Coley Home Spotlight: Erin Kestenbaum

Meet Erin! Based in Connecticut, her incredible eye for both photography and interior design has us instantly inspired! Read to learn all about Erin and her fabulous taste!

Tell us about yourself!

I am a Canadian who now lives in a 1940's Colonial home in coastal Connecticut. My husband and I have been renovating our home room by room over the past six years, sharing the process on my blog. We have loved bringing character back to our eighty year old home through lots of hands-on projects.

You have an affinity for both design and photography. Tell us how you were able to merge two of your passions!

Photography has been a passion of mine since college, where I eventually found myself in interiors photography, which I love so much. I love how you can bring a space to life and capture it for others to experience, as well as collaboration with designers. For design, I always approach a room with the final images in mind, ensuring that all the sightlines tell a story and showcase the personality of the space.

How would you describe your design style?

My aesthetic is pretty traditional, with a more streamlined, modern bent. I love using lots of color, pattern, and texture to create layered spaces that feel collected over time, and often feature a heavy dose of vintage furniture. I am very focused on functionality as well, as every space needs to work functionally, ahead of the more fun, aesthetic choices. 

You have done an incredible job breathing new life into your Connecticut Colonial. Any words of wisdom for those who are about to embark on the fixer upper journey?

Absolutely! I would recommend selecting classic materials for hard finishes, where I do find that more modern options can feel dated more quickly. I also would not shy away from color, as it completely changes the feeling of a room as paint is the fastest way to make your home feel your own. There are a few things I wish I had decided out of the gate, like determining the trim profiles for casing, baseboards, etc. at the start, so that there was consistent millwork throughout, adding soundproofing into walls when they were open, and upgrading all our switches to one chic style out of the gate. I would lean into the process and ensure you're making at least one choice in every room that gives you pause, as I can guarantee those little risks are what you will love most at the end.

The Dibs Chair was the finishing touch to your son’s nursery! Walk us through your thought process as you customize your chair! 

We are obsessed with the Dibs Chair! After my son previously coexisted alongside some darker, non-performance fabric upholstered pieces in our home, it was immediately clear that babies and toddlers are best suited to lighter colored fabrics with some serious performance properties. So, the Nomad, Snow fabric was the perfect choice to hold up to his sticky fingers, with its Crypton treatment. I love how the creamy color highlights the arched shape of the chair against our blue grasscloth. I wanted to play up the shape of the arms with some subtle Luxe Velvet, White piping that brings in a new texture as well, and the Ebony legs were chosen to pop off the light blue rug. Our Dibs Chair has held up great to an active toddler and has been the perfect size for our petite nursery - the footprint is great for the small space, but is also big enough for an adult and a toddler at bedtime.

Now for the design of the room! Give us a little background on how the room has transformed over the years. Can you share some of the sources for the design elements in the room?

Up until my son was born, this space served as my tiny light and airy home office and featured Chinoiserie wallpaper, a large vintage rug, and an antique wood desk dating back to the 1800's. When my son was born, we moved my office and all my prized antiques to another space in our home and transformed this room into his nursery. To completely change the vibe of the space, I painted the trim and ceiling in Farrow & Ball Oval Room Blue, wallpapered the walls in a Robin's Egg Blue Wallpaper from Annie Selke, added a blue wool rug from Annie Selke, and a flush mount fixture from Circa Lighting. To furnish the space, we added a wood crib from Nestig, a vintage campaign dresser that we refinished while living in our first apartment seven years ago, and our Dibs Chair.

I wanted this space to feel calming and quiet for both us and our very busy son, and the entire vibe feels very soothing now. I can't believe how effective paint and wallpaper can be at transforming a space.

Favorite places to find design inspiration?

Travel, Instagram, and TV shows. 

3 favorite people to follow on Instagram?

Favorite recipe at the moment?

Korean Braised Short Ribs - so easy to make, and are perfect for dinner parties since you can prepare them in advance and warm them up to serve them (and they taste even better than if they were freshly made!)

Dream travel destination?

I have been dreaming about taking a beach vacation to Harbor Island in the Bahamas (with a stay at the Dunmore!).