When it comes to interior design, it can be easy to gravitate toward bright white spaces, but it's much more of a challenge to style a darker, more colorful space to make a striking impression. Bianca Sotelo, prop and interior stylist and the woman behind A Fabulous Challenge, pulled it off when transforming her gorgeous Bay Area rental. The 750-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath Victorian is a study in making the most with limited light, and it proves that a moody palette can bring stunning charm.
Sotelo describes her style as a mix of layered curiosities and moody colors. She has a knack for scoring vintage finds, and these treasures are right at home in the old Victorian. "I love high-contrast, black-and-white, and French interiors," she confesses. "While I love a million things, my dream would be to have a home that looks like those French estates that have been locked up for centuries." Her Bay Area home gets pretty close, but it has a few more modern sensibilities. From curated gallery walls to stacks of ancient books and an eclectic mix of different eras that brings a fresh direction to the home, this rental's charm is all about the details. Head below to tour Bianca Sotelo's gorgeous, antique-filled Bay Area Victorian.
"In the living room, almost everything is antique or found, except for a few big pieces like the sofa," says Sotelo, who recalls how she finally lived out her dream of owning a blue velvet sofa. "I picked out a new sofa from Interior Define, and then for a monochrome look, I opted for a wall color that was pretty similar." She explains how she wanted to do a play on tonal colors, so she painted the walls a lighter, moodier blue.
"I was tired of my white walls, and after painting the bedroom a dark teal and loving it, I knew I wanted to continue with this foray into color and go for a similarly moody paint on the walls," explains Sotelo of her choice of color.
"I have to admit that sifting through thrift stores and Craigslist, rummaging around estate sales, and visiting antique stores are basically my favorite pastimes," she says.
"Everything in my apartment has been collected over time," recounts Sotelo. "I think I'm finally at a point that I need to stop collecting and call it finished!"
"I love how every piece means something special to me, whether I found it on the side of the road or saved up for it, each piece is special in its own way," says Sotelo.
While the rest of the home's color palette can be described as dark and moody, the renovated bathroom is bright white. "In attempts to not overstimulate myself at home, I decided to paint my bathroom the perfect white shade, and it's just the right amount of rest my eyes need," she notes.
"The bathroom makes me smile because—wow—the before," says Sotelo. "It was dated, like most old bathrooms, with beige tiles and walls and a crumbling wood vanity. For just a little over $1000, I'm proud of the facelift we were able to give it—proving that great, affordable design is attainable."
"I have a dark bedroom," says Sotelo. "There is one tiny north-facing window that lets in just a trickle of natural light, if that. For years, I tried brightening up the space, but earlier this year, I thought, why not embrace the dark? So I painted my walls a moody teal-green, and I layered in some dark accent pieces. While I love high contrast, this monochrome look elevates the room, and I love it. It allows me to unwind after a long day and calms my mind when I'm ready for bed."
"The biggest challenge in my apartment is the lack of natural light," admits Sotelo. "Since I'm on the ground floor, surrounding homes block all the pretty light that I dream of having. I tried for years to make the space brighter, and it wasn't until recently that I finally decided to embrace the moodiness. Painting the walls in dark colors suddenly made the space feel cozier and right."
Inspired by Bianca Sotelo's gorgeous space? Discover how to choose the right paint color for your bedroom.