traditional decor

As design trends come and go, celebrating traditional craftsmanship and decor never goes out of style. This rings true for Columbus, Ohio-based interior designer Julie Paulino. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York, the former vintage furniture dealer has lived around the world, from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Munich, Germany. Yet her love for custom woodwork, heirloom prints and traditional decor always endured. “I’ve always gravitated towards formality in design,” says Paulino. “So I love translating these classic influences so they feel more relevant to modern families.”

She’s been sharing the good word through her popular blog Belle Vivir (founded in 2006) and her design firm. For those seeking more gentility in their homes, the designer breaks down her signature blend in these three stunning transformations.


Country-style Kitchen

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Nothing captures pastoral romance like traditional cottage living. Paulino was tasked to bring this Arcadian charm to a large kitchen renovation for a home in Dublin, Ohio. The rustic traditional look, however, wanted a bit more polish. “The country-style doesn’t need to be extremely rustic to be warm and inviting,” explains the designer. “There’s room for more sophisticated, clean-lined pieces.”

This balance begins with the custom cabinetry, featuring cottage details like beadboard panels in a whitewashed gray finish. In contrast, she adds high shine with chrome appliances and quartz countertops and handmade. Glazed white subway tiles also offer “a more modern interpretation of the originals that add great texture to the wall.”

She also keeps rustic features in measured doses, such as live-edge cutting boards, wicker baskets and a vintage-style island. These decor accents have space to breathe thanks to a spacious pantry.

“There seems to never be enough storage in the kitchen, so we made sure to create places to put things away,” she notes. This frees up visual real estate for open shelving that features quaint ceramics vignettes around the stove area, “which create a more welcoming feel.”

Bathroom Refresh

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For the same client in Dayton, Ohio, the designer infused more contemporary country charm into this airy master bathroom that offers a subtle mix of old and new. The trick, says Paulino, is to juxtapose diverse textures within a unified color scheme.

“People shouldn’t be afraid of mixing materials in the bathroom,” she explains. “Just put all the finishes together and see how they harmonize.”

To create this sense of openness, Paulino merged the former Jack and Jill bath into one central area. With the enlarged space, more white beadboard was added to create a cottage-inspired backdrop, this time on the walls and the ceiling. For the vanity, she also employed custom cabinetry in a distressed, soft gray finish.

The shower area received equal care and craftsmanship, featuring glossy white subway tiles contrasted with vintage-style, white penny tiling in the inset shelf, all punctuated with dark gray grouting. Brushed gold hardware and dainty, shaded sconces also added to the antique spirit. Paulino then contrasted these surfaces with unapologetically modern accessories, like the lucite-and-brass mirror and display tray for the vanity area.

Globe Trotter Bedroom

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A playground for interior experimentation, the prestigious 2019 Columbus Museum of Art Designer Showcase provided the perfect canvas for Paulino to celebrate her contemporary twists on traditional decor. When designing this space, “I imagined a well-traveled woman who’s collected a lot of things in her life, and needs to bring all these elements under one roof and make it harmonious and inviting.”

She filled the room with worldly finds, from the 1940s Italian mirror for the vanity to embroidered pillows from Istanbul. To ground this global grandeur, she employed a genteel blend of classic prints, made fresh with a pastel palette.

A striped canopy over the bed offered “a modern take on a design element that’s been around for centuries,” explains the designer. Instead of the bulky frames of typical canopy beds, “a simpler way to accomplish this look is installing a curtain rod from the ceiling and hanging the fabric from there.”

Fresh spring green also injected modern energy into the classic chinoiserie pattern on the folding screen. Paulino completed the nook with an elegant chaise, gold chair and hide rug.

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