A Light and Bright Modern Farmhouse

This modern farmhouse uses crisp white, calm blue and natural wood finishes to create a clean and comfortable ambiance.

An armchair and ottoman make this a comfortable corner for pets and their humans alike.

A new home is like a blank canvas, waiting for the new inhabitants to put their mark on it. When the Gavaris family moved into their home in Ontario, Canada, about five years ago, they wanted to repaint and redesign each room to show their style.

The couple runs the home design blog, A Burst of Beautiful. Alicia, the editor and designer, draws up her ideas, while her husband, Nick, builds much of the DIY furniture and creates the architectural details. Working as a team, they explain how they personalized every room in their home.

Modern Farmhouse

While the 1,700-square-foot home was a standard builder home, they added character and interest with new wainscoting, board and batten, and built-in storage. “We’ve been moving through room to room and putting our own touch on it,” says Alicia. “It’s a modern farmhouse with lots of light, natural wood, fibers and textures. I love blue, so it’s in almost every room in our house, from rugs and cushions to throws and art.”

Repainting the entire house from the former taupey-beige to soft grays and whites was the couple’s solution to merging their two styles together. (Nick prefers a masculine look, while Alicia likes light and bright.)

“I keep the big pieces, like our walls, all very neutral and classic so we don’t have to change them out all the time,” Alicia says. “I’ll add throws, pillows and decorative accents like bowls and vases. It’s relaxed, and nothing is too fussy, formal or matchy-matchy. Most items are hand-me-down pieces that we put a fresh coat of paint on.”

Family-Friendly Details

While the layout of the house wasn’t changed much, the couple incorporated many space-saving ideas to accommodate the hustle and bustle of family life, which includes daughter, Zoe, two dogs and a cat.

“The biggest change was the kitchen. We rejigged that space, repainted the oak cabinets ourselves, redid the lighting, added an island, and Nick put in cabinets and floating shelves,” Alicia says.

At the entry of the home, a closet off the garage was converted into a mini mudroom area with a shelf above and wall hooks below. “We had coats and everything jammed in there, so we took the bifold doors off, and it’s nice and bright now,” Nick says. “People ask us if it really looks like this every day. It stays pretty neat because when it’s open like that, it forces you to keep it clean.”

With a small child and pets at home, you would think white sofas might be off-limits, but they work for this family. “I wanted a white sofa, but I went with a slipcover because I know there are going to be spills and sticky fingers. You can always have them dry-cleaned and looking good as new,” Alicia says.

While white looks crisp and clean, the overall effect is a comforting, casual vibe. “We want our guests to feel comfortable when they’re here,” says Alicia.

4 Tips for a Creative and Cozy Christmas Look

Jenni Holmes blends high contrast neutrals and metallics, abundant greenery and personal touches for a cozy Christmas look.

Simple décor and textures enhance an understated and elegant holiday look. Copper, brass and gold metallic finishes, as well as green garlands and wreaths, add to the aesthetic.

The holiday décor of this home in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a perfect balance of charming, cozy and elegant. It belongs to Jenni Holmes of the Dear Lillie Studio, her husband, Jonathan, and their two daughters Lillian and Lorelei. Her style shows that you don’t need a total makeover to create a little holiday magic. Use these tips to inspire you to make your home feel festive and nostalgic with an effortless flair.

  1. Neutral

“My overall style is traditional with a little bit of a twist,” Jenni explains. To keep her look versatile from season to season and year to year, she sticks with a neutral and monochromatic color scheme. “Most rooms have a relatively neutral base with creams, grays, blacks, navy or chocolate brown, so I can easily mix things up seasonally. If I want to bring in different colors for Christmas, summer or fall, it’s easy to do that.”

Gold may be glamorous, but the fact that it looks lovely with just about any other color makes it an adaptable and easy neutral, no matter the season.

Accessories with bronze, brass or gold trim details not only look on-trend, but they can also create a Christmas look in an instant when combined with gold ball ornaments and handmade wreaths.

Greenery doesn’t necessarily have to be real. “If you find something that looks real, snag it,” Jenni says. “It lasts forever and is worth it.”
  1. Natural

A simple way to make any home feel merry and bright for the holidays? Just add greenery and natural branches and twigs, fresh or faux. “A lot of the time I’ll use clippings from outside. I’ll find branches and berries and just layer them in,” Jenni says.

