When interior designer Michelle Gage heard about the One Room Challenge, she knew it was a perfect fit. Not only was the unique challenge an amazing opportunity to try new designs and have some serious fun, it was also the perfect chance to collaborate. Michelle joined photographer Kyle Born to create this Palm Springs-inspired room, and the result is a dream come true for resident Natalie Jacob. What’s even more impressive is that Michelle and Natalie have never met in person — proving that a love for design transcends time, space, and practicality.
Square Footage: 215 for living room
Rent or Own: Rent
City: Jersey City, NJ
Years Lived In: 4 months
What is the One Room Challenge?
The One Room Challenge is a national effort to design a space in just six weeks. Homeowners share their progress on their blog weekly and cheer each other on to the finish line. Two challenges occur each year — one in April and one in October.
How did you get involved with the ORC? Why were you excited about the opportunity?
I had followed the last two seasons of the challenge and always wanted to play a part. The timing just never seemed to line up with my personal home renovations. By the time this one came around, my home was complete.
Kyle (the photographer) and I had worked together before on a shoot of my house. She had reached out to me about working together again, but I truly didn’t have any spaces ready for her to shoot. I asked her if she would be interested in partnering to complete a space for the ORC and she said, “YES!”
It became a game of finding someone to let me play house! Natalie and I had connected on Instagram a few months back. She was someone I bookmarked in my mind as having a really fun sense of style. I reached out to her to see if she would let me make over a room in her home. As fate would have it, she was in the process of moving and needed someone to help pull her living room together. We emailed back and forth for a bit and then decided to move forward — virtually. Natalie is only semi-local to where Kyle and I live. We agreed that the design work would be tackled remotely and that the only home visit would be when Kyle came by to style and shoot the final space. Natalie and I have still never met in person — the magic of the internet!
What do you think is unique about the One Room Challenge?
You only have six weeks to complete your space. In the design world, that’s a tight timeline. With our scheduled shoot date in mind, we had to work quickly and choose pieces that had short lead times. Standard lead time on a sofa can be anywhere between six and 12 weeks. We didn’t have that kind of time, so we needed to source a sofa that came quicker than most. That’s where Article came in with this pink pretty; it arrived in less than a week!
As a designer, the most exciting part of the process is seeing it all come together. Often times, projects can take months and months to complete — you’re either waiting on furniture to arrive or on a client to make a decision. It was exciting to know that I only had to wait six weeks to see the finished space.
Natalie shared progress photos with me each week to keep me up to date. When Kyle shared the final photos — it was like Christmas morning.
Do you think the allotted time is enough? Could the average person realistically complete the entire process in the same amount of time in their own home?
The timeline is totally doable — but it requires a lot of focus. Natalie was completely dedicated to the mission, which kept the design process moving along! She was responsible for ordering all of the selected pieces. Every week, she was either running to Target or receiving and unboxing shipments.
Kyle only had a few days between shooting the space and passing the edited photos. Her finished photos are amazing, but as a creative, you always crave a few more days for the process to fully unfold.
Your design inspiration for this project was Palm Springs. Why?
It was actually Natalie’s inspiration! She had just returned from Palm Springs and the city really spoke to her. It’s a place that 100% embodies her style. In our initial design conversations, she came to the table wanting two things — a pink sofa and space that reminded her of her trip. When she told me this, I knew we were a perfect match. The mission then became to make the space as fun as Natalie!
How did you incorporate Palm Springs elements? How can someone else do the same?
We knew the space needed a fun and fresh wallpaper — palms with pink pops were perfect! Natalie had taken a great photo of the Cabazon Dinosaur, which she had printed and framed for the mantle. Once the space was near completion, Natalie filled all of the planters with great lush greens. These are easy and affordable updates that anyone can make!
Tell us about how you choose artwork.
The artwork was either in Natalie’s existing collection or the photo that she had taken herself, which we framed. We knew the dinosaur had to hang over the fireplace — something I never imagined I’d get to say! The rest filled in once the furniture placement was set.
The room has SO much beautiful greenery! Do you use live or artificial plants? What’s your best advice for incorporating greenery into a space (without overwhelming it or requiring too much upkeep)?
I don’t have a green thumb — I’m struggling to keep succulents alive right now. The plant life is all Natalie! In order to give yourself the best shot of keeping things looking green, keep the pots in places that are easy to access. Natalie can water all of these quickly, since the plants all keep to one location of the room.
What’s your favorite part of the room?
My favorite part is the Anthropologie Lucite bar cart balanced against the wild wallpaper. Natalie’s favorite is the framed image of the Cabazon dinosaur. She said, “It really makes the room feel as quirky as Palm Springs really is, but also makes it more special because I took that photo on a trip there. I smile every time I walk in the room and see it.”
Which pieces do you think are the most versatile? Which would you most recommend that others get for their own homes?
A pink sofa can’t necessarily be thrown into any room — you have to design a space around it. Anyone can add a little plant life to their home. Additionally, styled out shelving units really add an extra layer to your space. This basic piece was from Ikea, but the way Kyle and Natalie styled it really brought it to life. Natalie already had already collected some of the room’s fun accessories, so we just layered in a few more to fill it out. Kyle is a styling wizard and really made that Ikea piece a focal point in the room.
What features were the hardest to design around? Which part came the easiest?
The living room was a bit narrow, which is often the case in older homes and always a bit of a challenge. When space is lacking, a great leather Moroccan pouf can be worked into most spaces. We couldn’t fit a coffee table into this narrow space, so the pouf allows Natalie a space to prop up her feet after a long day. Overall, the room had great bones and the fireplace was an obvious focal point. Surprisingly enough, the color palette came together pretty quickly. You don’t always get a client who is down for these kind of colors, but when you do — you run with it!
What’s your best advice for decorating in a time crunch? What about for decorating on a budget?
Start by finding a sofa that can come quicker than normal. Shop quick-ship sites — like Article, Wayfai, and World Market — for furniture. Target is an obvious destination for high style, low priced pieces. It’s a great place to pick out the items you need to flush out the design.
If you had had more time, is there anything you would’ve done differently in this room?
I think we all could’ve used just a bit more time to breathe. My designs had to come together within a week so that the ordering process could begin. Natalie had a tight window to place and receive all of the orders. Kyle was working with a quicker than normal timeline to turn her photography around. I don’t think any of us would change anything — but an extra week would’ve been nice.