You might have seen Erin Conway’s perfect beach house on Instagram, but you probably haven’t heard its backstory. Thanks to a fateful bidding war and a whole lot of DIY, Erin and her family have made the airy and beachy Kismet house their own. Here, Erin divulges some super helpful info about her love of color, her careful splurges, and the adorable custom art in her home. Oh, and you’ll totally relate to the advice she’d give to her 23-year-old self — Erin Conway is all of us (but with a cuter house!).
How did you find your adorable beach house?
It was a long process. We live in an area where the average home price for a three bedroom is 800k. Our max budget was not that. You can find a fixer upper for 500-650 if you’re lucky but the competition is steep. We found our girl over budget but put in an offer anyway. We were one of four offers, and the lowest out of any of them. They didn’t pick us. BUT, our agent asked them to put us in the “back up” position. They agreed but assured us the accepted offer was clean and a backup offer would not be necessary. A month passed and two other houses were outbid from under us. Then the call came. The first offer fell through on our girl — they couldn’t get their financing in order. The house was ours. To this day it is unbelievable that we scored a house this size, with a yard, and garage for what we paid. We should be in an 800 square foot cottage with no yard or garage; not in Kismet.
We love that you named your home Kismet. Did you choose the name? If so, why? Tell us the name’s story.
The name was chosen because of our house hunt story. The woman who owned and was selling the home agreed to our offer being in backup position based solely on a letter we had written about our little boy and what this home meant to us. Against the advisement of her agent, she picked us for the backup position and not one of the other two offers that were thousands of dollars more than ours. When we got the house because the original offer fell through, she said she was happy. The money didn’t matter, because she knew a family would love it the way hers did for 40 years and it was meant to be ours. Fate, Kismet.
The woman who owned and was selling the home agreed to our offer being in backup position based solely on a letter we had written about our little boy and what this home meant to us.
Where do you go for home decor inspiration? What were your greatest influences when designing the decor of Kismet?
My inspiration comes mostly from Instagram and what is in my head. I’m not huge into Pinterest, never have been. But since finding the IG design community, I have found design inspiration from all over the world. My greatest influences for Kismet’s design were color. I fell in love with dark rich tones and wanted to make them a component of my design without making the home feel heavy. It has soaring ceilings and enormous windows and I wanted those to be honored and highlighted.
I love the openness of your home! All the windows make it so light and airy — how did all the natural light affect the way you wanted to decorate your home?
It made me keep most of the walls white. I wanted that light, airy, bright, and crisp feeling to envelope the space. Having no color on the walls kept the windows and colorful elements I added via design shine.
How did you come up with a design plan?
I made dream boards for what I would do if money was no object. Then used those to help me bargain hunt what I could realistically afford. Budget is often the deciding factor. Fortunately, I have the ability to look at something ugly for 10 bucks on Craigslist and know that with probably 40 bucks and a weekend of labor it could be just as fab as the dream piece I couldn’t afford. Bonus: DIY pieces are one of a kind.
What was the first room you set out to design?
The “formal” living room. I don’t know why but I wanted that room done first and I wanted it done right. I dreamed about it before we got the keys and I am really happy with where it has evolved to today.
I fell in love with dark rich tones and wanted to make them a component of my design without making the home feel heavy.
Were there any difficult design aspects or quirks to the home you had to overcome or conceal?
The family room had a wall separating the dining room and itself. We removed that wall. A decision I will never regret. However, doing so changed the furniture layout options from many to one. The one option is quirky. It works but isn’t ideal. Still, that wall being down was absolutely the right call and I would make it again and again. Quirky layout and all.
Somehow, your furniture flawlessly blends fun colors and neutrals. How do you achieve that perfect balance?
I try to make sure I have a color story. I may have 10 different patterns on my pillows and three patterned rugs on the floor. But there is a clear color story. The neutrals keep it grounded. Without them, it would become a kaleidoscopic nightmare.
How long, from move in, did it feel until your home was “done”?
It felt like home within hours of moving in. Not because it was by any means done. But because my son made it so. It owned his heart. He had a yard and tons of room to play and explore. Everything about it, yard, house, garage is double the size of our rental. He was home, so we were home.
What was your biggest splurge?
The wide plank hardwood floors. They were bananas expensive. I swore I’d never spend that much on floors, especially when there are so many affordable options. Alas, I fell madly in love the ones we ultimately got. I agonized over that decision for a month. Finally, we decided this is our forever house, let’s pick forever floors. No regrets about the splurge, they’re friggin beautiful.
One of my favorite parts of your home is the sassy letter board you’re constantly changing. Why did you choose to incorporate this quirk into your home?
I like to think I’m a funny gal. So I wanted one of the boards to share silly thoughts and quotes with my followers. I use the board to make people laugh or to motivate or just for us to leave a sweet note for my boys on. It is just a totally fun and silly way to express yourself and I dig it.
What is your favorite piece of art in your home? Tell us its story.
It is a piece by @saltedwords. They custom made for me — it is a Dave Matthews Band quote, “Oh and when the kids are old enough we’re gonna teach them to fly.” It is a line from our wedding dance song. We didn’t have a song, Matthew and I. So we searched for one that would be sweet and not cliche. One day my husband, then fiance, came home from buying the new DMB GruGrux King CD. He came in the house and said, “Babe I found it.” Then took me into the driveway and turned it up in his truck. We stood there as I listened and when it said that line I started to cry… it was our song. He put his arms around me and we danced to it for the first time in our driveway.
What is your best advice for those looking to redecorate their home? Where should they start?
Start in the room you’re most motivated to do. Without the motivation to finish, it is easy to end up with a room you don’t love. Do one room at a time. Stay focused so your design plan can come to fruition. Pick a piece you cannot live without and build upon it. I like to start with a rug or piece of art.
I have the ability to look at something ugly for 10 bucks on Craigslist and know that with probably 40 bucks and a weekend of labor it could be just as fab as the dream piece I couldn’t afford. Bonus: DIY pieces are one of a kind.
What made you want to create an Instagram account for your home? What has the experience been like for you?
I originally started with a goal to develop a design business and use social media as a platform to gain exposure. But have found that design is my passion, not client work. I love working with small businesses and big businesses and being given full creative freedom to use those collaborations to style inspiring spaces in my own home. I have met incredible people and discovered I have a knack for connecting with people through storytelling and my silly videos. So I have chosen a different career path, which is blogging. My blog launched last March, focusing on design and other facets of life, like family, travel etc.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
You are smart. You are beautiful. You are worthy. You will be happy. You will be fulfilled and you will do great things. The most important of those things is you will be one tough and fiercely loving Mama bear. You’re a hell of a lot stronger than you know and you’re going to realize that in about five years. Also, you meet a man that reminds you of the badass you are daily, and he loves you unconditionally at your worst and best. So be patient, he is worth the wait. P.S. Dump David already, he’s a total dick.