Jaw-Dropping: This Cozy, Pattern-Filled Home Stopped Us in Our Tracks

Some homes are so full of personality that their energy seems to jump through the screen so you can actually feel it just by scrolling through social media. Sara Charlesworth’s Salt Lake City, Utah, home is just that. After purchasing the fixer-upper in 2021, Sara is now restoring it for her family of four. In the process, she has masterfully curated a cozy space filled with playfulness, charm, and a welcoming ambience that makes guests feel like they can walk right in and make themselves at home. Personality shines throughout every room, thanks to a combination of lively wallpapers, tons of color, and whimsical knickknacks that add the perfect final touches. Keep scrolling for Sara’s vintage-filled home tour and her top tips for embracing character and comfort in your space.

Sara Charlesworth’s Salt Lake City Home Tour

The details:

Name: Sara Charlesworth
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Square Footage: 1,250
Rent/Own: Own

Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

Your current home was actually your husband’s childhood home. How did you two decide to purchase it, and what was the renovation process like?

We decided to purchase it mid-pandemic. My father-in-law needed to let go of this home but had a lot of sentimental attachment to it. We had moved back to Salt Lake City from Phoenix prior to 2020, and we were living in a top-floor apartment downtown. It was quite fun until everyone started working from home, and then we were constantly worried about how much noise our young kids were making. We felt ready to make the move to a home, and it just kind of worked out for the both of us really well.

The renovation process was a lot of fun and a lot of stress. We completely overhauled the bathroom and kitchen, then did more minor updates like paint, wallpaper, and lighting to the other rooms. Our goal was to make it feel like “us” without taking away from the character of the home. We didn’t want to feel like we were living in somebody else’s house.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

“We wanted to bring the home back to life—make it feel happy and cozy and like a place where our family wanted to grow.”

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

You moved into a house that already held many memories for your family. How did you honor the home’s original character while infusing your own personality into it?

We tried to keep the character of the home while breathing new life into it. The house had a lot of memories, but they were not all happy memories, and the house had been sitting vacant for a number of years. The interior structure had been kept up, but it felt a bit sad inside, and the outside had just been left to the wild. We wanted to bring the home back to life—make it feel happy and cozy and like a place where our family wanted to grow. It was important to us to keep the charm and the character of the home while making a conscious effort to honor its history while we made changes that better served our family.

Your entryway is one of your most recently finished projects. How long did the transformation take you, and what is your favorite part of the updated space?

It took us about two weekends to finish. We spent the first weekend painting and installing molding and prepping for wallpaper, and then the second weekend, we had a wallpaper hanger come and install the wallpaper. We then spent the rest of the weekend putting the room back together. My favorite thing about it is how it feels in conjunction with the living room since there is not much separating the two rooms. I love how the wallpaper is bold in pattern but not in color, which is the opposite of the living room, which is bold in color but subtle with its patterns. I love that the wallpaper pattern is a bit bigger in scale than you would traditionally see, and I think that adds a bit of interest—something that is just a little unexpected.

How would you describe your interior design style, and how has it evolved over the years?

I would describe it as cozy, storybook, Scandinavian, a little unexpected, and always a little playful. I think my style has changed over the years as I have changed as a person and figured out who I was and wanted to be. I think style can and should evolve as we evolve as people. I also think it has changed dramatically as I have learned to become less fearful of what others think of me and really decided to start designing for myself instead of what I thought others wanted to see. It is more free and more an expression of what I love than it has ever been before.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

Your home is so warm and welcoming. Do you have any tips for curating a cozy home?

Mixing patterns, textures, and lots of layers and thinking about how you want to use and feel in each space. For instance, when I’m sitting on the couch, I might want a little table to set my coffee on, a lamp so I can see my book, a blanket and an extra pillow to make it cozier, and a place to put my feet up. Then, I’ll think about those elements and how I want them to interact together. This is all to say that it’s all in those little details that pull a room together and make it feel cozy and warm. Also, making your home feel personal to you is always a good idea. The more personal you make it, the more at home you’ll feel.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

We absolutely love your home’s timeless, vintage look. Are there any secondhand pieces in your home? If so, what is your favorite find?

We have quite a few secondhand or vintage pieces, but if I had to pick one favorite, it would probably be the pair of vintage wall candle holders we have on the sides of the mirror in our living room. They just feel really dainty and unique, and I have never come across anything like them since.

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Instead of a TV in your living room, you installed a projector screen that pulls down from the ceiling. Do you ever miss having a typical TV, or are the cozy movie theater vibes worth it?

Yes, I do miss it sometimes and occasionally toy with the idea of trying to make a TV work somewhere in here. I think a lot of people get the idea that we must not be big TV watchers when, in reality, the opposite is closer to the truth. The cozy movie theater vibes are so fun at nighttime and make movie nights extra special, but I’ve been thinking of bringing in a TV for daytime watching, so maybe both can be possible. Still debating… we shall see!

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

We can’t believe your stunning tiled fireplace is actually a DIY. Do you have a favorite DIY project you have done over the years?

Hmmm… maybe the kitchen floor? It was the most time-consuming project we did, but it was one of the major things that started making the kitchen feel how I wanted it to feel. It really was the first thing that set the tone for how I wanted to bring more color and pattern into the rest of the house.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

Each piece of furniture in your space is so curated and intentional. Where are your favorite places to shop?

