Podcast, Episode 83: designer Fran Keenan

Designer Fran Keenan joins the podcast to talk decorating

Decorator Fran Keenan joins the show this week to discuss her transition from magazine editor at Cottage Living to working with clients, and where she fell in love with the idea of functional and beautiful living. She also talks about how her family influences her work and vice versa, her love of transformation, what colors she currently loves working with most, and the importance of staying true to the personal narrative of the client.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Fran’s background as an editor at Cottage Living, and how that influences her to this very day when working on a design project.
  • What steps Fran took to launch her career as an interior designer, and how it went along with the time in her life where she wanted flexibility to spend time with her family.
  • What Fran loves most about working with homeowners.
  • More about the “alphabet” room, and ways Fran has succeeded from thinking outside of the box.
  • How to not have a boring laundry room — drinks anyone?!
  • Fran’s love of mixing functionality with style and warmth.
  • Her use of earthy colors in a way that still feels fresh and energetic.
  • Creative ways Fran pulls color throughout the house and creates a seamless transition throughout rooms.
  • The rule of thumb when it comes to painting moving objects inside the house.
  • A glimpse into the transformation of her own house, and the hilarious take her kids have on what type of houses she buys.
  • How the design process works when Fran moves into a new house, and the lessons of reprocessing within each change.
  • Mixing high and low. Where Fran splurges, and where she uses Ikea.
  • The use of book shelf displays in a way that coincides with the best use of space.
  • How to safeguard against common issues of creating a “Pretty House Prison”.
  • Starting points for using textiles and patterns to bring both a modern sleekness and primitive warmth to the house.
  • Storage solutions of hooks, baskets and hanging things!

Decorating Dilemmas:

Dear Ladies,

My husband and I had a house built and love it – mostly – basically we picked a floor plan out of a catalog and tweaked a few things. But there are a few things we didn’t think through. One of these things is the entryway. It’s just so impractical. No wall to hang stuff. Shoes and coats get dumped. There is a coat closet fairly close (in the hallway behind the Xmas tree) but the kids can’t use it as they’re pretty small still.  I like the openness but that room back there is the kids play/room/schoolroom and I don’t really want to be able to see all that anyway.  That room also may at some point become a ‘family room’ where we might put a tv on the wall and a sectional.  I am thinking about having a built in bench/cubby system like a mudroom to the left but I don’t want it to feel like an ‘afterthought’ or take away too much from the room behind.  Also can a mudroom-ish look somehow tie in with a fairly formal entry? or does that even matter? The dining room the left as you come in and the great room – straight ahead as you come in – is formal. Do you have other ideas – would it be better just to wall it in and put a bench there? I would also like to upgrade the front door – unfortunately we don’t have a lot of space to add anything much bigger but I am hoping we might at least get a door with a side window.  We do also plan to trim out the openings to the formal dining room and add some molding.

When we were building I thought we would use the garage entry more for just us but we really don’t. So all the mess gets dumped right at this door. 

I’m excited to hear what you ladies think might be the best solution for this. 

With many thanks,



Fran thinks you may benefit greatly from adding a wall to close off the playroom so that space stays private. She thought it would be a great opportunity to do a console of some sort, possibly one with a shelf on the bottom for your children to stack their backpacks and everyday items. She also saw an opportunity for a glass door as your front door. We love the idea of building a wall as well so that you aren’t completely on display in front of the door.

Hello Ballard Gals, 

I am a regular listener of your podcast and a Ballard Shopper! I enjoy listening to you and learning from you and your interesting guests. You guys deserve a raise! 

Here’s my dilemma/question: I purchased two spectacular drum pendants for over my kitchen island. I didn’t realize when I ordered that they are LINEN! Yikes. They will hang about 4 feet from stove. This is a working (lots of cooking) kitchen not show kitchen. Do I return them because they will get grimy from grease and cooking crap or do I spray them with scotch guard and suck it up?  My gut is that linen in the kitchen is a terrible idea.   Thanks in advance for your assistance  


Cindy, you are right and the fun part is the freedom in your choice of something wipeable. A metal shade may be a great idea, but just be aware it may cause a ring on the countertop so you will need a light that diffuses the shadow.


Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    April 9, 2019

    I was so upset when Cottage Living shuttered! Loved this episode- I have so many magazine tears of Fran’s work from old Southern Livings and Cottage Living.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      May 2, 2019

      Ditto! Cottage Living was amazing and I miss it too. I’m so glad enjoyed the show. Thanks for listening!