Paige Kontrafouris is a designer and home influencer living in New Jersey with her husband and young children. But you'd never guess that her space has toddlers in residence based on how beautifully it's decorated with a mix of old-world and farmhouse touches.
"I never thought of myself as a maximalist, but I think with that term we have been programmed to think it means tons of bold colors, patterns, and eclectic decor—but that's not the case at all," Kontrafouris shared. "You can be a maximalist with any style or colors because it's more about the layering and curating a specific feel. My home is filled with neutral patterns and colors, but I love adding layers for depth and visual interest."
Designing from Scratch—Thoughtfully
When Kontrafouris and her husband first moved into their space, they were quite young and were starting from scratch decor-wise. "My husband and I both came from living with our parents, so we didn't have much furniture, which led me to purchase things really quickly to furnish our home because I thought that's what I had to do," Kontrafouris reflected. "The first year or so, our style was a little all over the place, because I didn't know what I truly wanted the home to look like. But now my style can be described as a chateau or farmhouse in France or the English countryside—think formal and elegant but warm, lived-in spaces."
Kontrafouris believes that a home should be designed thoughtfully over time. As an avid thrifter and vintage shopper, she is constantly sourcing new pieces to display and add to her collections. "One of the biggest things I advocate for now is that good design takes time, so don't feel rushed that you have to furnish your home overnight," she commented. "The slower you are curating a space, the more I can guarantee you will like it in the long run, because all those pieces that you've selected will mean something to you."
Tackling a Renovation
The space Kontrafouris lives in today is one that she significantly altered post-move-in. She's added touches such as a glam mantel and trim work to each room. "It's such a simple design element that adds such a major impact, and it's something that even an inexperienced DIYer can tackle on their own," Kontrafouris said of this project. And she's extremely proud of how she has made over her kitchen—though not yet 100 percent complete, the space is something she tackled entirely on her own—" which is a huge deal because prior to buying our home, I never touched a power tool or did any type of renovating!" What prompted Kontrafouris to take matters into her own hands? "The ambition to do it myself came out of a place of wanting a very specific look that did not fit in our budget, but I always say, great design doesn't have to cost a lot—you just have to use your resources wisely."
Why all the neutral pieces? Kontrafouris experimented with bolder colors such as black—she painted her primary bedroom in that hue—but just never loved the darker look. "I realized quickly that neutrals make me feel at peace, and I love the serene feeling they evoke, so it's okay to stick with what you're comfortable with," she shared. "And to make it not feel boring, I add layers of antiques for a collected and curated look."
Thrift Store Finds
Kontrafouris frequently posts about her latest secondhand finds on Instagram Stories and elaborated a bit on her vintage shopping journey. "I started doing this because I didn't have a huge budget to work with, but then I just ran with it because I loved hunting for my next piece and having things no one else had," she said. "My favorite place to shop is Facebook Marketplace—I always joke that I wish they sold gift cards! But you can also catch me shopping at local thrift and antique stores as well. Some of my favorite things to collect are busts and oil paintings because they always bring such a unique look to any vignette they're in."
Take Styling Risks
Kontrafouris, who is known for her creative styling ideas, shared a snippet of her process. "When styling our library shelves one night, I was honestly just craving something simple yet impactful. I turned all the books around for a neutral look and ended up loving it," she noted. She encouraged other design enthusiasts to have a bit of fun and take risks. "I always tell people, 'Don't be afraid to experiment in your home.' If you don't end up liking something, you can always change it, so collect some pieces that mean something to you and work in small sections if you are easily overwhelmed by styling a space."
On Maintaining a Sophisticated, Family-Friendly Home
As a busy mom to two young children, Kontrafouris still manages to make her space look ultra Instagram-worthy, and she is often asked how she has been able to design such a sophisticated space. "I always used to joke before having kids that I wasn't going to lose my personal style and things I loved when I had children, and people would laugh and say, 'Let me know how that goes,'" she shared. "But I can confidently say it's been working and I haven't sacrificed anything I love since my children have been born."
Fragile items are stored out of reach, but "I go with the mindset of letting them be kids around all these beautiful things and it's been working just fine," she added. Kontrafouris is a proponent of performance fabrics and durable furniture, as well as objects that do double duty. "I also love furniture and decor that looks nice and doubles as hiding spaces for any visual clutter like toys, so a lot of the baskets or chests around the house are filled with toys and odds and ends."