Podcast, Ep. 206: comedian Heather McMahan & designer Jared Hughes

Comedian Heather McMahan and Designer Jared Hughes

We’ve got a hilarious duo for you today — comedian Heather McMahan and designer Jared Hughes. They’re longtime friends, and they recently made over Heather’s bedroom using Ballard Designs products. Today, we’re talking about mixing styles, adding traditional elements to a modern design, and more.

Heather McMahan’s bedroom makeover with Ballard Designs.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Why Heather designed her whole bedroom around our animal print Robbie Chair
  • Animal print inspired the whole room
  • How Jared took Heather’s style to the next level and helped her learn what decorating rules to follow and which ones to ignore
  • Why painting every wall white isn’t always the answer
  • How Jared really reigned in his bold style to ease Heather into the room design
  • How important is it for your room to look big?
  • Why a small room isn’t necessarily a bad thing
  • We talk about Heather’s mom and how much of a say she has in the design

Decorating Dilemma

Hello Ladies!

Thank you for bringing joy and laughter to my weekends… I love hearing about your trials and triumphs and learning from your brilliant guests!

I just moved back to the US after living abroad for a few years and I want to reimagine my Washington DC apartment. It’s the top floor of a renovated brownstone and the front room is very unique but challenging!

The good news is that the space gets a lot of light from 3 skylights and 3 street-facing windows. The vaulted ceilings are high – maybe 18 feet at the tallest point – so the space has an open and airy feel. It’s an early 1900s building and the walls are brick. However, when it was renovated in 2007, they covered up most of the brick with drywall – so you can only see the brick on the top 5 feet of the walls. The interior staircase up to the apartment runs along one of the walls from front to back, leaving a very large empty wall on one side of the apartment.

The really unique feature is the kitchen – which is like an enclosed box within the big open space. I don’t mind the fact the kitchen is closed in – it creates some definition for the living room, and also carves out a small space for the dining area. There is a coat closet opposite the kitchen which is also a contained box that pops out into the space. I can’t help but feel that there’s big potential to celebrate and tie together the interesting architecture of the space and yet right now it just feels accidentally carved up.

Here are some specific dilemmas:

  • The walls and ceilings are all painted the same color – it’s an ivory toned white. I’d love to have some more color but I’m not sure whether to go with one color with maybe a single accent wall, or to go with a different color on the ceiling vs the walls?
  • Because of the staircase and the high ceilings, the empty wall space feels a little overwhelming. At the same time, the square footage is rather small, so I want to be careful to avoid overstuffing it with furniture.
  • I don’t like any of the lighting fixtures – there are a few different types of sconces and a ceiling fan above the kitchen table. I’d love to do something different to tie together the larger space but not sure if this should be accomplished with floor/table lamps or just a different type of sconce.
  • Even though I like the kitchen as a closed-in space, it does feel pretty dim and uninspiring compared to the rest of the space. Not sure how I can liven it up without doing a whole cabinet/countertop remodel.
  • Overall, I really see it as a blank canvas and would love suggestions for how to make it feel balanced!]

Help! I need your expertise!

Thanks very much,



Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts 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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Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.