This is particularly true in the HGTV show’s latest episode, “Open Concept Space,” where the McGees meet Mary Daniels, whose East Salt Lake City house burned down seven months ago.
Daniels has dedicated her life to helping others, through personal care and through her thrift shop, Lilies of the Field.
“I started Lilies of the Field thrift store to help the homeless, the mentally ill, the needy,” she explains. “I step out into the community and find the needy and donate to the cause.”
Daniels inherited her small home from a friend she’d taken care of for 12 years. She was getting ready to move in when it burned down, and it had to be rebuilt from scratch.
When the McGees visit for the first time, it’s in the early stages of the rebuild.
“The home is all studs, which means it’s just the framing,” Shea says. “It’s all 2-by-4s.”
Syd quips, “There’s more studs in here than at Chippendales!” (Eye rolls ensue.)
Daniels had originally called the McGees to help with her primary bedroom, but Shea wants to call in some favors and add decor to the open spaces in the rest of the house as well.
“Given all that Mary has done for the community, I really want to donate my design work and quite a few pieces from my Target collection to Mary’s project,” she says.
So the budget is not an issue, thanks to the McGees’ generosity. It’s all about giving Daniels her own place where she’ll feel at home. Here’s how the McGees deliver, with plenty of tips you might be inspired to try around your own place.
Measure carefully before you buy
Before ordering anything, Shea is careful to measure and make sure the furniture she’s considering will fit.
“In this big, open space off the kitchen, we’re going to create a living room, dining room, entryway, and even a small office area,” she says. “I have certain pieces in mind, and I just want to measure to see if they will work.”
She even opens doors to confirm there’s enough clearance. It’s a good lesson to us all that even the nicest furniture won’t work if it’s too big or small for the space.
Use matching materials for a cohesive look
“In a space this open, it’s important to find a few elements that bring cohesiveness,” says Shea. “We have this long, rectangular table with this light wood tone.”
She decides to bring in a cabinet with glass doors made of matching wood.
“Not everything needs to connect, but at least one or two materials do,” she explains.
Bedroom needs curtains, a mirror, and some symmetry
“When designing a primary with limited space, the bed is a priority,” says Shea, as she decides to position it under the window.
She also suggests adding window treatments. “Window treatments don’t take up any extra square footage,” she says. “But they add an extra layer to make a room feel complete.”
Then there’s the lighting. “If we’re doing symmetrical nightstands, I like to do symmetrical lamps,” she says. “I feel like the symmetry just adds a stateliness to each side of the bed.”
And finally, she says every primary bedroom needs a mirror, to both catch and bounce natural light, and also provide the opportunity to check yourself one last time before you go out.
Accessories can affect how nice a space looks
“Accessories are part of the design, and a lot of people consider them to be an afterthought,” says Shea. “But it really helps the big pieces of furniture shine when you add a few extras on top.”
For example, she says, “It’s nice to put a few round shapes on a round table.”
She also suggests mixing old with new. They use some accessories from Shea’s line, but even more from Daniel’s shop, where they find fabulous antique pieces that fit the white, gray, and lavender color scheme Daniels selected.
Design with your feelings
“Styling is a lot of trial and error,” says Shea as she uses the accessories she’s acquired to style the mantel and the side tables in the living room. “I’ll just shift things until it feels calm.”
“Design with your feelings?” asks Syd.
“Design with your feelings,” confirms Shea.
“If your husband placed it, it’s probably feeling like it’s in the wrong place,” is Syd’s response, to which Shea responds with a courtesy laugh.
How does this dream home makeover turn out?
Daniels is overwhelmed when she sees the difference the McGees made to her burned-out shell of a house.
“I can’t believe the transformation,” Daniels exclaims. “They went above and beyond. The colors and the warmth—this is a miracle. We don’t live in houses in heaven, but if there was a house, I’d keep this one.”
But Daniels isn’t the only one who benefited from the project.
“Mary taught us so much by just having the right attitude,” says Shea. “The fire, which seemed to be such a terrible and sad thing, did not deter Mary, and turned out to have a surprising upside. I walked away thinking, ‘How could I be just a little more like Mary?'”