Today, we’re bringing you something unique. Boston designers Jess Klein, Owner of Oh, I Design Studio + Blog, and her friend Emily Starr of mStarr Design, both felt like they had a “problem room” in their home. “We have spent countless hours (and dollars) on our homes but we each had one room that we just couldn’t figure out,” the pair told us. “For Jess it was her guest room which at the time was also serving as a sleeping space for her son and for Emily it was her primary bedroom. As friends who normally spend time in each other’s houses, we started talking about projects we might be able to collaborate on and this idea emerged!”
Then, a lightbulb moment: they would become each other’s designer! Emily designed Jess’s guest room, and Jess tackled Emily’s bedroom. So fun, right? The designers documented the process on Instagram, dubbed #mstarrxohidesign, and we’re thrilled to show off each space here today. Rather than chat with our editors, we thought, why not let the gals tell their experience? Take it away, designers!
JESS: Em, do you remember what inspired us to kick off #mstarrxohidesign project together?
EMILY: You mean, something other than that we had 2 rooms that were in awful shape and we couldn’t figure them out for the life of us?! I know that we had talked about projects we could collaborate on for ages and tackling your guest room and my bedroom was a natural decision.
JESS: So true – we’ve been wanting to collaborate in some way together and I love that our idea to tackle these spaces came to life!
EMILY: Jess, what was the pain point in your guest room/office?
JESS: There were so many – ha! We basically used our guest room/office as a dumping ground, you know, the spot in your home you hide things you don’t want to deal with or look at?! I was embarrassed to have guests stay with us. The layout was not working and nothing was cohesive. On top of that, this room was also being used for my son to sleep in (at the time we kicked off the project) but he’s now sharing a room with his sister. I knew you would be the perfect person to see this space in a new light, solve our layout issue, and create a cohesive and purposeful design.
EMILY: I was so excited to start. You know how much I love your home and that room just wasn’t representative of your style. The room itself is a nice size and shape and has great closet storage but because it’s a multi-purpose space, we needed it to become more functional. We wanted to “hide” the wasted space in front of the closets and to get quality window coverings. The bed and the rug together set the tone for the rest of the space as the rug has a beautiful and yet simple grid pattern, and the bed really guided us with the remainder of the furniture decisions.
JESS: Em, what do you feel like was the biggest challenge in your space?
EMILY: Where to begin, ha ha. Our house is from the 1830’s and like every room in here, our bedroom is a little wonky. It’s a smallish rectangle shape and the door opens right into the bed on one side, and with the door to the bathroom opening up into the room on the other side. I had focused on every single room except for this room because I just couldn’t figure it out, and besides some decor updates, was pretty boring and cramped.
JESS: I love the small space challenges that your beautiful and older home presents as it pushes us to be better designers. The fact that you can fit a king-size bed in your room is incredible. Overall, our goals were to maximize the limited space, increase storage, and to get a custom rug that would bridge the gap between the 2 sides of the room. Emily was also pretty committed to some type of architectural detail such as shiplap so I knew we would want to explore ideas there.
EMILY: Ok so let’s talk about our top “wants” and intended vibe for the rooms. What were yours? I know layout was a big one we kept finagling.
JESS: Yes, finalizing the layout was number one priority. I also wanted more storage for future guests (you know, when that becomes a thing again) and to make sure our WFH space didn’t take up too much of the room and could really blend with the rest of the design. It was also important that the room feels cohesive with the rest of our home. I ultimately wanted a versatile space that feels equally as lovely to sleep in or to work in. Contemporary but still organic and layered.
JESS: What about for your room?
EMILY: Definitely the shiplap (we ended up going vertical). I also wanted standout bedding and throw pillows since the bed takes up a big part of the room! Overall, I wanted the space to feel layered, bigger, and pulled together. A cozy, fresh and nostalgic design where we can relax (and in my case, work!) in. Lots of textures, layers and patterns.
EMILY: What was your favorite part of the process?
