych (sketch I, sketch II). Some things were asked to be changed due to supply, or perhaps they were too similar to another designer (we received the note: too much animal art, which made me smile). You can imagine how different the board must have looked without all the deep orange! In the end, we liked that we were stretched a bit more, and once I saw this banquette, everything else fell into place.
Our thought process on the design was a play on the city skyline you can see from every room in the penthouse – earth tones, deep green, and lots of plants! A juxtaposition, if you will. On the other hand, the colors mimic brownstones and treetops lining the streets of Brooklyn. Which do you think it is?
Once all designers’ designs had been given the Real Simple thumbs up, the RS team got to work sourcing our items from partner brands. Most of the items you see throughout the Home are a result of dozens of contributors. Items are shipped to the penthouse, and before you know it, it’s…
Lucy was spending some time with her grandparents during install week this past July, which meant that both Scott and I could head to Brooklyn! It must have been the hottest, most humid heat I’d ever felt – like, when I think back to those 4-ish days we spent in the city, I distinctly remember the feeling of walking through hot soup, ha! – but my goodness, we had the best, BEST time.
We arrived mid-installation week due to a few scheduling conflicts, and by the time we took the elevator to the penthouse, the Real Simple team had opened almost every last box and organized all items by my room. The walls were painted, furniture was laid roughly in place, and a team of movers and builders were at the ready for anything we needed. Be still our hearts!
This was also the time we finally go to meet the wonderful team we’d only seen through our computer screens! Erica Finamore, Teddy Willson, Hannah Baker, Misty Chandler and (not pictured) Leslie Corona were the dream team that kept things orderly, moving forward and on track.
A Little Hiccup
Just one (not-so?) little hiccup. By installation week, our dining table was still stuck in California during a shipping mishap. The RS Team was a step ahead, realizing it might not make it to the space in time, so a couple of weeks before, we chose two alternate tables. Those were both ordered… and then subsequently stuck in shipping, too. So, we didn’t have a dining table by the time I started documenting the space!
This photo was taken in the last 5 minutes of our last day on-site. We were still buzzed from the excitement of meeting the Real Simple team face-to-face, being hands on for the installation and exploring beautiful Brooklyn. By the looks of it, we were a little tired, too.
The good news is that the table arrived a handful of days later, just in time for the magazine’s official photoshoot. In all my photos (all photos are mine unless noted), you’ll see, er, won’t see, a dining table, but I still shot the room. For me.
Rolling Out the Reveal
After the install and before the photos went to press, Real Simple shared sneak peeks ahead of the big reveal, like this mood board of what inspires us! Of course, sweet Kitty made the issue. Click on the image to read the article full-sized.
And the full reveal is available on RealSimple.com, and for all to see in print the October issue!
One More Night In Brooklyn
Real Simple threw two awesome parties to celebrate the reveal of the home, and Scott insisted I head to Brooklyn for a one-nighter to take part and celebrate our accomplishment! I wish so badly my partner-in-crime could have made it, but while he stayed in Chicago with Lucy, Jordan and Barry insisted I stay in their guest room. I’m still processing the whirlwind trip, and I honestly get emotional thinking about it.
The night of the party, Erica shared with me that OUR ROOM MADE THE COVER. (Am I shouting?) I teared up and felt the warm, sweet rush of gratitude. Not even 15 minutes later, I stood on the roof deck on that cool night, the city skyline in the background. I listened as Real Simple’s editor-in-chief, Lauren Ianontti, gave a speech, welcoming us all and congratulating the designers. I closed my eyes to soak in the moment. I still think about it, that exact moment in time. It was humbling and perfect. You can see more photos from the events here.
I’m really proud of us, and those words don’t come easy for me to say. So many times leading up to the reveal, I asked Scott, Why did they ask us to be a part of such incredible company? A big part of me still doesn’t understand, but my gratitude is through the roof. We are humbled and honored to have been a part of this experience. And of course – of course! – thank you for being here. Really. We work hard behind the scenes, we show up every day, and we’ve been paving our way in this field for almost 15 years. But it’s you showing up every day alongside us that makes what we do possible. We appreciate you!
Get the Look
I’ll end it here, with our sources detailed below. Please let us know if you’re a Real Simple subscriber already or picked up your own copy! And at the risk of being overly sappy, it’s been incredible to see you tagging us as you caught our names flipping through the pages. xx
1. kitchen wood cabinetry | 2. marble countertops | 3. valspar aged pine | 4. espresso machine, $1,100 | 5. oil cruet, $55 | 6. footed bowl, $90 | 7. wall lamp, $880 | 8. wall art, $190 | 9. mantel mirror, $750 | 10. faux bird of paradise, $800 | 11. rust sofa, $1,700 | 12. pillow cover, $30 | 13. pillow, $60 | 14. wood serving bowl, $60 | 15. dining chair, $300 | 16. faux queen anne’s lace, $40 | 17. metal vase, $130 | 18. oval dining table, $2,300 | 19. rug, $800