Laura & James’ Principles of Design

published Mar 19, 2015
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Home Type
Square feet
Sq ft
Post Image
(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Name: Laura and James
Location: Heritage Hill; Grand Rapids, Michigan
Size: 920 square feet
Years lived in: 3.5 years; owned

House tour cover

Can't-Miss House Tours Straight to Your Inbox

Keep up with our latest house tours each weekday with our House Tour of the Day newsletter

Laura and James’ home is a study in scale, balance, repetition and continuity. Artwork is carefully staggered on the gallery wall across from the kitchen. Even though the size, color and subject matter of the artwork vary, the presentation is kept clean and unified with black, white, birch and silver frames. A black frame with silver circles references the shape of the gallery wall’s sole dish, as well as a few embroidery hoops above the refrigerator. A birch frame on the left matches the chalkboard’s frame on the right. The kitchen countertop wraps into the dining area, where more artwork is displayed. A single gold frame is complemented by a gold objet d’art on the coffee table across the room. This couple understands design.

1 / 41
Entry and kitchen (Image credit: Mike Hetu)
(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Laura is a graphic designer and photographer, and James is an engineer. The couple loves travel and is always pondering their next adventure. Laura’s photos from their trips are framed in several rooms. Cerulean ocean waters are showcased on the kitchen gallery wall and in the dining area and bedrooms.

Laura and James lucked out with a condo that had good bones (big windows, high ceilings, a corner of the building) and beautiful finishes (Liebherr refrigerator, Wolf range, floor-to-ceiling storage, brushed nickel door handles). The couples’ plush furniture, energetic colors, and layered artwork and pillows turned the space from industrial to preppy bohemian. Before purchasing this condo, they rented a different unit in the same building. If the windows look familiar, Laura and James’ condo is down the hall from Erin and Chris’ rental.

(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Layered preppy bohemian.

Inspiration: I have always looked up to Emily Henderson, Joy Cho, and Bri Emery. All three of these women are incredibly talented in so many ways, and they are very generous in sharing their ideas, tips, and talents. My husband and I are drawn to bright spaces. I take a great deal of inspiration from the bright and crisp design elements that Emily so often uses in her spaces. I have been following Joy’s success for many years since Emily first styled Joy’s living room on HGTV and I am incredibly impressed with their collaborations. Bri is an amazing designer and when Emily styled her living room too, it was kind of like when all of your favorite rock stars get together for a performance. Very inspiring!

Another source of inspiration is my aunt Terri. Since I was a child, I have always been impressed with how she styles and furnishes her homes. She has impeccable taste and the patience to wait for the right pieces.

Favorite Element: We love the natural light in our home. On Saturday mornings, we drink cappuccinos and reflect on our week. During the long winters, the sun pouring in feels like such a treat. We also love our community. We are a hop, skip and jump away from our favorite brewery, restaurant, coffee shop and some of our closest friends. What more could we ask for?

Biggest Challenge: My husband is an engineer and tends to be practical when it comes to the organization and functionality of a space. However, this trait can be the opposite of décor-friendly! I tend to squirrel his belongings away in places that I often forget (not cool of me, I know). We are always working to have dedicated storage places for specific items so we can spend a lot less time searching for them. But some days that is easier said than done. It is a big goal for us in 2015 to stay on top of it!

What Friends Say: Friends really love the view. We overlook a lot of treetops in a beautiful historical neighborhood, and the sunsets can be breathtaking. Friends also ask why I have so many pillows… I don’t have a good answer other than I think pillows are awesome – like little moveable squares of wallpaper!

Biggest Embarrassment: Often times when we know that company is coming and we are in a pinch to clean quickly, we will ‘chuck’ things up into the loft. Inevitably, someone always asks to ‘check it out’ up there and we cross our fingers and hope that we didn’t throw anything up there that was too embarrassing (like the dirty dog bed we should have washed last month).

Also, after two days, Riley’s fur creates little tumbleweeds that roll down the hall. We try to stay on top of cleaning the dog fur and it’s tough – but he is worth a good ol’ vacuuming and then some!

Proudest DIY: James and I spent a very cold Michigan-winter’s day attempting to put together the gallery wall. Using a Pinterest trick, we collaborated and came up with a montage that is filled a few of our favorite things. I enjoy taking photographs and printing scenes from our favorite locations. When we’re cooking in the kitchen, we can look at friendly faces, cute companions from past and present, and fond travel moments!

Biggest Indulgence: We don’t have the budget for some of the pricey furniture pieces that we dream of, but we have invested here and there in pieces of art from great designers around town. Grand Rapids is a community of talented and creative people – and when there is a piece that we know will be right at home in our space, we indulge from time to time.

Best Advice: Keep sentimental pieces even if they don’t ‘match.’ An item is important if it means something to you! The great thing about home décor is that you create the rules in your own space. Make your home a place that makes you happy – that’s what really matters. So what if your old dresser has a few dings? If it’s a family piece that you love, style it with fun new items and make it work!

Don’t feel you have to rush and make everything in your home look ‘perfect’ immediately. Design is ever evolving and so are your experiences. Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t over-extend yourself. If it takes ten years to save up for a better couch, then so be it. You will make do with the current one: rock it!

(Image credit: Mike Hetu)

Resources of Note:


  • Behr paints

  • Pendant light: World Market
  • Carpet: World Market
  • Striped basket: Hobby Lobby

  • Fridge: Liebherr
  • Faucet: Grohe
  • Range: Wolf
  • Cabinets: IKEA
  • Dishwasher: Bosch
  • Espresso machine: Rancilio
  • Clock: Uncommon Goods
  • Bird print: Rick Beerhorst
  • Photography: Laura Cherry
  • Portraits: Melia Louise Photography

  • Pillows: World Market, Pier One, Target
  • Coffee table: Art Van
  • TV stand: inherited from Laura’s grandfather
  • Side table: garage sale
  • Striped blanket: IKEA
  • Fig tree and pot: Flowerland
  • Photography (critters): Sharon Montrose
  • Poster: ArtPrize
  • Photography: Denny Beck
  • Illustrations: Rebecca Green
  • Pouf: Target
  • Faux rur chair: Comfort Research

  • Table: garage sale
  • Chairs: Craigslist
  • Cabinets and storage: IKEA
  • Photographs: Melia Louise Photography
  • Painting: Kurt Devlaeminck

  • Monogram towels: West Elm
  • Faucets: Grohe
  • Bathtub: Kohler

  • Chair: EQ3
  • Photography: Laura Cherry
  • Dresser: inherited from Laura’s grandfather
  • Faux fur throw: IKEA
  • Curtains: IKEA
  • Pillows: Target
  • Michigan letterpress print: Etsy

  • Side tables: IKEA
  • Lamp: HomeGoods
  • Pillows: Target
  • Sheep Skin: inherited from Laura’s grandfather
  • Deer Painting: Etsy
  • Photographs: Melia Louise Photography
  • (Image credit: Mike Hetu)

    Thanks, Laura and James!

    • HOUSE TOUR ARCHIVE: Check out past house tours here.
    • Interested in sharing your home with Apartment Therapy? Contact the editors through our House Tour Submission Form.
    • Are you a designer/architect/decorator interested in sharing a residential project with Apartment Therapy readers? Contact the editors through our Professional Submission Form.

    Updated daily with fresh tours full of photos for you to pin & enjoy!