Builder Grade to Designer Beautiful: Heidi Johnston’s Design Style

I first discovered Heidi Johnston of Warrenton, VA, when I was editing a publication for HGTV, and her house, which she decorated herself, was getting huge ratings on HGTV’s Rate My Space. She’s in a new house now, with a new design, and I wrote a story about it for today’s Washington Examiner, right here.

The pictures in the paper were tiny, unfortunately, so here they all are, nice and big. The story is about how Heidi took a builder-grade house and added her own touches throughout, to make it a thoroughly unique home.

Heidi left the cabinets as-is in the kitchen, and added a tumbled marble backsplash as her design statement. She also added a chandelier over the breakfast table. The overall look she's after is French country.

She replaced the pantry door with one that has glass panes, which she had seen at a friend's house and loved. The "little, inexpensive" train-station clock from Home Goods gets high praise from visitors. The next project is installing beams on the ceiling.

Heidi left the builder-white paint on the wainscoting and painted the upper walls with Ben Moore's Hazy Skies. She also wired the room for her antique sconces, and added her own chandelier.

Heidi is already looking to change out her dining table and chairs for something a bit more contemporary to contrast with the other period pieces in the room.

The family room was a tough assignment with its two-story space. She brought the scale down by hanging drapes at the same level as the built-ins and the mirror above the mantel, so the room would feel more cozy.

Heidi loves the sunroom off the kitchen because it's so light, and the plantation shutters were already there. The planter and throw pillows came from Home Goods. The throw on the ottoman is from Z Gallerie. The sofa is from the Second Yard in Fairfax.

The living room's focal point is the grand, 1850's French armoire the Heidi got at the Antique Emporium in MIddleburg. "It's a piece I'll never get tired of," she says. The sofa is from Restoration Hardware, and throw pillows from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Lillian August coffee table from Greenfront Furniture in Manassas. The authentic zebra hide was purchased off Craigs List.

The master bedroom had white wall-to-wall carpeting, so Heidi layered it with an Oriental rug to add some character. She purchased the bed, dresser and bedside tables from Greenfront Furniture. "I usually don't buy things together like that, but it just works."

The window treatments were difficult. She hung them from the ceiling on the outside of the alcove, creating a nook. The drapes came from a Restoration Hardware warehouse sale, marked down to $80 from $690. She added a Greek key trim on the leading edge, and voila!

A detail of the curtains, and her chair and ottoman from Restoration Hardware, which was paired with the living room sofa in he former house.

Heidi, who owns the Secret Garden Salon in Warrenton, is filled with great design ideas. For one thing, she replaced all the ugly, shiny brass door hardware in the house with rubbed bronze knobs for a more sophisticated look. To fill the huge wall in the family room, she chose semi-custom unfinished built-ins from Bare Woods in Warrenton over expensive custom cabinetmakers.  Read my full story, linked above, for more of her tips. Have a great week.

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  1. She really did a gorgeous job on this home! I especially love how she switched to a glass-paned pantry door.

  2. I VIVIDLY remember Heidi’s spaces on Rate My Space. They were wonderful and I found them so inspirational. Thank you so, so much for sharing these links and pictures!

  3. Jackie Hitchcock says:


  4. Bravo Heidi! A fabulous job. The look is warm, inviting and chic. Love it.

  5. What an amazing home. I admire her ability to transform a builder grade home into her own.