Designing dad aims to empower homeowners

Becoming a parent changes your life in so many ways. How you think. How you act. How you live.

No one knows that better than Stephen Saint-Onge. The husband, father, homeowner and interior designer recently wrote his first book, “No Place Like Home.”

Filled with photographs he also took, the book offers tips and techniques for families and everyday living.

Saint-Onge said his brand and look has been tagged “designer dad” and he’s perfectly OK with that. “It stuck with everything I brought to the table. I bring comfortable, attainable environments.”

He said he won’t create spaces that aren’t suitable for children or dogs. “Real people have to live in these spaces and that enters into my design work. Whether I’m making over a space for television or a private client, I ask can people live in this space comfortably and reflect who they are.

“In my book you’ll see real people. I showed dog beds in the family room because that’s how people live. They don’t live in perfectly styled rooms.”

During recent telephone interview, Saint-Onge said one of the biggest and most often asked questions he gets is what his own home looks like. “It’s not about living in perfection. It’s about creating an environment that is good for me and my family.”

He said it was his goal to educate and empower the everyday homeowner about design.

Included in the book are tips to help homeowners see their homes in a better way, tricks to make a big impact on a room, along with educational information about materials, furnishings and accessories. The information is presented in an informal manner, kind of like a sketchbook.

“It was fun for me,” he said of the book project. “I’m am artist and photographer as well as a designer. It was fun for me to put everything I love in one place.”

Saint-Onge said it was important to him that he use his own photographs because that allowed him to convey the proper mood and feeling. “There are 300 photos in the book. I shot over 2,000 photographs. I really wanted it to be an opportunity to show visually what I was noticing in homes that I was going into and to point out to others how to place furniture.”

In his experience, he said homeowners have found their biggest challenge to be defining their style and knowing where to start.

“Defining personal style is a daunting thing for a lot of people. I get a lot of emails from homeowners across the country saying the don’t know where to start to define their style. The husband wants one thing, they want another and the kids have their own ideas. They get overwhelmed.

“That’s why my first chapter tells them to create a look book,” he said.

Saint-Onge defines a look book as a collection of photographs and images taken from magazines and catalogs of homes and rooms that appeal to you.

“This is helping you define your style. If you seen a bunch of living rooms pulled from various locations, you can see what it has in common. Is it a color or furniture style? What motivates you is what defines your style.”

And, he said, having all these pictures in one place will help guide you as you work.

Released on Feb. 22, the book’s initial printing sold out in three weeks, Saint-Onge said.

“The book really resonated with people. It’s filled with things they can do themselves.”

Saint-Onge said he learned to be creative on his feet and work with limited resources while doing makeovers. He also writes a lifestyle column, “House Calls with Stephen Saint-Onge,” for Better Homes and Gardens and has appeared on television shows such as “Today,” “The Early Show,” “Oprah” and “The View.”

Saint-Onge said the time was right for him to write the book. With the economy in its current state, many people are not building their dream houses or upgrading to their dream houses. Instead, they are taking the homes they are living in and transforming them. His tips help homeowners transform their rooms in an attainable and affordable way.

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