Between being a student at the prestigious Cornell University, an editor of the design blog Thou Swell and interior designer, we have no idea how Kevin O’Gara finds the time to create such beautiful spaces (just check out his Instagram). His talent and passion for interior design is evident in all the homes he works on, including the home he shares with his mother in Atlanta. In this home tour, you’ll see how he blends generations of style by including his mother’s heirlooms with his fresh perspective. The result is stunning, and we can’t wait for you to see it. So, step right in and enjoy!
How did you get started with your career in interiors?
I feel so grateful to have grown up in a family where creativity was encouraged and access to the internet was available. I have always been attracted to new technology so my digital tool belt developed very quickly, and the internet became a launchpad for exploring my passions. I ran several Tumblr blogs and jumped onto Pinterest in my early teens, but it wasn’t until I tried my hand at “lifestyle blogging” that I discovered a deeper passion for interior design. I turned this passion into a home design blog that helped hone my eye and my interest, until I started working on design projects of my own. Thankfully, my parents let me experiment in their homes (as you can see), so I was able to use their spaces as a canvas when I first started out.
What is it like working with your mother?
I attribute my keen eye to my mom—she has a great eye for style and has always been my most-trusted confidant when it comes to design decisions. She’s been behind-the-scenes on so many of my blog posts helping me plan, purchase and style for photo shoots. She’s definitely more sentimental for tradition, but it helps ground me and my work. Together, we blend generations of style with her heirlooms and my fresh perspective.
How do you ensure you don’t take work home with you?
I can’t say that I’ve mastered this one! I am always working in some way, especially because home is often a design project unto itself. Design is everywhere, it becomes a lifestyle when it’s your passion. I love what I do and find inspiration all around me, but my work is certainly much more than discovering and sharing beauty. The most difficult parts of work to ‘turn off’ for me is the constant sharing, as social media is part of my work, as well. I make sure to put my phone down at mealtimes and let myself take weekends or weeks off the sharing cycle as school, friends or family take priority.
How would you describe your home’s style?
My home’s style is rooted in the tradition and proportions of classic Southern design, but updated with a playful mix that brings in modern accents and a refreshing color palette. It’s a mix of my mother’s antiques and my contemporary additions, which bring comfort and style to the family home.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from the images I see and share every day on Pinterest and Instagram, but I love getting inspired the traditional way, too. Coffee table books and design biographies are favorites of mine, and I love learning about the history of interior design and the designers that defined silhouettes and design elements that permeate the design world today, like Dorothy Draper’s iconic colors and Billy Baldwin’s slipper chairs.
How do you start your day?
I start my day with a big breakfast (it’s my favorite meal!), typically consisting of three eggs and avocado toast with goat cheese or granola and yogurt. I also love enjoying a cup of tea in the morning—my favorite herbal tea is Tazo’s aptly named Passion tea, which helps me have an inspired start to my day.
What was the last thing you Googled?
“St. Tropez classic” (self-tan bronzing mousse)—my secret weapon for facing the dark winters up at Cornell!
What is a favorite element in your home?
My favorite element may be the gilt bullseye mirror above my bed. It was a piece that my grandfather actually pieced together with different plaster elements. He was a beloved pediatrician and extremely creative, and I attribute my interests in art, photography and design to him.
What’s your favorite place in your home?
My favorite place is my bedroom. It’s my haven and workspace, filled with some of my favorite things. I have spent a lot of late nights writing blog posts from my bed, and mornings enjoying the sunlight from the east-facing window. I am always drawn to the color blue when I design, so it was no surprise that this soothing color made its way into my room design!
What are some of your go-to home décor resources?
I love Anthropologie for inspiring artist collaborations, CB2 and West Elm for accessible modern design, Serena & Lily for classic style, One Kings Lane for timeless investment pieces, and Chairish and EBTH for vintage treasures. I love going to the design center in Atlanta, ADAC, for inspiration from showrooms, and stopping by shops here like Waiting on Martha and Dixon Rye for local design inspiration.
If you could change anything about your home, what would it be?
I really wish our house had different windows—they are so very 1960s! It’s a small architectural detail but something that’s always stuck out to me. My mom and I always dream up changes we would make if we could renovate our house, and luckily we had the chance to move to a townhouse this winter and tackle its design, so I’m thrilled to have the chance to finally take on a new home design with a little bit of renovation involved. I will be sharing the whole design process on my blog!
How would you describe the Southern style?
Southern style is exciting because it’s being redefined by a new wave of young designers in some of the fastest-growing cities in the country like Atlanta, Austin and Nashville. With roots in traditional design and European antiques, it is being updated with worldly modernity and contemporary color palettes while staying true to classical design elements and proportions. I love the contrast of old and new, and there’s no place better to see this beautiful juxtaposition than in the architecture and interiors of the South. I really appreciate the seriousness in which Southerners take care and cultivate a sense of place through their homes.
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