A ranch house goes rogue with a whimsical design scheme that breaks the rules, beautifully.

Interior designer Kelle Dame has never been big on decorating rules. “Every time I find a rule I think I need to follow, a beautiful contradiction presents itself,” Kelle explains. “Like the time I decided that dark colors should only be used in limited amounts in a small space only to discover that horizontal stripes of any color can actually expand a wall’s perceived width. So my new rule is this: ‘If you love it, you can make it work.’”

1970s Small ranch house

  • Decorating style: Eclectic – ”Go bold or go home!”
  • Inspiration: A whimsical pastel mug defined the unifying color scheme.
  • Design challenge: Turning the baby room into a “big girl” room, since the space is so very small.
  • Solution: To create more space, the homeowner crafted custom built-ins and a storage bed to fit.
  • Best decision: “Filling our home with things that we all love, that are comfortable and that are meaningful to us…to me, the point of interior design is to surround yourself with inspiring, beautiful things that make you happy.”

Personality plus: small rooms decorating ideas

Kelle and husband Nick’s home is interesting and eclectic: Wide horizontal stripes greet you at the front door and then meet up with a black-and-white, trellis-stenciled living room wall. Family heirlooms and cherished antiques lock hands with modern acrylic chairs and casual window treatments. “I love pattern and contrast,” Kelle says. “Bold graphics make a home feel alive with energy, and unexpected pairings lend an element of surprise. Design choices need to match the owners’ tastes and personalities, and for us, the more energetic the decorating, the better the match.” But the Kenosha, Wisconsin, home has not always appeared so upbeat and inviting. In fact, when the couple purchased the 1970s ranch five years ago, it still looked like it did when it was first built – countrystyle wooden spindles separated the gathering areas, and Colonial blue paint dominated the decor.

Warm welcome: small hallway

Stunning new Brazilian cherry planks cover the floor in the front hall and continue to the kitchen and family area, lending visual continuity.

Small hallway.
Small hallway.

Painted pattern: decorating a small living room

Kelle uses contrast as an effective design tool. Bold patterns work well in small spaces when you pair them with light walls and ceilings.

Eclectic small living room decorating ideas paint colors.
Eclectic small living room decorating ideas paint colors.

Drawing room: chalkboard paint

Chalkboard paint covers an area of the dining room. “I framed the painted surface with decorative molding to make it appear a little more art-like,” Kelle says.

Chalkboard paint.
Chalkboard paint.

The home is just 1,400 square feet, but the spindles and dark woodwork made it feel even smaller. Today, the house stands as a testament to the couple’s personal style. It also is a showcase for their collections. “The spindles are gone; the white woodwork makes the home feel more spacious; and there is nothing in here that we don’t love,” says Kelle. “Every object has a story.” For example, the framed spoons on the living room wall originally belonged to Kelle’s great grandmother. Various pieces of Audrey Hepburn memorabilia make appearances throughout the house, as do Bailey’s Wink Mugs (see inset, opposite). “The wink mugs actually provided the inspiration for the entire color scheme,” Kelle says. “I love how the colors look on the mug, so I knew they would look equally attractive splashed on the walls and fabrics.” Organization and editing are key elements to smallspace living. “If we don’t love it, we sell it or give it away,” Kelle says. “We eke storage from wherever we can inside ottomans, beneath tabletops and under the beds.” In addition to fresh paint and the removal of a lot of spindles, the couple replaced the kitchen cabinetry, appliances and flooring, and updated the fireplace in the adjoining hearth room. “The white cabinets freshen the kitchen and create a visual connection between it and the adjoining rooms,” Kelle says. “Nick and my dad did most of the carpentry work. My mom did most of the sewing and I painted, so we were able to make multiple changes without a lot out of pocket.”

Dining in: small narrow dining room

Kid-friendly clear acrylic chairs clean up in a snap and add a lighthearted touch to the narrow dining area. Layers of salvaged frames lend dimension and artistry to a plain white wall.

Eclectic small narrow dining room decor.
Eclectic small narrow dining room decor.

Counter measures: small kitchen

The only thing original to the kitchen is the solid surface countertop. “It was in great shape, so we saved the expense of replacing it,” Kelle says. “We just had to make sure the original cutouts matched up with the new cabinets and fixtures.”

Small kitchen decor.
Small kitchen decor.

Hearth of the home: small living room with fireplace

A new fireplace in the hearth room was a splurge. “The old fireplace had a raised hearth that took up way too much floor space, and the flue didn’t work properly,” Kelle says. “It was an expensive renovation…but it makes our little family area the go-to spot.”

Eclectic small living room with fireplace.
Eclectic small living room with fireplace.

A stenciled paint pattern adorns the back of the new family area built-ins.

Wall built-ins.
Wall built-ins.

Stow away: storage solutions for small living room

New hardware and fresh paint make the thrift store coffee table look like new. Multiple drawers provide storage for games and toys.

Decorating a small living room and storage ideas.
Decorating a small living room and storage ideas.

Set the scene: small guest bedroom decorating ideas

The guest bedroom exudes Hollywood glamour with a bold mix of patterns and textures.

Small guest bedroom Hollywood glamour decor.
Small guest bedroom Hollywood glamour decor.
Small bedroom decorating.
Small bedroom decorating.

Tiny Treasure: small bedroom decorating for teenage girl

“Our favorite project is probably our daughter’s room,” Kelle continues. “The room is just 9×9-feet, but the built-ins beside the faux headboard (it’s just painted onto the wall) and below the bed make it live larger. “I believe that your surroundings can have a huge impact on your attitude,” Kelle says. “When you fill your home with things you love and that have meaning to you, it feels great to be home.”

Full-size charm: girl bedroom storage ideas

Daughter Bailey loves her stylish bedroom, complete with a platform storage bed not to mention a painted-on headboard.

Stylish teenage girl bedroom storage ideas for small spaces.
Stylish teenage girl bedroom storage ideas for small spaces.

Connect the dots: canvas storage in small bedroom

Canvas storage bins help organize off-season gear in Bailey’s closet.

Canvas storage in small bedroom.
Canvas storage in small bedroom.

Bold strokes: teenage girl bedroom colors

A coat of paint breathes new life into a hand-me-down dresser.

Best paint color for small girl bedroom.
Best paint color for small girl bedroom.

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