Decorator, fashion designer, writer, editor and creative consultant—New Orleans–based Sara Ruffin Costello can, quite literally, do it all. So when her 18-year-old daughter, Carolina (affectionately known as “Kiki”), asked for a long-overdue bedroom refresh, Costello was undaunted by the challenge it presented: Figure out how to balance her own design goals with Kiki’s very different sense of style. Read on to find out how she pulled it off.
FREDERIC: FOR THIS BEDROOM MAKEOVER, YOUR CLIENT WASN’T JUST ANYONE—IT WAS YOUR DAUGHTER, CAROLINA. WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THE REDESIGN?
Sarah Ruffin Costello: She’s a senior in high school, so we decided to redo it as a sort of last-year-at-home gift. Her old bedroom was turquoise with a chunky, old Gothic bed—very Frida Kahlo—and she asked me every day if we can please just paint the room white and change the furniture. She was like, I can’t live my best life in here!
WHAT’S HER STYLE LIKE? IS IT SIMILAR TO YOURS?
I almost never work with all neutrals when I’m doing a project for a client, but Kiki is the opposite. She’s sort of like a monk—or Steve Jobs. She hates anything too “designed” and wants everything very modern and minimal. I blame all those organizing videos on TikTok! But the goal was to make her happy—she had to be on board with everything for this to work.
WHAT KINDS OF COMPROMISES DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE FOR IT TO WORK?
I’d normally have done an area rug, but Kiki doesn’t like them—they make her sneeze, and she prefers the feeling of bare feet on the wood floor. I’ve actually tried to put rugs in her room before only to come home and find them rolled up outside her door. So instead of a big rug, after much discussion, we did a little tiger one by the chaise instead. She did let me use some wallpaper—I love this Porter Teleo print because it feels almost like music notes or kinetic brain activity—but only on the wall behind the bed; I don’t usually endorse feature walls, but it was what the client wanted! And, of course, we kept her photo wall. It’s like her beating heart.
I NOTICED YOU DID MANAGE TO INCORPORATE SOME COLOR, LIKE ON THE BENCH UPHOLSTERY.
It worked because of the mod vibe of the fabric, which feels very 1970s Courrèges. I had been looking for an end-of-bed bench and was surprised she liked this one. I think it has to do with seeing what her friends have in their rooms here in New Orleans—that Louis style is definitely the top note here.
THE DESK CHAIRS FEEL VERY TRADITIONAL NEW ORLEANS, TOO.
The shape is, but the way we upholstered them, there are just exposed upholstery tacks around the edges instead of a welt or anything like that. I knew Kiki would really appreciate how undecorated and casual it felt.
HOW DID EVERYONE FEEL ABOUT THE FINISHED RESULT?
We all love it! And here’s a dirty little secret: I realized that my own house is pretty beige. The moral of the story for me as a designer was that even though I had been foisting this turquoise room on my daughter and trying to do color vicariously through her, it turns out we’re both kind of neutral people!