In the Trenches: Featuring Aja, The Super Shopper!

Aja’s Guest Room

I know I have said this EVERY Wednesday since this feature began, but seriously, I AM SO EXCITED about the designer that I’m featuring today, I could squeal! You see,Aja is the inspiration behind the “In the Trenches” feature.

It all started when I was browsing the flickr home decorating groups. I kept seeing these beautifully put together rooms by this one person. The kind of rooms that I would want to live in… rooms where you could curl up with your kids and read a book or have friends over to hang. I’d added so many of this person’s pictures to my favorites that I felt like a stalker. Then, just as I was clicking on the profile link, it hit me… I could interview Super Shopper for A Beautiful Abode! This was design that was meant to beshared… A few e-mails later… voila! The new feature was born.

Aja would have been the first feature, but technology (and old e-mail addresses) worked against us. Fortunately, we both persevered… and I am so extremely pleased to finally present you with the interview below:

I know that you are an amazing decorator, but not much else. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My name is Aja and I am 28 year old design junkie. My husband and I moved to Newport News, VA from NJ about five years ago and we’ve been living in our first home for threeAja’s dining room years now. My husband could probably tell you better than I, that I loooove to shop, but not just shop, bargain shop. I get a natural high from buying something on sale or better yet “clearance”. I also have a fascination with change, I like to decorate a room and then see how little I can spend to change the look. My friends say I’m nuts, and sometimes I agree!

How would you describe your decorating style?

My overall decorating style is modern. The clean lines, repetition, symmetry, and unclutteredness (is that a word?) give me a sense of calm and order. I find it very hard to function in chaos. I also love beadboard, baskets, plantation shutters, shaker style furniture, and lots of other design elements that go along with country stylings, as long as the space still has a clean and unfussy feel.

How did your style evolve? Were you just born with a gift and knack for designing a beautiful living space or did you learn through trial and error?

Aja’s Living Room

I think I’ve always had a good design sense; even as a child I would give “mental makeovers” to any space that I saw as unappealing. As I got older I began to do a little more experimenting with decorating. When I moved into my first apartment my creative juices really started flowing because I now had a canvas to bring my ideas to life. Budget has was always a been big concern, so I’ve always had to make do with what I had or could afford, but I would never let budget stop me. I learned that when you had less money you just had to be more creative.

Do you plan your room designs? If so, can you describe the planning process for us? And if not, can you explain how you make sure that your finds create a cohesive design?

I always plan my rooms before I take any action, that way I know what to keep an eye out for when I’m shopping. My ideas are usually inspired by something that will get my design wheels turning, and it can come from anywhere, a piece of art, a pillow, a plate, a magazine tear out, anything really, but almost always it is the color or combination of colors that get me going. I find it so much easier to decorate when I have something toAja’s living room, another view refer back to in order to stay on track. After I’ve figured out the look I want, I began my research. This usually consist of online window shopping. If I find something I like or that inspires me I copy and paste the pic to a MS Word doc. I am usually able to find a picture of just about anything online and if I can’t, I’ll scan the object, then add it to my Word doc. When I have all my ideas together I print out the sheet(s) and carry those around with me when I shop. I find this is a lot easier that carrying around clippings, paint chips, and fabric swatches.

When shopping I try to stick with furniture and accessories that are versatile and easy to change, such as slipcovered upholstery, poster frames instead of actual artwork, throw pillows with removeable covers, and accesories that can be used in multiple rooms. This allows me the flexibility to change things up each season with minimal investment. Knowing what I like keeps my style and decor cohesive, I make sure my purchases can be used in at least two different spaces/rooms before I buy it.

Which room(s) in your home do you like best and why?

That depends on the time of year. During fall and winter I love my bedroom, it’s small Aja’s sun porchvery cozy. It gets very little sunlight this time of year and that makes it great for snoozing, cuddling in the bed to watch a movie, and reading.

During spring and summer the sun porch rocks! I like to do my eating, reading, crafting, internet surfing, and afternoon napping out there. The sunshine is amazing and the AC is on remote control.

