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Inside the Holiday Home of a Stylist and True Colour Expert

Marilee Congo is an interior designer, fashion stylist and educator.  She attended my Specify Colour with Confidence workshop last year, then volunteered at the September course this year.

She works with her husband Jon who is a General Contractor and Project Manager in Surrey, BC.

Marilee confided that doing my course gave her language for articulating the beauty that she brings to her clients.

Being able to explain WHY your designer intuition is right, gives your clients instant confidence in your abilities!

Marilee’s first love is fashion. She trained as a Colour Analyst and Image Consultant 20 years ago.

She helped choose and style my outfits for three of my courses this Fall.

When she reviewed my closet, she immediately pointed out that I was missing a bunch of basics. An ivory skirt and pants, navy blue pants, a navy blazer, etc. I get so focused on just buying colourful clothes for my courses, I didn’t realize I was missing so many neutrals.

Here is Marilee’s home, along with her guest post:

“When we moved into our current home at the end of December 2004, we knew we wanted to renovate the space.  The entire home was painted a very pale pink, with deep blue carpets, grey tile, etc. It was cold and uninviting.

Cohesion throughout our home was something I knew would be important, so we committed to a plan, and even though it took three separate renovation stages, we ultimately finished the entire renovation of our home.”

“Jon is a true craftsman, and he is responsible for all the wonderful millwork that runs throughout the home. He cased all the windows, installed crown moldings, architrave moldings, and panel moldings, as well as adjusting and redesigning the fireplace tiles and mantles.”

“I think what pleases me the most with what we accomplished is that no one visiting our home would ever know that the renovation happened over a span of several years and 3 separate phases.  We remained true to our initial selections, in spite of the fact that the trends were moving toward brown.”

“I travelled extensively as a young adult with two singing groups.  One in particular did a lot of performing in the Southern United States, and along the Eastern Sea Coast.

I fell in love with the traditional homes that I had opportunity to stay in while on the road. I loved two storey Georgian Homes and was so drawn to the elegant finishes and flourishes.  I loved all the crown molding and panel molding I saw and dreamed of the day I would be able to make that a reality in my own home.”

“The violin that rests on the Duncan Fyfe table in the bay window of my Living Room (above) is a reminder of a time in past years when we had more time than money.”

“I sometimes feel like I am “out of place” here in the West.  Vancouver leans more toward Modern décor.  I have a “Southern heart” and have remained true to what I love.  I am a hopeless traditionalist, and at Christmas time more than any other time of the year, you see that in the choices I make.”

I love to incorporate fresh greens with faux, it makes everything look lush!

“Our tree tells the beautiful story of love that weaves throughout the years.  Some of the ornaments, many in fact, are homemade and have appeared on our trees throughout the 43 years of our marriage.”

“I love the carpet on our stairs!  I had used the product in a client’s project and knew it was what I wanted on my stairs.  It is a commercial grade carpet and so it has been extremely well wearing.  We chose to inlay the carpet on the stairs, and continue that application in the upstairs hall to bring flow and continuity (below).”

Here’s the master bedroom:

Photography by Maria Killam

Thanks Marilee for sharing your home and your story with us!

Marilee Congo, Upscale Downsizing 

I love the inlaid carpet in the upstairs hallway. Such a great solution (and not often seen) if you want to change the colour of your carpet in the upstairs bedrooms.

And it’s also a nice way to incorporate a pattern going up the stairs and into the hallways which can be specified to create flow with the colours in your house (just like Marilee did) and it’ll wear much better than the more neutral, lighter coloured carpet that you might install in the bedrooms.

What is your favourite space?

Choosing clean vs. dirty (muted) colours and coordinating them is tricky. Learn how to get it right!

PS. We have moved our California event from Palm Springs to San Francisco Monday April 15 – Wednesday April 17, 2019. I realized that we would need a lot more time to fill a destination location like Palm Springs!

The rest of the dates for Spring are also up:

Toronto will sell out first because we have not been to this location in two years, we already have 8 registrations in this event, April 1 – 3 (Mississauga)

Atlanta – April 10 – 13, 2019

San Francisco – April 15 – April 17, 2019

Houston – May 8 – 10, 2019

New Jersey – May 14 – 16, 2019

Register here.

Related posts:

Sneak Peak of Christmas with the Owner of Studio B Yoga

How to Keep a White Sofa WHITE over the Holidays 

Your Christmas Tree is YOU (maybe)

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  • Millennial Lawyer says:

    Beautiful space. So refreshing from West Elm everything.

  • Clarissa says:

    What a lovely home Marilee – I love all your blue plates, and your details. Thank you for sharing that with us!

  • Martha says:

    What a lovely and tasteful home….right out of the Ol’ South!

  • Rhonda says:

    A beautiful home that captures the warmth and graciousness of the South, spoken from a Tennessean! I especially love the master bedroom–the colors and styling are wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  • Julie says:

    I love traditional, especially at Christmas. Your home exudes warmth and comfort. That drop leaf table in the master bedroom is absolutely gorgeous!

