This New Orleans design duo is unlikely to be happy at a Christie’s auction for a gilded wood Louis XVI side table. But you can find them at a flea market when they’re not busy browsing eBay or poking around Grandma’s attic. They share their decorating and entertaining ideas in their new book Housewarming: Guide to Creating a Home You Adore.
Beau Ciolino and Matt Armato (the dudes behind the Likely Blog and #YourGayUncles) learned from their own decorating mistakes and successes and became TikTok and Instagram darlings.
With nine years of DIY experience and a penchant for turning any space into a home, Ciolino and Armato embrace the decorating concepts of “all encompassing” and “achievable housekeeping”.
“We’re here to show you how you can live your best, most beautiful, most fulfilling life at home while also dealing with the limitations that come with rent, long hours and/or not much disposable income,” they say in the Introduction to “Housewarming”. (Abrams, $29.99)
They see New Orleans as the land of opportunities to bring the past into the present when they create a home:
“We always incorporate thrift and vintage pieces into our designs because they’re affordable and instantly make a space feel lived-in and relaxing. Living in New Orleans has a lot to do with why we appreciate these types of pieces in the first place, as a city that by and large celebrates history and character and objects with stories,” says Ciolino.
The couple’s journey into Martha Stewart’s country via social media began with a blog called “Probably This.” Translated, it means “We’ll find out” as they began their journey together as a housewife.
Not only did they transform apartments that doubled as temporary homes, they even did a Cinderella act on a 1969 Globestar camper trailer called Rosie, in which they taught themselves how to build countertops and remodel cabinets. Rosie was their home for the three months they traveled west.
When they got to California, they checked their bank books, “let out a bloodthirsty cry,” and “flew back to Louisiana.”
After spending another two years in an apartment in Covington, they put down a deposit on a converted 1890s side-by-side shotgun at Algiers Point, where they now use their skills.
Design is only the first part of their “Guide to Casual Domesticity”. Part two is about practically transforming a room with DIY projects and a keen eye for finding decorative treasures.
They outline DIY projects that both renters and homeowners can undertake to transform spaces to reflect their own aesthetic and home style.
Last but not least is the really fun part – entertaining. Charm and comfort trump “hoity-toity BS,” they say. And please put your elbows on the table and talk politics.
When it comes to cooking for your guests, don’t even think about preparing more than three multi-step dishes unless you’re a chef. (“No one wants a nervous host.”)
Housewarming is full of easy recipes, including cocktails that double as conversation pieces, and table settings with personal touches like handmade paper flowers.
The couple’s entertaining mantra is more about mood than tablecloths.
Oh, and one more thing: “Don’t be a neat freak.” Taking off too early can “kill the mood.” On the other hand, some guests stay too long. Then you get the “housewarming” seal of approval for “just cleaning up really loud”.
Ciolino and Armato sum up their design philosophy with the title of the first chapter of their book: “Make It Look Like People Live Here”.
If you are looking for comfort and coziness with that certain something, here are a few tips from the local decorator duo:
1. BE HONEST: Take a look at your living space and determine where you actually live. As the writers put it, what living room furniture has the Netflix dent (yes, that’s off your butt)? Place a selection of cushions, a throw and a side table for your wine glass here. Which surface of your home has the most clutter? Consider a woven basket for storing these items.
2. BE BOLD: The cheapest way to bring whimsical ideas to life is DIY. Start with a cordless drill and safety gear. Who knows, a Sander could be your future. Or even easier, buy a sample of paint and a small brush and paint your own garden flower pots. It could be a wall, even a room or a mural around the corner.
3. GET PERSONAL: How do you make a hodgepodge of your favorite things meaningful? Look at the vignette. Gather some personal items on a coffee table, countertop, or bookshelf and start arranging. Perhaps a tall vase next to a wide bowl, or a color you love that stands out against a neutral background. Collected Stones? A photo? Start with the largest object and work your way down to the smallest. Add to. Remove. Sit back and enjoy the personal touch.
4. THINK ENJOYMENT, NOT ENTERTAINMENT: When your living space feels like your own, sharing is part of the charm. If you prefer coziness to cooking, don’t diss to go. It can complement what you make. Let guests know in advance what will be cooking. It’s a new world and some friends have diet restrictions. Be careful. And always be prepared with an answer if someone asks what to bring.
5. GET A LITTLE ODD: Flea markets, consignment stores, and estate sales are full of one-of-a-kind finds that add dimension to a home. Whether it’s a set of dessert plates or a framed pencil sketch by an unknown (and untrained) artist, you have the opportunity to make it your own and do it in your own space at home.