“I don’t come from a background or place where we had a lot of money to put into decorating, but I love pretty spaces,” Ursula Carmona says.

“If you want something badly enough and you can’t afford to hire someone to do it for you, you’re either going to do it yourself or live without it.” 

Carmona decided that she was going to do it herself, so she launched an interior design and DIY blog called Home Made By Carmona to prove that all it takes is effort and creativity to achieve a beautiful home on a budget. The backdrop for her inspiration became a lush, 16-acre property in rural North Carolina, which she shares with her husband and their three daughters. When they bought the home, they were taken with the wooded land and open fields. But there were also two fixer-uppers on the lot, which were ideal projects for Carmona. 

“Both houses were in need of some updating, so it just wasn’t something that suited others,” she says. “But for me, it was perfect.”

Since the family moved in, Carmona has overhauled the main house for her family and the cottage as an Airbnb. “Over the years, I’ve tried to infuse it with our personality and a little bit more charm and architectural detail,” Carmona says. Her style is a riff on contemporary traditional, with components of eye-catching glamour. “I’m a big fan of using moody, rich tones, so you’ll see a lot of emerald and blue colors, and pops of gold or brass,” she adds.

The kitchen was the most important part of the overhaul. “The kitchen tends to be the center of a home. It’s where you’re not just making food, but spending a lot of time together as a family,” she says. One of her daughters is a budding food blogger, so Carmona wanted to give her a creative, chef-level environment. She chose KraftMaid doors and drawers in Midnight Blue and Dove White for the cabinetry, creating a contrast that wouldn’t make the room feel dark, and paired them with bronze hardware. Silestone Calacatta Gold Quartz countertops provide durability, while Marazzi Montagna Saddle Porcelain Bullnose Tile gives the look of wood floors without the hassle. 

“Maintenance is a huge thing, so I always design in a way that is as practical as possible,” Carmona says.

This ceramic flooring carries into the dining room, which was originally closed off from the kitchen before Carmona knocked the wall down. “I wanted them to flow into each other,” she says. But perhaps the most surprising shift to the space is the glass door that offers a view from the dining room to the laundry room. 

“Most people would want to hide that room away. Well, it’s behind closed doors, but you can see through them because I think that every space in your house should be beautiful,” Carmona says. The laundry room features the same ceramic floor tiles in a herringbone pattern, glossy black Samsung appliances, and a sputnik-style chandelier. 

When they’re not cooking and eating together in the kitchen, the family can be found in the game room, which is one of two living areas. “I built a wall of shelving specifically to handle all of our games,” Carmona says. “I also designed and built a gamer’s coffee table, so it has all these little pullouts. Some of our games are huge—they’re not American games. We play Euro games and they take up a lot of space, so this coffee table expands.”

The customized shelving and entertainment unit is painted the same color as the dining room, Behr Satin Black. “It’s so funny because it can look so blue,” she says. “I love how it changes in the light. Depending on the time of day, it’s almost like getting a new space.”

These spaces encourage her family to be together, but the primary bedroom was designed as a place of refuge. “I wanted it to be attractive, but a little more subtle,” she says.

The highlight is a campaign dresser and matching bedside table that she picked up for free from Facebook Marketplace—she couldn’t believe someone was trying to get rid of the pair. The nearby bathroom is bright, white, and clean, while the closet is the oasis of her dreams. Carmona built floor-to-ceiling shelves and inserted a $10 thrift store dresser into the center because she liked the carved drawer fronts. It’s complete with whimsical, bird-themed wallpaper and a shimmery chandelier.

Over the past eight years, as each of these rooms underwent a transformation, she’s gained a significant following and many opportunities, including being featured in the biannual One Room Challenge. Carmona’s hard work is weaved throughout her home, and it’s a showcase of all the pretty spaces she decided to create on her own terms. “It’s not perfect, trust me,” she says. “But I love to take something and renovate it. It gave me an opportunity to put my skills to good use.”

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