A Countdown of the 11 Most Gorgeous Home Design ‘Risks’ We’ve Seen So Far This Year

published Oct 9, 2019
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Credit: Lula Poggi

There are some risks you don’t want to take at home. Like going without homeowner’s insurance. Or barbecuing indoors. But when it comes to design risks, the sky’s the limit and I encourage you to fly. When it came to putting together this round up of favorite house tours for Risk Month (our October theme!), I was nearly paralyzed from the staggering amount of fantastic design and decor risks I’ve seen this year. Not only was it important for me to pick the stand-outs, but I also wanted to represent a wide variety of different kinds of risks. Like visual risks (bold colors, vibrant patterns), architectural risks (remodels and redesigns), and much more.

From paint, to furniture, to moving to the woods to build what’s quite possibly the world’s most beautiful yurt, these are tours of the homes of people who took big design risks… and those risks paid off beautifully.

11. Buying one really bold piece of furniture (even if you’re not sure if it’ll fit)

There is a lot to love about poet Morgan Parker’s Los Angeles apartment; it exudes the most welcoming, warm, and cozy atmosphere thanks to a vintage mix of furnishings and lots of books. The visual anchor of the living room—nay, the whole apartment—is a giant emerald green patterned retro sectional sofa… one that Morgan wasn’t even sure would fit!

“It was sort of an impulse buy; as soon as I saw it I had to have it,” she wrote in her house tour. “I wasn’t even sure if it would fit in my living room! But come on, it’s the original fabric and everything.” I don’t necessarily advocate that you start buying giant pieces of furniture without measuring your home first, but I do wholeheartedly support investing in bold furniture choices.

10. Going really colorful in a rental

Some might argue it’s inherently “risky” to do any sort of decorating in a rental apartment, considering it’s only a temporary home. But I always encourage folks in rentals to decorate to their heart’s desire (and within landlord’s permission) because it doesn’t matter how long you’ll be in a space; its aesthetic should make you happy.

There’s no better example of this philosophy than Cortney and Tyler Moore’s Los Angeles rental apartment. “We wanted this place to feel like home, but the reality is, we are still renting. One day (hopefully not anytime soon) we will move out, so we wanted to be responsible with our spending in this upgrade,” she explains in her house tour. “We also want to get our security deposit back at the end of it all, so we had to make sure everything was done according to the rules. Paint had to be a certain kind, wallpaper only temporary, lots of very careful drilling. And my biggest tip on this would be to ask permission.”

Credit: Minette Hand

9. Painting your own patterned accent wall

Painting one wall just a color? Nah, that’s easy. To really take a design risk, attempt your own patterned accent wall, like Adrianne Hawthorne did in her Chicago loft. “I did the pattern freehand, with only a vision in my head,” she described in her house tour. “That’s a little scary but once I started, I saw that it was turning out pretty good so I just kept going.” If that’s not the very definition of taking a design risk that pays off beautifully, I don’t know what is.

Credit: Emma Fiala

8. Painting your own patterned wallpaper

A step up from painting your own patterned accent wall is painting ALL the walls of your home with hand-painted wallpaper designs, something Kate Worum did in her Minneapolis, Minnesota house. It’s not surprising to learn she’s the co-founder of the hand-painted wallpaper business She She; we also toured her business partner Jennifer Jorgensen’s equally design risky/fabulous home, too!

7. Going for bold color and pattern in every room

When I think about a home that has taken a lot of fantastic design risks (that have paid off), I think about Allison Muir’s San Francisco home. The inspiration for her home are two defining eras of San Francisco: the lavish Victorian period and the nonconformist Summer of Love. She has described the style as “Victorian on Acid.” Tons of patterns mix and mingle with bold colors and enviable architectural details. I just love it and it makes me want to take a few design risks of my own.

6. Choosing to live in a teeny space

This pick might cause a stir, as I’m really pushing the definition of design risk, but I think it’s worth including. Raechel and Ryan Lambert have made the intentional and personal decision to live in small homes. But they don’t let this decision be a design sacrifice; in both of the tiny homes we’ve toured (the most recent is a 400-square-foot NYC studio) they’ve mitigated all design risks associated with small space-living (like clutter, no flexibility, no room for decor details) using the power of design to create a truly livable and lovely looking home.

Credit: Lula Poggi

5. Going ultra modern with architecture

It’s not a decision that everyone will agree with, but you have to admit that transforming an older space into a sleek, modern home is a risky-in-an-impressive-way design move. Design decisions could end up clashing with the existing architecture. But that’s just not the case in Francesca Piliego’s Barcelona apartment, which was designed by architect Andrea Serboli. Though certainly bold and visually arresting, the added modern designs actually add interest to a simple structure.

4. Building your home around a van

I’ve just never seen anything quite like the Brooklyn rental studio apartment of interior architect Jean Chandler, who designed and hand built this studio apartment to house her 1967 Ford Falcon Club Wagon. Not everyone has the DIY skills to pull off such a feat, but not everyone would have had the ability to pull it off so stylishly, either.

3. Seeing the potential in a VERY dated interior

When Cali first toured this 103-year-old New Orleans shotgun house, everything about it screamed 1970s, down to the faux wood-grain tape on the doors and window frames. It either takes someone who can see the future—or someone very adventurous—to take on such a monumental home renovation. With the help of family and friends, she and her ex-partner embarked on a two-year renovation. And while the renovation was a long and grueling process, the risk paid off: Cali is thrilled with the results.  

2. Deciding to build your first home out of shipping containers

It’s not just the fact that Kicker and Anne decided to build their very first home out of shipping containers; these remnants of industry have long since been incorporated into the architectural world. But taking on the immense task of designing the house down to every detail—AND coordinating the utterly terrifying stacking of seven giant shipping containers—was a huge design risk. And while not everyone’s style, the finished house fits Kicker and Anne perfectly.

Credit: Bryan Aulick

1. Defying conventions with a hand-built a modern yurt in the woods

Zach Both and Nicole Lopez’s yurt gets my pick as the best design risk of the year (SO FAR) because it checks so many risk boxes. Never lived in a yurt before. Building the yurt themselves. Going modern and minimal with the design. THAT BED LOFT. And? It’s not even the first home risk they’ve tackled in their lives; they were previously living in a van before this. Not only does this home and this couple embody the very spirit of risk-taking, the finished result is a stunningly dreamy home I’d move into in a heartbeat.