Podcast, Ep. 172: designer Stefani Stein

Designer Stefani Stein joins the podcast to chat about her work, California trends, and more

Photo: Jenna Peffley


This week our guest is Los Angeles-based interior designer Stefani Stein. Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Conde Nast House & GardenElle Decor, HGTV, House Beautiful, House & Home, and more. She was also named one of California Home + Design‘s ‘Rising Stars’ and has recently launched luxury wallpaper brand, August Abode. We talk about Stefani’s relaxed yet refined style, how California lifestyle affects her design, her love for an earthy palette and embracing imperfections.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Trials & Triumphs about eroding light fixtures, basement updates, lighting trials and triumphs, budget solutions on flooring, storing gift wrap, falling branches, broken fountains, plants, bushes and trees…oh my!
  • Regardless of the style, Stefani doesn’t like clutter.  She appreciates the negative space; as in having mindful or selective emptiness and leaving breathing room around items.
  • Stefani took a risk and left her first, successful career to go to school for design.
  • How to make rooms feel light & airy; mix traditional, clean lines and vintage, choose lighter fabrics, and avoid high gloss finishes.
  • Stefani is influenced by the wabi-sabi philosophy; appreciating beauty that is imperfect and incomplete.
  • How to work multiple wood finishes into a room; pay attention to the tones.
  • Some tips and tricks on how to care for brass.
  • Why Stefani prefers an earthly palette for its lasting power.
  • A Cape Cod glam project where Stefani brought in elements she hadn’t ever used along with some cozy elements.
  • How to compromise when one member of a couple has a very different vision than the other.
  • Designing for the bungalow means packing function and beauty into a small space.  It’s all about understanding the client’s lifestyle.
Bed with asymmtrical photograph hung over the bed, designed by Stefani Stein

Photo: Amy Bartlam

Decorating Dilemma


I throughly enjoy your podcast! The guests are always great and the banter between the three of you ladies is so fun! Your podcast is such a bright spot during my boring quarantine days. 🙂

My decorating dilemma is my kitchen space and I’d love some feedback in regard to updating my kitchen. We moved into this house 3 years ago and I knew right away that I would want to change out the backsplash. I feel like the current backsplash mimics my large floor tile, except that it’s placed diagonally on my wall. Boring!

On my kitchen island, I want to install an undermount single bowl kitchen sink so replacing the countertops is in order to make that happen. Quartz? Granite? Lighter color? I’m open!

Here’s where I’m stumped. Do I keep the cabinets their natural wood color? Or do I paint them? Stain them darker? There is a lot of grain in the wood and there are a lot of cabinets so I’m sure it will be an expense.

I am not a fan of the cutouts in the decorative wood piece above my cooktop and would love to get rid of that piece. I have also thought about removing the two cabinets above the stove top and possibly installing a pretty wood wall mount range hood instead? I included a picture of a beautiful kitchen to give you an idea about the style of of kitchen hood that I’m leaning towards.

Also, I’d like to replace the all of the pendant lights over my island along with the light fixture over my kitchen table.

Over the kitchen island, I was wondering if I could go from three pendant lights down to two and use something similar to your Carriage House Pendants?

The issue I have with my kitchen table light fixture is that it’s way off-center and I would like to update it with something else. Would you install a new fixture in it’s place or drape the light fixture chain across the ceiling to have it hang over the center of the table? Do you think I should keep an oval style table or change it up to a round table? I’d like to still seat 6 people.  I’d love to coordinate some counter stools also.

The wall color is Sherwin Williams Balanced Beige. The kitchen floor tile tends to be warm so I don’t feel like I can go with a true white kitchen because of the tile color.

I look forward to hearing your design tips for my kitchen space!

Thank you,

Caroline, we have some suggestions. What Stefani would do to give this a more current feel is to actually hone that back countertop. It would help the 90s granite feel more like a soapstone. It’s a great idea to have a different material on the island. Stefani likes a calacatta paonazzo because it’s a mostly white-beige background with warm veining.  The cabinets are quite a bit of wood; so Stefani’s inclination is to keep the uppers wood and paint the lowers. The uppers could be bleached to be more modern, or you could paint all of it and do darker lowers and lighter uppers. She doesn’t think white cabinets are the way to go in this kitchen. If you want to keep them light, maybe do ivory.  For the backsplash, consider a zellige tile which has imperfections and feels more current, plus it would go well with everything. 

Consider changing the cabinet hardware to a matte black or an oil rubbed bronze. For the range, Stefani likes the simple, clean-lined hood idea. The part where it has wood on the bottom, you may even be able to use the remnants of your marble slab and tie it in here.

When it comes to the pendant lights, you could get away with doing only two that are larger in scale.  Stefani suggests a round table in your breakfast room, and to swag a light fixture so it is centered over the table. What you have there now feels too light so consider something heavier like the Remington.

For the bar stools, we have a lot of suggestions like the Dayna, Allister, Dorchester, Adrian and Southport, but it’s hard to say for sure without knowing the paint color you choose for the lower cabinets.  Make this decision last after you make all of the other choices.We think your instincts are spot on about what you should change.

The one thing you didn’t talk about that I would recommend is changing to roman shades; one with a stripe could be nice. We think it’s going to look GREAT so please send us the photos! 

Mentioned In This Episode:

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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

    Natalie H.

    December 2, 2020

    I really liked this episode– Stephani was a great guest with great tips! I chuckled when she talked about spouses with different design styles. Very relatable. Her and Toledo Geller have probably been my favorite designers in terms of their portfolios.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      December 8, 2020

      Oh good! So glad you enjoyed this episode, Natalie. And thank you for taking the time to write us this note. Stefani was great!