Home by Design

With many late nights and a can-do attitude, two graphic designers transform a Homewood house into their forever home.

Sonia created a gallery wall in the stairwell with store-bought frames and a mixture of color and black-and-white photography. With room to expand, the Davises can add more photos as their children grow. Photos by Jean Allsopp

After having lived in a historic building on Highland Avenue for years, Sonia and Ryan Davis wanted a home with the same sort of character. When they found what is now their Homewood abode, they knew immediately it was the right fit for their family. “We were in love the moment we walked in, ” explains Sonia. “All of the details we were looking for—beautiful architecture, classic molding, and clean lines—were there.”

Sonia Davis

While the house, built in 1930, provided plenty of charm, it also required some work to match the Davis’ style. Both graphic designers, they decided to use their creative instincts to manage the updates themselves. “I’m into more of a modern style, and Ryan is much more of a traditionalist, ” Sonia says. “We knew taking the project on ourselves would be best for our budget and also a great way to blend our two styles together.”

To tackle their DIY project, Sonia and Ryan went room by room, lightening up what was once a dark home by painting the entire interior white. “I love a light backdrop, ” says Sonia. “It really lets the furniture and accessories pop.”

The kitchen required the most work and meant many late nights for the young couple. They started by removing the upper cabinets, which instantly opened up and brightened the room. They also replaced all of the existing white cabinets with black cabinets and added subway tile. “We wanted the kitchen to feel clean and modern while not taking away from the traditional feel of the house, ” Sonia says. “The black cabinets allowed me to bring in a sleeker element, while the subway tile is a more traditional choice. It’s a good balance. We also went with white quartz countertops which have the look of marble.”

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To stay in budget, the Davises bought non-custom cabinets but used their DIY creativity to give them a richer feel. “We added molding all along the bottom of the cabinets to cover the toe kick and make them look custom, ” Sonia adds. “We also went with oversized unlacquered brass hardware to make the cabinets feel grander.”

The couple’s DIY attitude continued throughout the home. For the kitchen, Sonia framed favorite black-and-white family pictures to display prominently. In the foyer, she purchased agate slices and framed them herself—in frames she painted gold. She also found a pendant light for the foyer at a great price but in the wrong color, so she painted it gold to match. In the powder bath, Sonia purchased a simple mirror and added a gold frame. The dining room features an abstract splatter painting by Ryan. 

A powder bath under the staircase received a fresh, focal-point worthy makeover with blue-and-white wallpaper. “Now, instead of leaving the door closed when not in use, we like to leave it open to see the color,” Sonia says.

Sonia also incorporated bargain finds along with upscale pieces in most every room. The living room features a chic octagonal marble-top coffee table from SoHo Retro, as well as a gold side table from Target and a gold floor lamp from HomeGoods. In the dining room, she mixed higher-end pieces such as the Oriental rug and dining room table with budget-friendly side tables, a pair of lamps from HomeGoods, and matching round mirrors from West Elm.

Sonia’s natural eye for design not only led to a beautiful home for her family but also a newfound career with brother-in-law Doug Davis, co-founder of Hannon Douglas design firm. “I love making a home come together, ” Sonia says. And now she enjoys helping others do the same.

For a focal point in the living room, Sonia searched through old photos at the library and found a 1920s image of Avondale Park, which she had blown up. She framed it herself to hang above the sofa. The abstract painting is by Sonia.

The original house featured a white painted facade. Years ago, the house was sand-blasted to show the red brick. Another change: The Chippendale-style parapet was removed.

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