Did you have a/any challenging areas and if so, why were they challenging and how did you overcome their challenges?

The master bedroom had to be the biggest challenge design wise. Our previous bedroom was almost twice as large as our current bedroom, so we had to figure out a way to make it just as functional but with a lot less space and storage. Other than the two small his and hers closets, the room lacked sufficient storage for our clothing. I solved thisAja’s bedroom problem by flanking the bed with dressers rather than nightstands. This allowed us extra room for our folded clothing. I also had to forego the vanity that I had previously used for applying my make up and styling my hair, due to lack of space. I addressed this by adding a folding barstool that I could store on the side of the dresser. The barstool serves double duty by holding our extra pillows and bedding at night. Upgrading to a flat panel tv made it possible to use a narrower tv stand and gain storage for books, magazines and bedding, all behind closed doors.

Overall, most of our design, storage, and organization needs were met in the new space and we are happy with the outcome!

What is the most important (or best) piece of advice you can offer to readers who are in the process of creating their own budget friendly, beautiful abode?

I think the best thing you can do before embarking on a design project is:

1. Get in touch with yourself.

You need to define your style and find out what “you like”. I recommend going thru design magazines and books, blogs, window shopping at your favorite stores and discovering new ones. Creating an inspiration board has always helped me. I think seeing all your likes and ideas in one place can help identify what works and what doesn’t.

2. Commit.

Decorating on a budget could mean more of an investment of your time and it is easy to become discouraged when you can’t find the perfect shade of red for your throw pillow Aja’s colorful kitchenand stay within your budget. You will have to do a lot more hunting or waiting (for an item to go on sale or clearance).

3. Use your resources.

If you do a lot of shopping in person don’t forget to check out the store’s website. Quite often you can find the same item on the website cheaper or vice versa. It’s also a good idea to know your merchants return policies. I sometimes puchase things at regular price and wait for it to go on sale. Then I’ll take my reciept back to the merchant and get a price adjustment.

4. Think creatively.

That beautiful set of sheets could be you new shower curtain or streched canvas art. A pair of napkins can make a unique throw pillow with just an hour and a few dollars investment. Take those pretty note cards you got on clearance and frame them for easy and inexpensive art. Decorating on a budget requires thinking outside the box.

5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

The biggest and best design lessons I’ve learned were through mistakes that I have made!


Isn’t Aja a true doll for sharing such wonderful advice with us? She was also kind enough to include a copy of her most recent inspiration board, a redesign of her family room for the spring, which you can download: Family Room Inspiration Board (it’s a Word document). Look at what a change she accomplished for $35!!!


Family Room Before


Aja’s Family Room, After

Visit Aja’s flickr set to get a full tour of her beautiful home. And be sure to leave plenty of comments to let her know how much you enjoyed the interview!


13 thoughts on “In the Trenches: Featuring Aja, The Super Shopper!

  1. Tricia Ballad says:

    Thanks Shauntelle, for another great interview! I needed a bit of inspiration this afternoon, and you never fail to provide it.

    Now I have my motivation to pound out another hour’s worth of work – Aja’s design board has grabbed my curiosity and I can’t wait to finish this chapter so I can go indulge on her site.


  2. hookedonhouses says:

    Shauntelle, I really enjoyed this interview and loved seeing the photos of Aja’s beautiful home. What a talented girl she is! I was so impressed with her kitchen makeover that I wrote a post about it today on my Hooked on Houses blog and told my readers to come here to read your interview with her. Thanks for the inspiration! -Julia 🙂

    (You can read my post that links to yours here: )

  3. Aja says:

    Thank you everyone, for all the wonderful compliments!!!
    And a special thank you to you Shauntelle for the oppurtunity!
    I appreciate you all taking the time out to read it and respond.


  4. Halim says:

    I think this house is absolutley fabulous. I have had the pleasure to visit and see the house personally, and I was overwhelmed. Everything is so laid out and comfortable, yet it did not cost alot of money to design. She is a very talented young lady and I would suggest her to anyone and everyone.

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