In Partnership WithNational Association of Realtors®

This 1940s Bungalow Uses Bold Color to Set a Dramatic Mood

updated Jul 30, 2020
Credit: Esteban Cortez
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Shavonda knew this 1940s bungalow was her home as soon as she walked in—even though it needed a designer's eye to see its potential.

Name: Shavonda Gardner
Location: Sacramento, CA
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 4

Having grown up in a family that moved a lot, designer Shavonda Gardner wanted to own a place that felt like home to her; her wife, Naomi; and their two children. As soon as she walked into this 1940s bungalow, she knew she was home. The best part? It was about half the size of their current digs.

Yep, you read that right: Shavonda wanted to downsize. Three years earlier, the Gardners had worked with Jenine, a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, to find what she thought was their ideal home: a huge new build in a tract neighborhood. But the cookie-cutter neighborhood lacked community, and the family was barely using the space. “I was looking for a shift in our lifestyle, our perception of what home and community meant,” Shavonda says. “I’m actually very happy that we downsized. I feel that small houses breed close families.”

Watch: Shavonda’s Happily Downsized 1940s Bungalow

She knew they would call on Jenine again to sell their old house and find their new, cozier home. Jenine was up to the challenge of fulfilling Shavonda’s super specific wish list: a small house from 1950 or before with a big yard in a walkable, everybody-knows-everybody neighborhood close to school and local businesses. A Sacramento native, Jenine offered expert guidance every step of the way—especially during the part that stressed Shavonda out the most: negotiation.

“Jenine really helped us navigate the process of actually negotiating: whether instead of asking the seller to come down on price maybe asking the seller to actually fix the problem so that it would be at their cost instead of ours,” Shavonda says. “Those are things I would never know.”

When Jenine showed Shavonda their eventual home, the house needed a big update, but Shavonda had a good feeling from the start—and, being a designer, she was able to envision the home she would create.

While the house needed considerable TLC, Jenine was able to use the home’s age and condition in the negotiating. She knew that if the sellers wouldn’t come down on the sale price, she could get them to make certain repairs. And now that the house is officially home, with Shavonda’s eclectic mix of global influences and bold wallpaper everywhere—even the laundry room. (Since Shavonda hates doing laundry—in fact, she wrote it into her wedding vows that that would be her wife’s responsibility—she wanted that room to be as fun as possible.)

The couple also made some major changes that showcase Shavonda’s eye for a space’s potential: For instance, they converted the former den into an airy master bedroom that looks onto the back yard. After all that work, the only cookie cutters are in the kitchen—which they remodeled to suit her utilitarian preferences preferences: “I do not like people to congregate in my kitchen,” she says. “I like to get in here and get out.”

Though Shavonda says she’s nomadic by nature, being able to put her personal stamp on her home helps her feel settled. “Owning a property means so much to me because I grew up in an environment where we moved around a lot and we didn’t have ownership of anything,” Shavonda says. “It feels really good to have something that’s mine, something I don’t have to leave.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My home’s style: Moody Boho-Eclectic

Inspiration: I’m inspired by so many things, but especially nature and travel. I’m inspired a lot by British interiors and design. I love that they are just unafraid to really go for it and embrace color in a big way. The Brits are just really all about designing for how they want to live and not so much by how they think they should be living. I love it.

Favorite element of the home: I can’t possibly choose just one!  Overall I just really love that our home feels like us.  It’s very unique, and I love that when people come over they say it feels like an experience.

Biggest challenge, and how you overcame it: The biggest challenge has definitely been our dining area.  It’s so much smaller than that of our previous home. We had two large dining areas, plus a main entertaining area that sat 10 people for dinner. This home’s dining area is in an awkward spot in the house. It’s in a bit of a thoroughfare, as it’s right off the space we are using as our master bedroom. It’s the space that bummed me out the most when we moved in, but I’ve learned to adjust. I love to entertain, and we’ve learned to entertain in our home in a different way now.

What friends say about your home: They say they love it and that it feels like a hug.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our backyard! It’s a jungle back there. We need to address it but, it’s big and overwhelming—so big and so overwhelming.

Proudest DIY: I’m really proud of the kitchen and the porch!  

Biggest indulgence: Wallpaper!  I love love love it and try to use it as much as possible in our home. Also pillows and candles.

Best advice: My biggest pieces of advice when it comes to curating spaces is that home is a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t happen immediately, and it takes time to make your home feel intentional and organic. Also, just because you live small doesn’t mean you can’t have big bold style. If you live in a small space, don’t let your limited square footage deter you from decorating your spaces the way you want.  If you love color or pattern, go for it!


Living Room:

Sofa — Restoration Hardware

Leather Eames–inspired lounge — Craigslist

Spindle Chair — Uttermost (used a vintage mudcloth textile to cover the seat)

Media Console — Marshalls

Wall Sconces — Rejuvenation

Coffee Table — West Elm

Rug — gifted roadside score

Shoe Cabinet — IKEA

Shoe Cabinet Hardware — Anthropologie

Entry Mirror — Home Goods

Copper Entry Tray — Target

Blinds — Blindster

Rattan Cabinet — Urban Outfitters

Abstract Art — Blayne Beachem Macauley

Juju Hat — Thorn and Burrow Shop

3 Wise Monkeys — Flea market find

Rattan Pendant Light — World Market

Art Deco Mirror — Holistic Habitat

Dining Room

Table — World Market

Chairs — Polyvore

Chandelier — IKEA

Suzani Textile — Tierra Del Lagarto

Laundry Room

Wallpaper — Justina Blakeney for Hygge and West

Blinds — Blindster

Juju Hat — AccentTouch

Abstract Art — Monica Lewis Art

Sunburst Mirror — Jungalow

Thanks, Shavonda!