Insider secrets to online design — and an awesomely eclectic home

SEATTLE — Granted, Hayley Francis holds a couple practical advantages over the rest of us run-of-the-mill do-it-ourselves-ers.

Professionally, Francis is the Trend & Design manager of The Mine, a Kirkland-based online home-furnishing company with an uncanny knack for … well … trends and design. It’s fair to assume she is rather plugged-in to cool things.

Genetically, her mother, Laurie Francis, was a professional interior designer whose own mother also was “big on interior design,” Francis says. So it’s also fair to assume she has a natural way with cool things.

But still, Francis’ enchantingly eclectic style is all hers — as is the total DIY decor of her fabulous 1922 Craftsman home in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood. She has spent three years (and more than 100 hours on Etsy alone) curating a clever combination of treasures old and new.

All told, it’s an 1,800-square-foot living lesson in online décor shopping — and Francis is the best professor ever: She gives us the answers. Cue the Qs!

Q: Ack! Where do you even start?

A: I bought the house in August 2014. It was pretty much finished; the floors and kitchen were done. My goal was that I always wanted a black-and-white tile kitchen, so the fact that I found one with it in my price range was pure luck. I painted it white, and the cabinets, before I moved in — one of the first things. I painted the walls white (they were gray). Gray made you feel locked in. Avoid gray in Seattle!

When I got here, I had the bar; dining table; and the little mini-chair from my mom, who would smoke her cigarettes by the fire in a little chair. Figure out where you’ll spend most of the time, and start there. I knew it’d be the living room, with the fireplace and TV, so I bought the sofa first.

Q: How much planning should you do before shopping online?

A: (For the kitchen cabinets and trim) I got a bunch of swatches — really bright green — and went on Pinterest. I really started researching. I knew the vision in my head. Paint is really hard.

Between buying my sofa and moving in, I had been sketching out a plan and dimensions. I knew where the pieces would go. I do e-design on a computer. I’ll lay out a space (The Mine has 3-D products I can look at online) based on dimensions on an e-design board. My office/closet room is the exact same as the e-design.

I would advise having a focal point. You’ll buy things you like and not know what to do with them.

Q: How do you focus on a focal point?

A: You could do it with a rug; I used rugs to make my house feel cohesive. I knew my color palette: salmon pinks and greens and white. Some say it's always a sofa or something specific, but that's not true. You have to keep your dimensions in check, but otherwise, whatever you want can be a focal piece.

(In the master bedroom) I started from scratch. The first thing was the wallpaper; that was the focal piece. I did an e-design board, and also just kinda had it in my head.

Q: How do you pick out pieces without touching them?

A: I had to take a risk. For one rug, I stared at it for months and got it down to $300. I knew it was flat-weave, so I said, "This is how I'm interpreting the color." Always email.

Online, there’s so much more. You can’t touch or feel it, but you can research it. I’m a researcher.

Q: How do you work with an online seller to customize a piece?

A: It depends on the vendor. The Mine has hundreds, but they're not all custom. If you see a piece with four weeks or up of lead time, it's probably made to order. It's reasonable to ask. A lot can't be customized, but it's always worth an ask. Ask to tailor it to your space. Taylor Burke Home does made-to-order, in different colors. Oftentimes, there's no change (in price) unless it's larger.

Q: How can you tell whether an online seller is reputable?

A: Reviews, and if it's nonreturnable, don't do it. I return things quite a bit. Only order from places that will return, with a shipping label and pickup schedule.

Q: Any other unexpected advantages to doing so much online?

A: I don't like to shop physically, even though I have a fashion blog (Neon Doves). I like to find things nobody else has. What's also cool online as a customer: I'm 5 feet 2 and live on my own. I can't carry big things upstairs. I can order it assembled or installed: one-stop shopping.

Q: How do you pace yourself when there's so much room to fill, and so much to buy?

A: You have to take your time, or you'll have regrets. Trust yourself. It's better to buy something you're going to keep. I also took my time for financial reasons. If you can't afford it, wait and do it right.

Q: So … are you done?

A: It gets very addicting. But I'm done. Well … I would like to redo the bathroom. I like to think I will, eventually.