On the Art of Reinvention: An Interior Designer’s Classic and Eclectic Family Home

By Matilda Davies

Interior designer Anna Applegate marries vintage, preppy, traditional, and mid-century modern in her suburban split-level home that’s anything but ordinary.

A master of reinvention, Anna has the ability, with virtuosic placement, to bring new life into flea market discoveries, Craigslist steals, and estate sale gems. Anna’s style, marked by femininity and solidarity, is paced, patient, precise. She’s created a home that’s formal but playful (Anna’s a mom to three), classic yet eccentric, consistent but multiform all at once. She’s bold too—covering the ceiling with wallpaper, layering loud patterns, and hanging a pineapple chandelier in the dining room.

Anna let House Method inside her home she shares with her husband Ryan and their three boys and discussed just how she thinks about designing a family home.

Entry The Applegates' entry is a mix of colors, textures, and shapes—even on the ceiling

Treasures The anvil-shaped entry table is a suberb find from a second-hand store in South Carolina

Details The Applegates' home is full of brilliant details, like this hand-painted antique crumb brush

Layers Layering colors and textures brightens a neutral and softens a pattern

Living space The first living room is flanked by custom window treatments, a favorite indulgence of the designer

Details The glass-topped, faux bamboo coffee table was a wedding purchase for the couple

Balance Anna balances colorful details with plenty of negative space

Dining The formal dining room serves as a favorite spot for entertaining

Symmetry Symmetrical adornments on the sideboard lend a formal air to the space

Kitchen The kitchen is simple and bright, anchored by a central island and copper light fixture

Color A classic Le Creuset dutch oven provides a pop of cerulean blue in the sleek kitchen

Flow The kitchen opens into a second living room, creating an easy flow from one gathering space to another

Balance The white kitchen balances against a colorful living room on the other side of the breakfast table

Quality Anna favors sturdy, durable furniture and fabrics that support the traffic of her three energetic sons

Books Stacks of hardcover books dapple the house

Two in one The second living room is dual purpose, serving as both gathering space and working space

Blending in Anna's home office creates an unobtrusive transition between work and play, incorporating family mementos and decorative jars that link the space to the surrounding environment

Details Asian-influenced pieces, like this bamboo-style mirror, are hidden throughout the home

Gallery Wall Framed originals from the Applegates' sons wink at the transition between adult living room and children's playroom

Play The downstairs playroom is accented by wild, orange custom window shades

Boys The boys' bedroom is a vision of fun geometric shapes and ribbons well-earned

Collections Exposed shelving showcases necessities for any young child—adventure-filled books and, of course, Pokémon

Boys Another bedroom uses gentle greens—and plenty of stuffed animals—to foster imagination

Collections Across the room, a navy scherenschnitte design banners a collection of books begging for little minds

Guests The guest room is cool and quiet, set off only by the animal-print throw at the foot of the brass-framed bed

Pattern Fearless in her use of pattern, Anna contrasts spades on the walls with block repeats on the tile flooring and even hand towels

A brief history of the home

As told by Anna

The house was built in 1978, and we bought and renovated it in 2012. It’s a split-level. We gutted the kitchen, added hardwood floors, renovated bathrooms, and finished out a former utility space (making it a playroom/mudroom), and added a bathroom.

Why did you choose this home?

It’s at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, which is perfect for our three young, energetic boys. They love playing basketball out front and we love not having to worry about a busy street with lots of cars. It’s also in walking distance to great schools (and to Whole Foods!)

Describe your decorating style.

My style is traditional with a modern slant. I love anything that’s colorful, functional, and unique. Our house is full of vintage/second-hand items that I’ve found at flea markets, off Craigslist, or from consignment and antique stores. Nothing is more fun to me than to see an old piece “reinvented” through new fabric, a new lampshade, a new frame…this “mix” of old and new adds dimension, interest, and life to any space.

As an interior designer, how do you approach creating your own home space?

I approached our space by catering to the functional needs of our family while letting our personalities shine through. We have three small boys, so I’m all about durable fabrics, rugs, and finishes. A mud room for book bags, coats, basketballs, and shoes was a must, as was a dedicated playroom to house legos, cars, and trucks.

However, I also created some “grown up” spaces in the living and dining rooms, where I love to entertain family and friends. Nothing is too precious in our house, but almost everything has meaning or tells a story. I wanted our house to be comfortable, welcoming, and to celebrate who we are as a family.

Where do you find inspiration?

I read a lot of design magazines, my favorite being House Beautiful because it always feels inspiring but attainable, and it doesn’t take decorating too seriously, which I really appreciate.

Do you have a favorite memory here?

Probably bringing our youngest son, Rence, home from the hospital almost three years ago. The memories of my older two boys being so excited about our newest addition and our first days here as a family of five still makes my heart explode.

Tell us what you love most about your home.

Split-levels get a bad rap but they’re actually very functional for young families. I love having three distinct living areas—playroom / laundry / guest room on the lower level, kitchen / living / dining areas on the main level, and bedrooms on the upper level. It’s easy to partition off messes (i.e. the playroom and kids bedrooms) when entertaining.

Do you have a favorite piece of furniture in your home?

Probably our living room coffee table. Ryan’s grandmother couldn’t make it to our wedding and gave us money to buy a piece of furniture for our home, so this table was the first thing we bought together. It has an antique gold faux bamboo base with a glass top and I still love it just as much today as I did eleven years ago.

What has been your favorite DIY project in the home?

I think the only DIY project we have undertaken has been in our yard. I love to play around with planting and landscaping and we made a little fire pit area in the back that we look forward to enjoying this fall.

One project you’ll always outsource?

Hanging anything beyond a small picture.

One thing you wish you could change about the home?

I dream of adding a screened porch off the kitchen. And a powder room (wallpapered, of course).

What part of the home is your biggest indulgence?

Custom window treatments. They make such a difference!

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