For Stefanie Schiada, what began as a simple blog to chronicle her Brooklyn Limestone renovation has evolved into an archive brimming with her latest decorating projects, entertaining ideas, and experiences as a new mother. Beloved for her laid back demeanor and budget-savvy secrets, this Jill-of-all trades has been featured on The Nate Berkus Show, Apartment Therapy, and Houzz.
Ever the hostess with a penchant for adventure, Schiada is always on the lookout to shake things up. When she’s not devoting time to her blog, running her own graphic design business, or tending to new daughter Agatha, you can find her planning her next fabulous soiree or great escape. We caught up with Schiada to gather tips on renovating, staying inspired, and throwing the perfect party.
Taking on a renovation can be a huge (and expensive) commitment. What drew you to taking on the house you live in now, instead of purchasing a home that might have been less work?
We had done all sorts of renovations in a smaller house we were living in before, so we’d had some experience. It’s very difficult to find a renovated limestone, and it’s cheaper to put in the work. I’m also very particular about everything, and I knew I was never going of find what I wanted, so it just made more sense for us to renovate ourselves. There’s always going to be bumps in the road but it worked out. It’s definitely not for everyone.
It can be difficult to come up with a reasonable budget when you’re planning a renovation. What sorts of things do you try to invest in? Where do you save?
There will always be surprises, so we budgeted in a way that would give us room. In terms of what to invest in, the idea is to save as much as possible. We would use bathroom tiles as a backsplash or reuse plumbing fixtures–not only would it save money, but it would also add character to the space. Invest in something that will be attached to your house forever, such as high-quality cabinets and sinks.
Now that you’ve taken on a full-fledged renovation, do you think about renovating rooms constantly?
We tried to renovate in a way that would not require yet another renovation. We’re living in an old house, so it’ll require some long-term work. Hopefully we won’t be renovating here for another 20 years. We want it to stand the test of time.
Which room was the hardest to renovate? The easiest?
For me, it was most challenging to consider the mechanical side of things. It’s much more fun to pick out kitchen cabinets or finishes. What’s not fun is thinking about how much cubic feet of power I need in my boiler or how much light [is necessary] in a room. However it’s these decisions that are going to have the most impact, so you’ve got to think them through carefully.
From following your blog, it appears you like to change things up every once in a while. What are some easy ways you can spruce up a room without buying anything new?
Painting is the number one way to make a huge impact. It’s not the easiest thing, but it’s the cheapest. You can also mix up accessories or rearrange your artwork. We have a picture rail in our living room, where we can easily switch out pictures without putting holes in the wall. We also have various sized frames that can be used to frame art or decor. We actually framed the flat screen in our master suite. Changing your pillows or taking a piece of furniture and painting it a funky color can also make a big difference.
I don’t like clutter—I’m the master of throwing things away. It’s not worth keeping things you don’t use. I also don’t like to see lots of stacks of things, but that can be hard to manage if you have a baby. My go-to solution is containers. As long as it’s in a container it’s much more attractive on the outside while hiding things away.
You like a good party, and you throw some pretty fabulous-looking ones. What sorts of things do you consider when you’re planning for a party?
I like to have a concept that ties everything together. For decor, it’s important to think about scale. I like to have a couple standout pieces, and one big centerpiece to tie it all together, along with some small accents to round it out. A signature drink helps with not having a huge bar, and also adds a fun decorative touch. You can use drink dispensers so that guests will serve themselves. Well-displayed food also adds to the decor, while going buffet-style makes it easier to serve.
You’ve done quite a bit of traveling and have visited a number of exotic locales. How have your travels influenced your style?
Since I’m not a fan of clutter, I’m not really one of those people who collect things from every single place I’ve been to. Instead, I like to collect photos I’ve taken—it reminds me more of my memories. There’s always something amazing to see when you’re traveling, and a picture captures it so much better than a souvenir. And of course, there’ll be one or two pictures of things I wish I could take home—a copper tub from Morocco, a stuffed chair from Africa. I can’t take them home with me, but I at least have a photo to remember it by and use as a reference for my next decorating project.
Another place you can find inspiration is the hotel you’re staying in. I love staying in a beautiful hotel. A good way of decorating your home is to think of the sorts of hotels you like and mimic them. Hotels think very well about comfort level. A good question to ask yourself is, what is this hotel doing right that I can do in my own home?