JESS: Ohh I love this question. I think my favorite part of the process was when our Chilton Furniture arrived because we could see the new layout in action. It was sooo exciting. It was also great to see the rug from The Carpet Workroom installed as it brought the entire space together and made a HUGE difference. What was your favorite part?
EMILY: I think for me, it was the overall collaboration with you. We’re always asking each other for advice so it felt nice to do it for real! What started out as designing each other’s rooms became more of a collaborative effort with both of us tag teaming each room. You would suggest something for my room (and vice versa) and then we’d just build on that. I think we really just needed a push to get started on these spaces, and of course our generous and accommodating partners who helped make it all happen!! Since I’m usually working on my own client design projects solo, it was so nice to have you as a sounding board!
JESS: Okay I take back my answer, that was my favorite part too! HAHA.
JESS: Did you ever think we’d be doing this project during a worldwide pandemic?!
EMILY: Ummmmm. I mean it’s crazy. We officially kicked off the project right before the pandemic hit and not being in each other’s homes while designing was tough. More so with not being there for specific deliveries and installs. Between delays and tricky installs (ie. furniture was delivered before the rugs were installed and painting was complete!), it definitely prolonged the project.
JESS: BUT this also allowed for more collaboration overall don’t you think? The unusual timeline gave us more flexibility in getting certain elements in place, allowing us to then focus on others. Decisions informed other decisions. It felt very fluid and like all design projects, there were challenges, changes, and lots of happy accidents (ie. the headboard for your room ended up being a little darker than expected but the tone-on-tone depth with the shiplap behind it is beautiful!).
EMILY: Do you think the design in your room stayed the same or evolved?
JESS: Overall the intended look and feel in each of our rooms stayed the same. I think because we had such a long design time (and some amazing partners), we were able to make some changes along the way to enhance the design. Little things would come up as well like the nightstand situation in your room! We couldn’t fit a Chilton nightstand due to the tight space so I loved the idea of painting your existing one the same green as the accent shiplap wall. While it looked pretty in theory, I think we both felt it didn’t quite work. And then we remembered the vintage table you had snagged on FB Marketplace and it looks perfect! It added some much-needed warmth and charm that we didn’t realize had been missing.
EMILY: And in your room, we originally thought we’d be designing around a crib! SO happy you were able to move Harvey in with his big sister as it allowed us to shift our design focus and design as just a guest bedroom/office. I’m also thrilled you guys decided to invest in new electrical wiring so we could use those incredible sconces from Troy Lighting!
JESS: Do you have a favorite piece in your room? Give me all the details.
EMILY: Hard to choose just one! It’s hard to explain but the room is so well designed that it feels cozy when I want it to but bright and airy at the same time. The mix + match patterns from Garnet Hill and Danielle Oakey are especially lovely and I love that we were able to incorporate vintage furniture and so many furniture and decor pieces from New England small businesses. As you know, I’ve been spending lots of time in the room as it’s essentially my “office” while Bill (husband) remains working from home. What about you?
JESS: Cody (my husband) and I were at one point considering moving to this room because we love it so much. Haha! The room feels spacious, well designed, cozy and intentional. The biggest wow moments in our guest room are the Clare painted closet doors, the window treatments from Alva, and the rug from The Carpet Workroom. The Chilton Furniture pieces make me so happy and I love knowing we will have these for years to come! This room truly feels special.
BOTH: The pandemic really shed light on how we use our homes and the rooms within it. We feel so fortunate to have created such beautiful spaces that reflect our personalities, design preferences, and needs!
Furniture: Chilton Furniture
Lighting: Hudson Valley Lighting + Troy Lighting
Carpet: The Carpet Workroom
Bedding: Garnet Hill
Mattresses: Avocado Mattress
Throw Pillows: Danielle Oakey Shop
Window shades in Jess’ room and drapes in both rooms: Alva
Window shades in Emily’s room: Hunter Douglas
Shiplap in Emily’s room: Wallplanks
Art prints: Collection Prints
Custom framing: Simply Framed
Decorative Accessories: Abode Shoppe