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Daniela & Austin's Upstate Cabin Renovation

Daniela and Austin's upstate NY cabin is a case study in making a home feel more like you (you've gotta see the before photo). My friend Daniela's a designer, muralist and creative director and her husband Austin's a podcast producer. Their styles were very different when they moved in, but read on to see how they've made it work.

Group Project is an interview series with people who live together about creating a home that blends their styles and meets their needs. 

One of the top questions I get as a designer is “what do I do if my partner has a different style.” The truth is, I think that answer is going to be unique to each couple, and that’s why I started Group Project.

How would you describe your own individual personal styles at home, and were they similar or different when you first moved in together?

Daniela: Oh gosh, our styles were very different when we moved in together, both from one another’s and what they’ve evolved to now. I was poking around my Google Drive and found some photos of my old apartment and was in awe at how much my style has changed! I was obsessed with plants then, had been studying horticulture at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and thought I would become an interior plant stylist. My style leaned more boho with lots of darker wood and natural materials like rattan and jute. Plants made me really happy (they still do, but I’m finding more of a balance now).

Austin describes his style before we lived together as “college dorm chic” — a thrifted bed, a desk from when he was a kid, and other secondhand things acquired truly out of survival. I don’t think he ever thought about interior design before we met. He always lived with a lot of roommates, so all of the common spaces were a mismatch of random things.

Happy-making space in their Hudson apartment

We both love color and have been able to adapt that love in our homes over the years tastefully. When I first started playing with color at home, I realized it made me feel really happy — and the rest is history! I try to incorporate my adoration for color in our home and my design work wherever possible. According to your style quiz, I’m Pop Arcade, which is so spot on! I love bold designs, patterns, and color. Austin is Pottery Style (but with a splash of Pop Arcade). He loves a calming, organic design with nothing too distracting. Marrying the two styles together has been fun.

I’ve loved seeing your cabin transform into a space that really reflects your personal style. What has the process of making longer-term design decisions been like for you?

Daniela: Thank you! It’s still a work in progress, but having full foundational control over a space has been really fun. That said, it has also come with its challenges! It took us a while to get comfortable making the more permanent renovation decisions, like knocking down walls and adding windows.

I think we waited a whole year before we started any major renovation work ourselves. We bought the cabin knowing we would change some things structurally before we started decorating, and we made those decisions based on how we wanted the space to feel and function. In the beginning, everything felt very stressful, like it was the biggest decision in the world.

Now, we feel much more comfortable starting projects because we know we don’t have to get things “perfect” and anything can be fixed. Realizing those two things gave us so much peace and allowed us to just really enjoy the process.

The cabin kitchen, before

What’s the last design decision you made together, and how did you make it?

Daniela: Funny that you ask because we finally decided what to do with our big blank living room wall: we’re going to try the IKEA Elvarli system, inspired by you!

The package arrived last week, and we plan on installing it this month. Austin and I love the look of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves but didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on them. When we measured our wall and the width of two Elvarlis, we realized it would be a great fit. We have a lot of books and smaller decorative items, so now everything will have its place.

How does your home reflect your relationship? 

Daniela: We love this question. Our home is colorful and cheerful, which feels representative of our personalities and how we are with one another, but what you can’t physically see is the teamwork that was required when creating our home.

When we look around, we’re filled with the memories of our first night in the home, all the DIYs we attempted, and the silly, panicked moments when things went wrong. At the risk of sounding corny, it’s a collection of us and a total work in progress! We agree that it isn’t “complete” yet, but we don’t think it will ever be done.

Our house is ever-evolving, and I’m sure it will have many iterations of itself, just like us, as we move through life. We’re constantly trying new things in our home, and we try to enjoy the process because design is a lot more fun when you’re enjoying yourself. 

Your favorite thing about your home, and why?

Daniela: We love our windows! You can see the woods from any angle of our home. The kitchen comes as a close second.

We love Lady! How does Lady impact your home design decisions? 

Daniela: Lady’s the queen of the house. She’s an older Basset Hound, so we try and do what we can to protect her little stubby legs. Our cabin has two floors, and we’ve added non-slip treads to our staircase for when we’re not able to carry her up and down the stairs.

Lady sleeps in bed with us (non-negotiable), and she is extremely long, so we splurged on a king-size bed and my favorite bedframe from Leanne Ford’s Crate & Barrel collection, the Ever Bedframe. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s super low to the ground, so Lady can get up and down without any problems. A true win-win design purchase.

We love adding rugs to ground spaces in our home, but they’re also great for preventing her from slipping around our hardwood floors. Other than that, we try and keep blankets on our sofa just to help keep the dog hair elsewhere, but it’s her house as much as ours, so we let her go anywhere she wants 🙂

The cabin is on 13 acres and is very secluded from any neighbors, so she gets to roam free and loves wandering the woods. The land wasn’t something that was originally on our wishlist, but we all really lucked out with it.

Have there been any contentious pieces / design decisions? Tell us about the resolution (if there was one) 

Daniela: Nothing has ever gotten super contentious, but I’d be lying if I said Austin’s creative decisions led to our pink bathroom. That has my name written all over it, and it took some convincing! I figured if I wanted to go really pink in one room in the house, my bathroom was my best bet since it had the smallest footprint.

I think it started when we were looking for what tile to use in our shower. I was leaning towards incorporating terrazzo, but then I found this beautiful blush zellige tile from Riad Tile, ordered a sample, and fell in love. I felt really drawn to trying out an all-pink look in the bathroom, and after mocking it up for Austin and showing him the vision, he was willing to trust the process.

Austin: If you’re going to make a room all pink, make it the smallest room in the house. Kidding, sort of.

Daniela: He loves it!

The best part about living together is:

Daniela: Experiencing all of life’s moments together and building our dream home.

Austin: I love being with my best friend, watching her get excited about her creative design ideas, and seeing them come to life.

The challenging part about living together is: 

Daniela: This is so silly but true: I’m always freezing at home, and Austin runs hot. I could sleep with the heat cranked, socks on, and be perfectly content smushed between him and Lady, and he would be full-on sweating. We are always going back and forth on the temperature at home.

What’s one piece of design advice you’d share with other people who are creating a home together? 

Daniela: Your home is your creative playground — have fun with it and try new things. And don’t compare yourself to others! Comparison is the thief of joy.

Austin: Try not to rush into anything too quickly, and yes, don’t be afraid to try different things in your home, especially if they’re renter-friendly, like a DIY that’s been on your list for a while. You can always change it, and it’s never too late to get started. Small changes make a big difference.

Thank you Daniela and Austin for sharing so thoughtfully! If you are sharing a home with someone else, and you're trying to blend your styles - you might like my past Group Projects here and here


Meet Cristina Cleveland

Interior Designer

I created the Interior Style Quiz to give you the tools and language to express your style more cohesively in your home. 

Book a call if you need help closing the gap between your home right now and the personal style you want to be expressing.

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