Brian & Dara's Updated Rustic Modern Home for Five

Brian & Dara's Updated Rustic Modern Home for Five

Nasozi Kakembo
Mar 9, 2016
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Name: Brian and Dara Packer and their kids, Daphne, Maddox, and Amelia Jane
Location: Ellicott City, outside of Baltimore, Maryland
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years; Owned

Brian and Dara have had plenty of time to perfect their personal style. The couple met in high school and married after college graduation, having attended different schools in the same area. The first home they shared was a condo in the historic Federal Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. Three homes and two children later, they purchased their current home just shy of the birth of their third child, Amelia Jane. Fortunately for the couple, the existing updates were tasteful and complemented their rustic modern leanings, so they only had to customize the palette as opposed to undertaking major renovations or cosmetic projects.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

The home's rustic bones are still evident, but they have been salvaged and updated thanks to fresh coats of paint in modern hues. Brian and Dara opt for natural finishes and materials when it comes to their furniture and decor selection. Woven baskets as tables and storage can be found throughout the home, and distressed and reclaimed styles of furniture don't compete with the existing features such as original wood paneling. As a graphic designer, Dara has personalized the home with her original artwork, both decorative and practical. Dara designed the monthly calendar in the kitchen, which serves as a stylish way of keeping the busy family of five on track.

Between clever organizing solutions, DIY projects and Dara's design prowess, this couple has managed to make this home not only functional for a family of five, but visually appealing as well.

(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Rustic Modern

Inspiration: Anything that feels good to me. I [Dara] used to spend a lot of time sifting through Pinterest and design blogs for inspiration. I found that, while those resources are very helpful, they were also setting me up to feel like things weren't "perfect" enough. I took a step back and started thinking about the way things in my house make me FEEL. If it feels good, I know it is right for our house.

Favorite Element: It's hard to pick just one, because our house has so many unique features as a result of its history and age. A lot of the things I love about our house are the structures that have been here since it was built—the wood-paneled wall in the living room has always been a favorite for me. We have one thing hanging on that wall, and I haven't felt the need to do much else to it. The exposed beams in our entryway along with the beadboard ceiling are another favorite for me.

Biggest Challenge: Making pictures and surfaces level! There are no straight lines in this house—it's old! Sometimes, a picture will be completely level and it looks "off" because the floor or ceiling isn't straight.

What Friends Say: Unique, bright, cool. One of our friends remarked, "This is...a REAL house," when we were giving the first tour after we moved in. I think about that comment a lot.

Biggest Embarrassment: I'm really not a fan of the shag carpet upstairs and down the stairs. It was new when we moved in. It reminds me of the "Mutt Cutts" dog grooming van in Dumb and Dumber.

Proudest DIY: The double desk in the office assembled and built by Brian.

Biggest Indulgence: To be honest, we haven't shelled out a lot for anything that involves the aesthetics of the house. Unfortunately, because the house is so old, we have had to spend what might be indulgence money to rebuild our chimney and fix major electrical issues. We'd like to replace our area rug (FLOR tiles, which we love, but they've seen many days and it's time to update!) in the living room with something much, much bigger. That might be our biggest indulgence when it happens. We are hoping to go with FLOR again.

Best Advice: Step back from all the perfection on Pinterest and other online sites. Don't ever rush yourself in the design of your living space. When we bought our last house, it needed a lot of updating and we made a lot of snap decisions because we felt rushed to get it to a place we liked. When we moved to this house, I made a real effort to take my time with making design decisions. Our office wasn't touched until just a few months ago and we've lived here for two years. There are still quite a few spaces that don't feel finished yet to me, but I've started seeing our house as a constant work-in-progress.

Dream Sources: If I could shop anywhere for our home, it would probably be at West Elm, Arhaus, Restoration Hardware, and Pottery Barn.



  • Black doors: BEHR Dark Cavern
  • Living room: BEHR Castle Path
  • Fireplace: BEHR Dark Cavern
  • Dining: BEHR Dark Granite
  • Master bedroom: BEHR Classic Silver
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Wood paneling: original, repainted
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Couch: Haverty's
  • Basket: Target
  • Hutch: IKEA hutch with DIY shelves above
  • Hutch contents: IKEA, Hobby Lobby, World Market, HomeGoods, Zulily
  • Mantel art: printed DIY from a botanical library
  • Coffee table: IKEA
  • Organizer and baskets: IKEA
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Bookcase: custom
  • Table and benches: custom
  • Blue vase: HomeGoods
  • Window treatments: Smith + Noble
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Side tables: Target
  • Side lamps: HomeGoods
  • Bedside wall art: IKEA
  • Bed frame: Craigslist!
  • Duvet: Hautelook
  • Floral pillow shams: Pottery Barn via eBay


  • Bed frame: Pottery Barn via Craigslist, painted Valspar Coral Reef
  • D Pillow: Pottery Barn Teen
  • Comforter: Target
  • Mobile: DIY made with stick, string, and cardstock



(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Wall art: DIY by Dara, inspired by a Terry Fan print at Urban Outfitters
(Image credit: Nasozi Kakembo)


  • Chairs: Target
  • Desktop: DIY from plywood and laminate flooring
  • Drawers: IKEA Alex

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Thanks, Brian & Dara!

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