Renovating her Berkeley home allowed interior designer Ashley Larson Eitemiller to put her classic-modern, highly personalized design approach to the test. “My goal is always to design spaces to be lived in,” she says. “Every bit of the house, every piece of furniture, is there to be used.”

With a baby and two dogs in tow, Larson Eitemiller and her husband had their work cut out for them when they purchased their charming yet dated 1950s Georgian abode. Opening up the compartmentalized living areas and expanding the kitchen—with an assist from her father and brother, who co-owned Montare Builders at the time of the renovation—gave Larson Eitemiller the blank slate she needed to create rooms that show off her eclectic, approachable style. Here, she shares her secrets for creating layered, pulled-together spaces that are as chic as they are comfortable.

Larson Eitemiller and her family outside their Berkeley home. Photo by Emily Minton Redfield

Create a quiet canvas.

“Keeping a neutral color palette in your main furnishings, case-work, and flooring” is Larson Eitemiller’s secret for designing spaces that strike the right balance of liveliness and livability. In her home, she created a subdued backdrop with anchor furnishings in dark grays and jewel tones, monochromatic tile in the bathrooms, and new white-oak flooring, which replaced expanses of dated carpeting. To that quiet canvas, she layered in rugs and art with pops of Hermès orange and cobalt blue, letting the colors “act as a collection” that unites the rooms. “Some homes don’t speak well with [bright colors such as] orange and red,” she notes, “but this house just called for them.”

A green Rose Tarlow lounge chair and an orange vintage Bokhara rug add vibrancy to the living room. Photo by Emily Minton Redfield

Invest in the classics.

Setting a strong foundation of high-quality furnishings, upholstery, and floor coverings is the key to creating interiors you’ll love for the long term, Larson Eitemiller says. “Here, we wanted to be cost-conscious, but we also wanted to make a home that we won’t have to remodel in 20 years.” To that end, she anchored the living spaces with classic sofas and chairs she invested in years ago—and updated with fresh upholstery to complement their new context. “Those are high-end pieces that I’ll have for the rest of my life and just continue to recover, because the frames are timeless,” she says. Such pieces take on an entirely new life when paired with new rugs, draperies, cabinetry, and art—or with different pieces from a collection of sentimental and heirloom objects Larson Eitemiller has gathered over the years. “I love the layered effect of adding something a little unexpected that has some age to it,” she says.

Incorporate art that speaks to you.

When it comes to art, Larson Eitemiller believes there are no rules. “Art is such a personal thing, and sometimes I’ll find a piece I just need to have, even though I may not have a space for it [in mind],” she says. And that’s OK. Choosing art for the emotion it evokes is just as important as finding a piece to match a color palette or fit a wall, says the designer, who regularly swaps out her artworks. “Sometimes, I’ll take pieces away [during] periods when I feel overwhelmed,” she says. “It gives me a blank canvas that I can add to again.” Art, like everything else in Larson Eitemiller’s home, is deeply personal. It’s only natural that it should evolve with her.