is known as "The Home and Style Designer for the Everyday Family." His years of experience working with families in their homes (on television and in magazines) coupled with his own personal experience as a husband, father and homeowner have nurtured and strengthened his understanding of the American homeowner and the need for a family-focused lifestyle. In three words, Stephen and those who know his work best would describe his design aesthetic as comfortable, inviting and family-friendly.
Stephen's mantra is: "Good home design has the power to change your life," and it is something he could only discover to be true from working with real people in their homes over the years. Change is not easy, but that initial change in home design is a good first step because "making change happen in our homes can set the wheels in motion for all things positive," says Stephen. And, that is why he's doing what he does -- to help change the lives of families by helping them to create a home that captures who they are and beautifully reflect what they are all about.
Amid an impressive resumé of accomplishments including: writing the House Calls column in Better Homes and Gardens
magazine; appearing on The Today Show, Oprah, The View, ESPN, TLC's While You Were Out
and more; featured in House Beautiful
, Real Simple
, Home, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal
and more; and recognition of as "one of the top fifteen designers in America" by House Beautiful
magazine; Stephen also does private client design work, attends media events, speaks at seminars for home design and has his own blog
. His most recent milestone is releasing his book No Place Like Home
for which he served as home design artist, author and photographer. The book is all about stylish and practical designs for real families that offer creative ideas and projects that are as accessible as they are attainable for everyday homeowners. Ahead of his book's nationwide release on February 22, we sat down to find out more about the stories and inspirations behind his new book and his signature design work. All included photographs are Stephen's and they showcase his work. You can find hundreds more photographs bringing to life his creative ideas and solutions in No Place Like Home
1. What was your first job, and how did it influence you?
My first job was doing chores around the house for a neighbor that became like a grandmother to me growing up. I write about her in the introduction to my book, No Place Like Home
. She inspired a lot of things that I love today and I credit her for making me take notice of the simple things in life. That became an undercurrent message for my book, as I was writing and photographing it around the country and focusing-in on how real families live in their homes.
2. Who did you write this book for?
The everyday homeowner with the same To Do List on their fridge that I have on mine. Things are constantly getting added onto the list, but we have to take the time to make our homes feel and look better. I have come across so many people that do not even want to have guests over to their homes or apartments because they don't like how their place looks. We start and end our days in our homes, yet many of us don't even care to notice our homes anymore. If we just take some time to learn to see our homes in new ways -- with a fresh perspective -- it can give back to us in so many ways. It can be done without breaking the bank or taking up too much time. It's all about being creative with what we have.
As I finished the book, I realized it is also for those people who are always thinking about having that certain dream home someday. Life is too short, I say, so why not take elements of what you wish for in your eventual dream home and create it now in your present home? Why put it off? Enjoy part of your dream now.
3. Please show us your favorite photograph from the book and tell us about it.
It's funny because I shot so many photographs for the book -- 3,000 images and only 300 of them ended up in the book -- but honestly, what stays with me most are two images in particular:
(1) The cover image of a family-friendly dining room.
I like this room because it was designed and shot in two ways, as a great example of dual purpose rooms being useful for today's family. It is a dining room for entertaining and meals (below, left), yet for everyday living, it can be re-styled as a home office or library for you to enjoy in a different way (below, right).
(2) The other image is one of a mother and child.
The simple moment captured in a family room featured in the book is really what the book is all about: living life's moments out in our homes. That moment is part of what makes up the tapestry of our lives in our homes. So, visually, that captured the essence of what my book is about -- that "no place like home" feeling.
4. Please give the steps and advice families could use to redesign a space.
With any makeover project I do, I start by de-cluttering the space -- clutter makes it hard to see a room's potential. So, getting rid of the excess can help. Next would be figuring out what stays and what goes. Keep good pieces in the room -- the new sofa, your favorite chair, antique side tables, lamps from your childhood, etc. -- the things that you love. Then, figure out what goes. That includes the things that you just do not like or those things that have seen better days. Once the good things are figured out and the not so good things are removed, you have the basics of the room in place. So far, none of these steps have cost you any money and you will start to see the room in a new way.
Now, rearrange the good things in that space. Try different seating areas, move the bed to another wall, find a new focal point, have some fun with new positioning of furniture and just see what works. You might also "shop your house" -- take a dresser from the guest room and try it in the living room or move an area rug from the dining room into your living room. You get the idea.
With a new look to the layout, you can then decide if you want to paint the entire room or if maybe one wall gets a great new color. That background layer of color can add a new depth to the room and freshen up the whole space. Not every room needs to be painted to get a new look, but it is certainly something budget-friendly to consider.
You can see if getting some inexpensive window treatments will give the windows an instantly new look, or if the sofa could use some new throw pillows or the old lamps could use some new shades. Usually, and this is a big part to any makeover I do, THE ACCESSORIES ARE KEY. A few new things like lamps, frames, baskets, books, area rugs or new artwork on the wall will give a new boost to a room's design; and those do not have to cost a lot of money, in the end. In our economy, it truly is about being creative with what you have. My book is meant to be a creative tool that the homeowner can use to their advantage in attainable and budget-friendly ways.
