What Happens When You Let Your Best Friend Design Your Bedroom

Emily Starr Alfano and Jess Klein share the deets on their “design swap.”

bedroom design ideas

Boston-based design bloggers and friends Jess Klein and Emily Starr Alfano are constantly sharing snippets of their projects on their respective Instagram accounts. But in the spring of 2020, they realized they each had a room that never saw the light of day on social media: Emily’s main bedroom and Jess’ guest room-slash-nursery-slash-home-office.

“These rooms sat untouched for so long that they basically became a design Achilles heel for both of us,” says Emily, whose narrow space was incredibly awkward and impractical due to low ceilings. Jess’ guest bedroom, on the other hand, lacked a clear purpose and creative direction: “It basically became a dumping ground for anything and everything,” adds Jess. “At one point, it was my son’s bedroom and a guest bedroom, and once lockdown hit, we added home office to that list.”

Emily’s Main Bedroom


Bedroom design before


bedroom design ideas

Jess’ Guest Bedroom


Bedroom makeover before


bedroom makeover after

Overwhelmed, frustrated, and fresh out of inspiration, the two decided to team up on a classic design swap. “We had both stared at these rooms for so long and desperately needed a fresh set of eyes,” explains Jess. “We both love and admire each others’ work, so it seemed like the perfect solution.” Ahead, find Jess and Emily’s unfiltered thoughts on making over each others’ spaces, plus their bedroom design ideas and pro tips for bringing their visions to life.

Step One: Set Project Goals 

First, the duo set clear goals for their spaces to set each other up for success. Emily wanted to maximize the limited footprint and make the floor plan as functional as possible, in addition to adding built-in storage, a custom rug, and an architectural element, like shiplap.

bedroom design ideas

While Jess had plenty of space to work with, she wanted to create a cohesive and practical space that could function as a daytime home office, occasional guest room, and makeshift nursery until she moved her son Harvey in with her daughter, Evie. 

bedroom design ideas | Snow Day by Clare Paint

Step Two: Design the Moodboards

Blind design may be great for TV, but Jess and Emily had clear intentions outlined, along with inspiration photos from Pinterest and selected furniture, artwork, textiles, and lighting before moving onto the moodboarding phase.

Emily's Main Bedroom

Bedroom design moodboard

Jess' Guest Bedroom 

Design moodboard

“It was a really collaborative process rather than a surprise reveal at the end,” explains Emily. “We bounced a lot of bedroom design ideas off of each other and made sure that we were both happy with the direction for our spaces before moving forward.” 

Step Three: Choose the Color Palettes

Next, the two nailed down palettes and paint colors for each others’ bedrooms. Jess went with Classic for the majority of Emily’s room, with a Current Mood accent wall behind the dresser. “We were nervous about adding a dark color to a small space, but Current Mood ended up being the perfect color,” adds Jess. “It really helped create a little design feature in the dressing area.” 

Bedroom design ideas | Current Mood by Clare Paint

After swatching a host of Clare colors, Emily decided on Snow Day for the walls and Set in Stone for the closet doors in Jess’ guest room. “Set in Stone is a rich gray with blue undertones, and it added the perfect punch of color to an otherwise unremarkable wall,” notes Emily.

Bedroom closet ideas | Set in Stone by Clare Paint

For the overall palettes, the two drew inspiration from each others’ overarching design styles. “My home has warmer tones, while Jess’ is more bright and contemporary,” explains Emily. “The bedroom designs really followed suit and feel like natural extensions of our homes.”

Step Four: Add the Finishing Touches 

After weeks to months of research, Zoom calls, and walk-throughs, Emily and Jess began ordering samples and sourcing a high and low mix of furniture, lighting, and artwork for the two spaces, from custom rugs and window treatments to peel-and-stick shiplap. The spaces came together pretty organically: “The pandemic definitely extended the process due to shipping delays, but fortunately, we loved all of the pieces we originally selected,” notes Jess. 

Bedroom storage ideas

Bedroom design ideas

With the large design elements in place, Emily and Jess moved into the final phase: accents and decor. “The final details really brought both spaces together, particularly the linen bedding, throw pillows and blankets, candles, vases, books, and the natural accents like storage baskets and greenery,” explains Jess. “We also put the lighting on dimmers, which helped create the cozy atmosphere we were after.”

Next up: Simple bedroom decorating ideas inspired by this blogger's all-white oasis.


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