I love vintage shopping (Etsy is great for this). I love Lulu and Georgia for really cool, quality pieces of furniture. For rugs, I am very into Nordic Knots. I have a big love for English furniture designers like Matilda Goad and Beata Heuman and love saving up for special pieces from them. I also love finding little online shops that have really unique pieces, like Iota Edit or East London Cloth for window coverings. And I’ll always have a soft spot for IKEA.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

“I gravitate toward designs that look good lived in and with a bit of untidiness.”

sara charlesworth home tour
Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

Your kitchen flooring looks like tile, but it’s actually hardwood painted with a checkered pattern. How did you decide to go with paint over traditional tile, and how has it held up over time?

To be honest, had I been heading in that direction initially, I probably would have gone with a tile version of what we have. When I originally designed the kitchen, I had this idea of a white, serene kitchen. The floors were initially painted a creamy white, and although it was perfectly nice, I was never happy with the way it had all come together. For me, the kitchen felt like it was missing life.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

I was trying to come up with a way to give it more of the personality I wanted and came up with the DIY of painting the pattern onto the floor. It was tedious and a bit nerve-wracking. We completed it late at night, and I went to bed thinking I had made a terrible mistake and was afraid to look at it the next morning. But seeing it in the morning light, I was relieved to see my vision all made sense and was the first of many decisions we made to bring more color and pattern into this home.

With two young children, keeping your home clean and organized has got to be a challenge. As a content creator who is constantly photographing their home, do you have any tips for keeping your home in order and Insta-worthy?

I think this comes down to a few things. My home is definitely not always clean—sometimes, just the room I am photographing is clean. In general, we usually just put away messes as we go and try to go to bed with a somewhat tidy home. However, I think there is something to be said about certain designs accepting mess and making mess look more tolerable and intentional. If you design your home in a way that daily messes can look somewhat pleasing, it makes having messes feel more acceptable. This is actually a hard point to articulate in a way that makes sense, but this is all to say that some home designs look good (or at the very least tolerable) with a bit of mess around, and some do not.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

My point is that our home is generally tidy, but it’s not always. When it’s not, it’s OK because the design of our home accepts it, which makes it easier for us to accept as well. I gravitate toward designs that look good lived in and with a bit of untidiness. This is probably not for everyone, but it feels more relaxed to me.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

You utilize a variety of different wall colors throughout your home, but they all work together beautifully. How did you go about choosing your home’s color palette?

I feel like I’m drawn to the same handful of colors, and those colors repeat themselves in some variety in every room. Our house is a variety of warm blues, soft reds, butter/mustard yellow, cream, and green. I think every room has a bit of those colors, just in different amounts, so even though each room has its own look and feel, they complement each other and feel like they belong to the same home.

I’m also a huge fan of sightlines and love the idea of how a room feels when it’s being looked at from another room. I think this is especially important in small homes, where you can see through into a lot of rooms from one space. For instance, from my living room, I can see my dining room, kitchen, and entryway. Even though each is its own room, I’m fascinated with the idea of how each space will look when looking at it from another and how they can complement each other while still taking on their own identity.

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Your kids’ bedroom looks straight out of a storybook. How do you balance the beautiful decor with more practical elements like storage and easy cleanup?

Thank you. The kids’ room was another room that always felt like it was missing personality, and I wasn’t sure in what direction I wanted to take it. The idea first came to me after I found the wallpaper by Sarah Sherman Samuel. I immediately fell in love with it, and the entire design fell seamlessly into place after that. We use the trundle space under the bunk beds for lots of toy storage, as well as many baskets in their playroom for toys. We also turned an old fireplace mantel into a makeshift place to hold books. But to be totally honest, we are still working on the more practical elements of their room, like storage (don’t look in their closets, or you’ll be completely terrified).

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

There are so many playful touches in your home, including funky light fixtures and lots of wallpaper. How do you make sure everything looks cohesive while still having fun with it?

I am a big believer in a mood board. It’s so helpful to see everything I am considering in one place and then see how all those things I’ve gravitated toward interact with each other. This helps narrow down decisions and helps it become less about each individual piece and more about how they are all talking to each other.

I also love the idea I have heard referred to as “the ugly shoe theory.” This theory is that sometimes an outfit looks better when an item doesn’t match perfectly or something is slightly quirky, making everything a little bit more interesting. I love this theory when it comes to home design as well. In my opinion, a room just looks more unique and fun when each room has a little bit of “wonder” or something that doesn’t quite “fit.” Yet somehow, that’s usually the same thing that makes the room work and pulls everything together.

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Source: Sara Charlesworth | @chalkwhitearrow

Your bedroom has changed a lot since you began renovations. How did you land on the current design?

The initial plan of the room has mostly stayed the same but has just progressed in its journey a bit more slowly the longer we have lived here. It was one of the last rooms for us to “complete” prior to moving in. It is quite a small room and was just a plain box originally. We painted it this beautiful soft gray-blue-green called Cromarty by Farrow & Ball. A few months after living here, we decided to give the room more detail by adding lots of molding. A few months later, we painted the ceiling as well to make it feel a bit more cozy. Then, a few months after that, we added a thick rug to make it feel more like a hug. It’s been the slowest to evolve, but it is starting to come to a place where I’m mostly happy with it.

Your home is constantly evolving. Do you have any upcoming projects or things still on your to-do list?

We are really focusing on our yard at the moment and hope to make some major progress on it by summer. We also haven’t touched the very bare-bones, unfinished basement, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to start that soon.

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