This New Orleans design duo won’t likely be getting paddle happy at a Christie’s auction for a Louis XVI giltwood side table. But you may find them at a flea market, if they aren’t busy perusing eBay or prowling around Grandma’s attic. They share their decorating and entertaining ideas in their new book “Housewarming: Guide to Creating a Home You Adore.”
Learning from their own decorating mistakes and successes, Beau Ciolino and Matt Armato (the two guys behind the Probably This blog and #YourGayUncles) evolved into TikTok and Instagram darlings.
With nine years of DIY under their toolbelts and a penchant for turning any space into home, Ciolino and Armato embrace the decorating terms “all-encompassing” and “attainable homemaking.”
“We’re here to show you how to live your best, most beautiful, and fulfilling home life while dealing with the limitations that come with renting, working long hours, and/or not having a lot of expendable income,” they say in the introduction to “Housewarming.” (Abrams, $29.99)
They see New Orleans as the land of opportunity for bringing the past into the present when creating a home space:
“We always incorporate secondhand and vintage pieces into our designs for their affordability and the way they instantly make a space feel lived-in and relaxing. Living in New Orleans has a lot to do with why we value those kinds of pieces in the first place, as a city that, on the whole, celebrates history and character and objects with stories,” says Ciolino.
The couple’s journey into the land of Martha Stewart via social media began with a blog named “Probably This.” Translated, it meant “we’re figuring it out” as they began their homemaking journey together.
Not only did they transform apartments that served as temporary homes, they even did a Cinderella number on a 1969 Globestar camper trailer named Rosie, teaching themselves how to build countertops and refurbish cabinets. Rosie was their home for the three months they traveled out West.
When they got to California, they checked their bankbooks, “let out a blood-curdling scream” and “hightailed it back to Louisiana.”
After spending another two years in an apartment in Covington, they put a down payment on an 1890s converted double shotgun in Algiers Point, where they are now putting their skills to work.
Design is just the first part of their “guide to casual domesticity.” Part two is about hands-on transformation of a space with DIY projects and a savvy eye for finding decorating treasures.
They outline DIY projects that both renters and homeowners can do to transform rooms to reflect their own aesthetics and styles of living.
Last but not least is the really fun part — entertaining. Charm and comfort trump “hoity-toity BS,” they say. And please, do put your elbows on the table and feel free to talk politics.
When it comes to cooking for your guests, don’t even think of making more than three multi-step dishes unless you are a chef. (“No one wants a flustered host.”)
“Housewarming” is full of simple recipes, including cocktails that also serve as conversation pieces and table settings with personal touches such as handmade paper flowers.
The couple’s entertaining mantra is more about setting the mood than setting the table.
Oh, and another thing: “Don’t be a neat freak.” Picking up too early can “crush the mood.” On the other hand, some guests linger too long. In that case, you get the “Housewarming” seal of approval to “just start cleaning up very loudly.”
Ciolino and Armato sum up their design philosophy with the title of the first chapter of their book: “Make It Look Like People Live Here.”
If you are looking for comfort and congeniality with a twist, here are a few pointers from the local decorating duo:
1. BE HONEST: Take a look at your living space and determine where you actually live. As the authors put it, which piece of living room furniture has the Netflix dent (yes, this is from your butt)? This is where you put an assortment of pillows, a throw and a side table for your wine glass. What surface of your home has the most clutter? Consider a woven basket for housing those items.
2. BE BRAVE: The cheapest option for making bizarre ideas come to life is DIY. Start with a cordless drill and safety gear. Who knows, a sander could be in your future. Or simpler yet, buy a sample can of paint and a small brush and paint your own garden flower pots. There could be a wall, even a room or a mural around the corner.
3. GET PERSONAL: How do you make a hodgepodge of your favorite things make sense? Consider the vignette. Gather some personal things on top of a coffee table, a counter top or a bookshelf and start to arrange. Maybe a tall vase next to a wide bowl, or a color you love that pops against a neutral backdrop. Rocks you have collected? A photograph? Start with the largest object and go down to the smallest. Add. Eliminate. Lean back and enjoy the personal touch.
4. THINK ENJOYMENT, NOT ENTERTAINMENT: When your living space feels like your own, sharing it is part of the charm. If you prefer congeniality to cooking, don’t diss take-out. It can supplement what you are making. Let guests know ahead what’s cooking. It’s a new world, and some friends have dietary restrictions. Be aware. And always be prepared with an answer if someone asks what to bring.
5. GET A LITTLE WEIRD: Flea markets, consignment shops and estate sales are full of one-of-a-kind finds that add more dimension to a home. Whether a set of dessert plates or a framed pencil sketch by an unknown (and untrained) artist, you have the option to make it yours and make it at home in your own space.