Shavonda Gardner and her wife, Naomi, were looking to downsize when they moved with their two kids into their 1940s Sacramento bungalow in 2014. “We used about half of our last house, and it felt wasteful,” says Shavonda, who muses on all things design on her blog, SG Style. “This time around, we wanted to live in every square inch.”
Great neighborhood, large lot, and a 1,200-square-foot fixer-upper with old-house charm—the space checked all their boxes and then some. So they put in an offer on the spot, and the sellers accepted later that day. Whipping the home into shape wasn’t quite as easy. “We were happy with the layout, but the house needed love,” says Shavonda. An avid cook, she made the kitchen her first project. Her design plan—which included all new appliances, tile, counters, fixtures, and paint—centered around two of her favorite original details: the built-in spice cabinet and corner window.
When that was finished, Shavonda began pulling the other spaces together with “English cottage meets global bohemian” as her style inspiration. Much of this work was cosmetic—wallpaper, paint, and decor—but she refreshed the living room fireplace with new trim and added a closet and a door to the den to convert it into a master bedroom. Then there’s the only bathroom, which got a total overhaul to incorporate storage for four. And Shavonda isn’t done yet. “We’re still making changes,” she says. “But we’re loving the process and using every room to the max.”
Shavonda; her wife, Naomi (far left); and their kids—Bryanna, 16, and Michael, 11—spend most of their time hanging out in the living room. One of Shavonda’s rules: Small spaces don’t mean you have to abandon color and pattern. “Dark shades can be as airy as white—think of the night sky,” says Shavonda, who painted her living room black and furnished it with secondhand scores like a sofa from Craigslist and a quirky trio of monkey statues (below).
"To make decorating magic, every room needs something unexpected. Something that's a splurge, and something black—big or small—for a bit of mystery," says Shavonda.
With hunter green cabinets, a straight-herringbone subway-tile backsplash, and a checkerboard floor, the kitchen is classic cottage with a twist.
Funky foliage wallpaper served as the jumping-off point for the boutique hotel–inspired bathroom that also features fancy brass accents and black shiplap.
Callie, the family’s Great Dane, chills out on the porch, which is essentially Shavonda’s home office. “I’m out here with my laptop and coffee all the time,” she says. Potted plants, a hanging chair, and a floor hand-stenciled by Shavonda to look like cement tile give the space boho vibes on a budget.
In the master suite, textiles take center stage: an African mud cloth draped over the headboard and a pom-pom throw on the bed.
The bright-coral front door complements the charcoal exterior.
The house had no entryway, so Shavonda made one with a big circular mirror and an IKEA shoe cabinet outfitted with Anthropologie gem pulls.
Laundry is Shavonda’s least favorite task, so she turned her wash room into an inspiring jewel box with purple-palm wallpaper and a Dutch door, which helps with air-drying.
"When you downsize, every piece has to serve a purpose," says Shavonda, "Naomi's all about functionality, and my goal is to make the functional beautiful."