  • Helen says:

    It’s a gorgeous home! I LOVE all the moldings and the violin on the table in the bay window is a lovely touch. Also love the second photo with the hammered copper tray and the fire in the background – so inviting. I could snuggle up there for hours!

  • Cindy says:

    This is beautiful…and is very “southern living”. It reminds me so much of my grandmother (Memphis, TN) who was the best “untrained” decorator I knew in my lifetime. She gave me good advice ~ save up for quality furniture and don’t just fill up a room with furniture, buy things you can use in every room, use classic items, but add in color with fabrics, wall decor, etc.! Sadly, I didn’t listen to her and now as a grandmother myself I am working hard to achieve her skills. So thankful for designers like the ones on this site to give me good direction.

  • lydia says:

    Delightful visual feast for the eye. Makes me want to sit in one of those big comfy chairs and take it all in.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Marilee, your home is lovely. It looks so warm & inviting. And Maria, your photography really captured it. Both of you…Well done!

  • Susie says:

    Beautiful home! Reminds me of east coast U.S. And I echo the previous comment, that it’s refreshing to see something that’s not the latest trend. It’s timeless.

  • Linda says:

    Wow, I loved it. I too love the traditional style. To me, it eradicates warmth and comfort. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lorri says:

    I love that Marilee stayed true to her own taste. My favorite “moment” in her house is the nightstand with her traditional things on it and a piece of art that looks like the Pacific Northwest. I love decor that is individual.

  • Cynthia says:

    What a LOVELY home!!!
    I too have the white Avon Holy Family. What a beautiful way to display it. Great attention to details.

  • Jeannie says:

    Marilee! Thank-you. I absolutely love your home. I’m starting to decorate our retirement home and plan to keep my tradional style even though everyone wants me to do HGTV decorating. Your post came at the perfect time to reaffirm my choices. I had to look up “architrave” and learned I have that in the foyer my new home though curiously none of our windows have any wood trim. We’ll see how handy my husband is. You have inspired me.

    • Jon Congo says:

      Jeannie, I’d be most willingly to pass along some of the ideas I used to upgrade the moulding detail in this home. ‘Maximum impact for minimum dollar’ is a driving factor in a lot of what we did. We can connect through

  • Heddy says:

    Wonderful decorating!

  • Velvet says:

    A lovely home indeed filled with lots of love and warmth. That was a pleasure to read!

  • Jen says:

    It seems almost a contradiction in terms, but your beautiful traditional interiors are a ‘breath of fresh air’!

  • Becky says:

    This home really speaks to me. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Louanne says:

    Love love love it! Well done, sophisticated, welcoming, warm and inviting.

  • Michele says:

    I love everything about this beautiful home. Traditional design is not trendy at the moment, but it will always be timeless. I am so tired of “modern farmhouse” which is everywhere. Thanks for sharing this lovely space!

  • Elissa Watts says:

    Marilee’s daughter here! These lovely comments have me a little teary. You are radiant, mom. So proud of you. Maria, the photos are superb. You captured the spirit of the home: warm and inviting, unpretentious and yet thoroughly beautiful. Love, love, love. I wish I inherited your ability to visualize and execute. Please come help me decorate in Ontario! xoxo

  • Lucy says:

    Thank you Maria for having Marilee as a guest hostess! I absolutely love your home! It is so inviting and comfortable. You have done an outstanding job with accessories and flow of color! Also I love patterned carpet on the stairs. I have used it many times for some of my clients homes. It makes a good transition for carpet in the upstairs rooms. Your vignettes are beautifully done! Thank you so much for your post!

  • Michelle says:

    Marilee, your home is so lovely! I’m another fan of traditional, Southern style. Can you or Maria give us some tips to keep traditional fresh and timeless and not fall into the dowdy, grandma look? Maybe even a whole blog post, pretty please.

    • That’s a great question Michelle,
      Perhaps Maria and I can entertain that idea.
      Appreciate your warm and kind comments.
      Being true to one’s style and preferences, and not swayed by trends, is not always easy.
      Thank you

  • Vanessa says:

    That is a beautiful home!

  • ann cariola says:

    Love this…traditional but not tired! Makes me want to sit down and have a civilized cup of tea (and a few pretty Christmas cookies!)

  • Carrie Hodges says:

    Your beautiful home resonated with me—I grew up in Vicksburg. I love your traditional Southern take on decor. (Fellow True Color Expert Dallas May ‘18)

  • Susan Telfer says:

    Do you know what her main neutral wall colour is? I like how it is not a colour but not stark white.

    • Susan the wall color on the main level of my home is Benjamin Moore Abington Putty. It is a green beige and we love it. It has enough presence to be warm, but not in any way overpowering, and I think it is timeless. It is part of the BM Historical Collection.

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