Jennifer Schmidt’s Affordable Luxury

For the past couple years, I’ve been so immersed in the “to the trade” culture of interior design while working at the Washington Design Center that I always passed off retail design options as a much lesser form of, well, LIVING. Not that my house is filled with anything remotely trade or custom, of course (save for one amazing piece, but that’s another story), because a $10,000 sofa isn’t currently in the budget.

Imagine, then, how my eyes virtually popped out of my head when I saw these before-and-after pictures of a project by Jennifer Schmidt of JWS Interiors — all done on a shoestring budget (TARGET, anyone??).


Virtually the entire house was painted this color yellow.



What an amazing transformation, using Benjamin Moore’s Cosmopolitan and Decorator’s White.

Jennifer was lucky, in that this family of four with dogs wanted to get rid of everything in the family room (adjacent to the kitchen at the right), and start fresh. But again, they didn’t have a ginormous budget. “I try not to do a lot through the trade,” she says, noting that her slogan is “Affordable Luxury.” Instead, she says, “I try to find those diamonds in the rough to pull that room together.”

Here’s what she did. First, the family wanted the TV and stereo on the far wall, so they could watch TV from the kitchen. That meant a long sofa (big enough to seat the entire family) would have to go on the smaller wall. She found the right one at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Then she mounted the TV on the wall above this lovely Bennett console by Zinc Door (which can be customized in any one of 25 colors!):

The house has lots of gold accents, Jennifer says, so the door pulls here were perfect. In addition, she chose two of these chests from Layla Grace, the companion site to Zinc Door:


The cream leather ottoman is from Room & Board, and the throw pillows on the sofa are from Z Gallerie.

Here’s the shocker: Jennifer found the two X-benches online at Target, and had them recovered, and also found the two leather club chairs there!

The rug is from Wisteria; the mirror is from Ballard Designs.


You can just see the club chair in the foreground, but here is a better view from Target — the pair costs a total of $400:

Nolan club chairs by Target

Now, I tend to walk right by the furniture section at Target on the way to get stuff like toiletries, clothes for my kids, or DVD’s. Jennifer swears they are comfortable, and “for what they need” the price was right on. I’m fairly sure these chairs won’t last through the decades, but for small children and a dog, it might be just the ticket for right now.

What’s worth noting here is that every single piece of furniture in this room is available to all of us — any of us could go online and purchase any of these pieces. But would we, in just the right combination, with paint colors that are dead-on for the space where they are arranged? Of course not.

That’s why (again, I think I sound like a broken record sometimes), it’s so beneficial to hire a designer. Jennifer goes into Home Goods at least four times a week because the inventory changes so often, and that’s how she finds the perfect pieces for her clients. Do any of us have the time to do that? No. “Average consumers can’t do that, and that’s why they’re paying me to do that for them,” she says. I totally agree.

Jennifer started out her career in corporate PR, but it grew old when her priorities changed.  “Corporate PR wasn’t the type of job I wanted to do when starting a family,” she says. So she took some classes, worked for a while at Ebanista when it was still at the design center, and then ultimately went out on her own.

I’ll sign off with more of her designs from other projects. Clearly, she made the right move.

I love the quiet elegance here, and the way the lines of the mirror and chandelier play off each other.


I really like how she tackles this big room with tons of windows, bringing it down to size with the molding along the top windows and the treatments on the bottom.


Jennifer’s own kitchen, something to file away for when I redo my own!


Have a great week, everyone.








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  1. YES, I have been pairing inexpensive items from shops such as Pier One with “to the trade” expensive items for years. If you have a good eye, the inexpensive items get elevated to the same status as the expensive pieces, when paired. It’s not about how much something costs. It’s about a well-designed and fabricated piece and its placement in the room. I used Pier One accessories, such as picture frames and planters, in projects for Cher and Michael Landon! (I used to live in Los Angeles and am now in Washington, DC) I have some Restoration Hardware and Room & Board items in my own loft in DC and they definately “hold their own” amongst the antique and custom pieces.

  2. Well versed architecture, designer sofas and furniture looking great……..

  3. @MAJ, yes there is a fall sample sale. They already had it. I used to be the marketing director there but was let go when the building was sold to a new owner this summer. So currently they have no one to do marketing, which is why the word isn’t getting out further! If you want to get on the email list, however, please call Belinda Riggs at 202.646.6100 or x6108. They will probably have another sale in the spring, but there is a good chance you could go there any day and browse the showrooms and get samples that were not sold at the sale. Good luck!

  4. That is a great improvement with reasonably priced options.

    … Speaking of ‘to the trade’. the Washington Design Center usually has a sample sale in the fall. I haven’t seen it this year. Are these still doing this?

  5. She did a fabulous job with “off the shelf” stuff. There are so many amazing things on the market right now, but it still comes down to knowing what to do with it…