Kristin used iron birds to dress up her stairway newels.

Kristin Schlosser
Maineville, Ohio

"I'm always confused when I go to some people's houses and I can't detect any of their personality in their furniture or décor," says Kristin, who believes an interior is the natural projection of the soul. Kristin sees potential everywhere, even if it means sawing off the back a sofa to make a daybed or installing leopard-print carpeting on the stairs for a touch of glam. Ever since she got a pneumatic staple gun one Mother's Day, Kristin's been unstoppable. "My soul must be made of shimmer and fun," she says.

Kristin thought her stairway newels looked naked but didn't want to go with conventional ball-cap finials. She found her solution in a gift shop: four iron birds intended to be garden ornaments. Kristin snapped the birds up, stuck them on with Liquid Nails, and called the flock finials.

"I like them," she says, "because they're so unexpected."
David created towers for a train track out of two storage closets.

David Clyde
Riverton, Utah

David loves the challenge of doing carpentry projects around the house. "If I push myself beyond what I'm comfortable doing," he says, "it builds skill and self-confidence." When his wife became pregnant, David needed to create storage areas in the baby's room that would also accommodate spillover from the master-bedroom closet. He lay on the floor of the empty 10-by-10-foot nursery until the solution came to him.

David disguised two closets in his son Charlie's room by turning them into train towers that connect via a rail bridge. "I went slightly overboard," David admits. He grouted each miniature brick, transformed metal mailboxes into tunnels, and consulted engineers on the physics of bridges. "I loved every minute of it," he says.
Mirrors simulate the effect of a transom over the window.

Sherry Owens
Advance, North Carolina

"I'm passionate about creating a restorative and inspirational sanctuary for my husband and me," Sherry says. With that goal in mind, she knew she had to do something about her house's breakfast nook, a tight space between the kitchen and a door that leads to the deck. Because Sherry liked how a transom over the deck door brought light into the room, she simulated the effect in the cramped breakfast nook.

To give an illusion of openness, Sherry created faux transoms: She hung two mirrors with mullion-style embellishments above the existing windows and completed the trompe l'oeil effect by placing her curtain rods above the mirrors.
Janell displays the artwork so it creates continuity.

Janell Beals
Wilsonville, Oregon

"I'd love to live in an older home with tons of character," Janell says, "but this is a spec house without a lot of detail. When I decorate, I try to make each room reflect my family's interests, personalities, history and dreams."

Janell hangs her daughter Isabella's artwork around the house—but uses more than pushpins to do so. By considering how the colors in a given drawing play against the colors of a room's walls, furniture and draperies, Janell treats every piece the way she would "serious" art. She also uses white frames throughout the house, "to make the art pop," she says, and to create continuity from room to room.
Elle uses yellow wallpaper on the ceiling to add color.

Elle McCafrey
Chicago, Illinois

Having grown up in a "large, financially challenged family," Elle spent countless hours pondering her fate and how to overcome the limitations of the metaphorical ceiling above her. The conundrum took a literal turn, and she developed a passion for bringing color to an expanse so often sheathed in white. "People are stuck on the feeling that a ceiling has to be light," Elle says. The opposite is true, she believes: The abrupt shift from a strong wall color to a white ceiling often "argues" with the room's architecture. Instead, she says, "I pull the ceiling into the conversation."

The question wasn't whether but what Elle would do to her kitchen ceiling. She chose this yellow plaid wallpaper from Scalamandré, which picks up the colors of her cabinets and speaks to the geometry of the room's floor tiles.