Dark walls create a cozy atmosphere in the bedroom. Jenni layers crisp, bright white into the space for high contrast.

For Jenni, this also means fresh roses, which are a tried and true way to add a romantic ambience. “Around the holidays you usually can’t get a lot of fresh flowers, but no matter what your holiday color scheme is, roses look pretty,” she says. “If you stick with one color and cluster them together, it makes a statement.”

A pair of vintage wooden skis add wintery flair to a corner in the dining room.
  1. Collected

Casual, but with an elevated personality, Jenni’s home feels warm and inviting through the use of sophisticated furnishings with comfortable textures, metal accessories and dark neutral colors. A mix of hand-me-down antiques and vintage-style furniture creates a collected and approachable ambiance.

Jenni’s white sofa pops against the deep gray walls where a plush tartan deer head is mounted with a fest wreath. A pair of vintage snow shoes rest in the corner.

Finding the right pieces is key to creating a livable look, whether it’s an heirloom mirror handed down from Jenni’s great-great-grandmother, vintage skis or sleds, or a new-but-made-to-look-antique dresser.

“We just like it to be a welcoming place so that when people walk in and it’s decorated [for Christmas], it makes you feel right at home,” Jenni says.

  1. Crafty

Lastly, what’s a surefire way to personalize your home for the holidays? Jenni insists on adding homespun decorations for a family-friendly and sentimental touch. “There are so many ways to make it look and feel ‘holiday’; you don’t have to buy your decorations at the store,” Jenni says. “You could make gingerbread men and string them onto ornaments. You can string popcorn or cranberries on a garland—those are some of my favorite memories. You could just make a few things and make it feel special.”

Christmas Q & A with KariAnne Wood

KariAnne Wood has the answers to your holiday decor questions!

A bottle drying rack displays several tiny wreaths. Underneath, a collection of unfinished wooden trees adds warmth to the neutral space.

Our resident design maven, KariAnne Wood or Thistlewood Farm, answers your holiday decor questions!

Q:  I love decorating for the holidays, but I want to add a few handmade projects into my décor this year.  Do you have any suggestions?

Let’s start with the best part about handmaking your holiday décor: It’s unique, inexpensive and a great way to simplify your holiday decorating. The key to handmade is sticking with projects that aren’t overwhelming or overcomplicated and don’t require a Ph.D. in directions. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Make a book-page garland with leaves cut out from old book pages.
  • Create a Christmas tree from scrabble letters that spell out the words to a carol.
  • Glue tiny pinecones onto an old wooden board in the shape of a snowflake.
  • Sew pom-poms onto dollar-store stockings.
  • Cut out triangles from old holiday cards, punch holes in the corner and tie them onto jute twine to create a banner.

Let this be the year—start a new tradition with a handmade holiday.

Q:  Typically I decorate my home for the holidays with traditional red and green, but this year I want to change it up a little and add some new colors to the mix. Do you have any suggestions?

KariAnne’s neutral theme includes both rustic textures and shimmering surfaces.

I do, but can we just start with a shout-out for red and green? (Those colors have showed up for some amazing holiday parties at my house.) That being said, I love the idea of adding a few neutrals into your décor this fall and winter. Here are some easy suggestions to change the holiday décor conversation.

Shop your yard. Bring in the colors and textures of the outdoors. Layer pinecones in a bowl, make a twig garland for your bookcase or fill a vase with stones from the walk and add in greenery and twigs.

Select natural fibers. Use burlap sacks for a Christmas tree skirt. Fill galvanized metal buckets with evergreens.  Sew stockings from flour sacks. Paint letters on reclaimed wood to spell out a holiday message.


Repurpose what you have. Sometimes all that décor that’s lost its luster needs is a coat of paint. Take a look at the basic lines of some of your traditional holiday décor, and give it a new look with a coat of gray or white paint.

KariAnne Wood blogs at Thistlewood Farm, is the author of So Close to Amazing and the DIY Home Planner.

Send your questions to romantichomes@engagedmediainc.com.