A Design Star’s Secret to Warming Up the Winter Months

I’d heard that Meg Caswell, winner of this year’s “HGTV Design Star,” was the kind of girl that immediately feels like your new best friend.

As I scurried through the chilly, gray streets of Chicago and nestled into the colorful, warm, cushy couch at Meg’s Design Shoppe, at 1242 N. Wells St., I immediately knew why. The laughs came often as she shared stories about her new show, her upcoming HGTV holiday special, and offered design tips for bringing bright, bold design into your home in the dark winter months.

How would you describe your personal design style?
I think of it as vintage Palm Beach chic. I prefer bright colors, bold patterns and the mix of multiple patterns. I use traditional objects in unusual or updated ways, like using outdoor lanterns for reading lights above a headboard.

Is your design style reflected in your own home here in Chicago?
Oh yes. You can see the bigger, bolder scale of things—like my bright orange floor lamps. I love feeling like I’m in Palm Beach even when it’s the dead of winter in Chicago. In my home, it’s bright inside even when it’s dark outside.

Your new show, HGTV’s “Great Rooms,” is based in Chicago. What inspired that decision?
HGTV has never had a show in Chicago. We are often thought of as the “second city,” and yet, we are a mecca for architecture. In the show, we get to show all of the neighborhoods that make up Chicago and all of the amazing resources we have for design. So many people don’t even know about the Merchandise Mart, and how it can be a resource and an inspiration.

You are currently working on an HGTV holiday special where you decorate a home where the owners celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. Can you describe some of your solutions?

You are really going to see bigger and bolder, and examples of making winter bright through the use of things like snowflake decals on the walls. I employ a color scheme that is more common to Hanukkah, with blue and silver dominating, but throw in splashes of bright green and raspberry pink to give an updated nod to traditional Christmas colors. We will be spray-painting poinsettias blue and silver, featuring white trees and garlands, and I’m super excited about a menorah we are making out of wall sconces. It takes the traditional menorah, which is somewhat understated, and makes a much larger statement.

Any other tips to brighten up our homes during the long winter months?
Try literally bringing the outside inside with larger boxwoods or topiaries cut in interesting ways. You can decorate them specifically for the holidays with ribbons or lights, then remove the holiday theme and leave all that lush greenery to liven up the space year-round.

Tell me about those painted panels. In what way do they help to incorporate these ideas?
The bright colors and floral designs make you feel like you’re outdoors. It looks like hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper, which would be $1,000 a panel, but I had an artist hand-paint this on canvas panels. It can be arranged in a variety of ways for different spaces and brought from one home to another, so it livens but doesn’t overwhelm. If you don’t know an artist, you could also cover the canvas with vibrant fabric or even long sheets of wallpaper.

One final question: When can you come to my house and which room should we do first?

[My new BFF gave me a warm laugh.]