5. What are the common biggest mistakes we homeowners keep making, and what tools can help us to overcome them?
Being overwhelmed by so many options. I have a whole chapter on renovations and that process which can be so stressful for many homeowners. When it comes time to make a decision about what cabinets, flooring, siding, windows, appliances, etc. to choose for their homes, people can get so overwhelmed that they do not make a decision at all or they make the wrong ones too quickly and then regret it later. The goal is to make educated decisions that are also right for your own style.
That would be the next biggest mistake: not knowing your own personal style and then going out and trying to buy things for your home. Probably one of the biggest questions I get at events I do or via mail from homeowners is: "How do I figure out my style?" I have a whole chapter in my book about that (visit my blog
, too, which talks a great deal about it). Part of that journey of figuring out what you like and respond to is by starting to gather things you like.
The Look Book is one of the creative tools in my book that is directed at homeowners who want to figure out their personal style. The point of it being that when they have to do a major home project or they have to buy products for their home, they have a clearer idea of what they like. There is a video on my blog about this process, too. You want to empower yourself as a homeowner.
Movies are another creative tool that I urge people to use as a way to figure out their home styles. In the book, I discuss some of my favorite movie homes that might inspire homeowners trying to figure out their own style. Worth checking out:
Out of Africa
Something's Gotta Give
Father of the Bride (1 & 2)
Dan in Real Life
Under the Tuscan Sun
6. Which area of the house is the most seemingly daunting to tackle? Please share with us surprisingly easy changes you would suggest for improvement.
Kitchens are probably the most difficult for people to deal with. Yet, they do not always have to be major renovation spaces. There can be a great many choices to make but it is first about determining if one truly needs to do a major gut job and start from scratch or are there simple things that can be done for a cosmetic kitchen makeover. In the book I show both options...
Some examples that I talk about in the book are:
► Prime and paint the existing cabinets.
► Change out the existing cabinet hardware and drawer pulls to something more updated and fresh.
► Change out the existing sink faucet to something more streamlined.
► Install new lighting to add new layers of lighting to the space (i.e., under cabinet lights, spot lights on ceiling, in-cabinet lighting to new pendant lights over islands or sinks).
► Remove some of the upper cabinet doors to have an open shelving display or put an open shelving display on an open wall.
One quick, turnaround solution: clean off your countertops. Sometimes how you style your countertops with props can give your space a whole new look. Counterscaping is something you can do quickly and you can probably repurpose things you already have in your home now.
7. What do you consider the most exciting trends in design, materials, furnishings and/or accessories that you are seeing today?
Green or eco-friendly products that are readily available to homeowners. At the start of the green movement, it was something that not every homeowner would consider as part of their renovation or redesign. But now, homeowners are more aware of what is out there and are truly looking at ways to incorporate those green elements into their homes. People are very aware that non-toxic paint can be used in their homes. Appliances being more energy-efficient is something people actively seek out. To me, it is very exciting and timely, given that we all have to do our part for the environment -- even if it is in little ways.
8. Please share with us one of your personal style secrets from the book.
The Look Book is a key thing for me (check out this video
). Once you create one for yourself -- whether you have a home now or are currently living in a rental apartment until you find the home you want -- the Look Book can truly become a very valuable resource for yourself. It will help you keep your mind clear about what you want for your home. Your style can be defined -- defined to empower you. No Place Like Home
is all about empowering the homeowner no matter who they are, how big or small their home may be or how much money they have. The time has come to make our homes better for us. As a designer, that's what I'm all about.
No Place Like Home is out TODAY, February 22
. Its list price is $19.99, but you can pre-order it now for as low as $10.67. Get a copy of No Place Like Home
for yourself or as a gift for someone you know!
You can also enter for a chance to win one of five signed copies of No Place Like Home
. All you need to do is submit your answer to: "What is your favorite room in your house and why?" in our comments section (below this article) for Stephen and us to read! Those who answer the question by 11:59 PM EST on March 7, 2011 will be entered into a random drawing. Five lucky people will receive a copy of No Place Like Home
signed by Stephen Saint-Onge himself! If you want to read more of the specifics of our contest rules, check out our AOL Shopping Giveaways Official Rules
To order the book from Wiley Publishing or to learn more, visit:
For more inspiration, visit Stephen Saint-Onge's home and lifestyle blog:
Articles & Videos of Stephen Saint-Onge Giving Design Advice on AOL Shopping
Paint Trends with Celeb Designer Stephen Saint-Onge
Closet Organization with Celeb Designer Stephen Saint-Onge
Outdoor Space Ideas with Celeb Designer Stephen Saint-Onge
Garage Home Organization with Celeb Designer Stephen Saint-Onge
Design Trends with Celeb Designer Stephen Saint-Onge
Please note: The Stephen Saint-Onge signed No Place Like Home book giveaway is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older. You may enter the giveaway only one time and you must enter before 11:59 PM ET on Monday, March 7, 2011 in order to qualify. Five winners will be chosen by random drawing for one of five signed copies of No Place Like Home (book retail value: $19.99).
SEE OFFICIAL GIVEAWAY RULES