When the Design*Sponge team first met Kevin O’Gara in 2015, he was a high school student and design blogger who had impressively made-over his Dad’s home. It wasn’t long before Kevin began writing for us, and his contributions to DS continued to showcase his boundless talent, both as a writer and interior designer. Since he last graced our web pages, Kevin has, not surprisingly, amassed an even greater resume of work and successful projects under his capable belt.

“I am an Atlanta-based interior design and lifestyle blogger, with design blog Thou Swell and product line Kevin Francis Design with my first collection of maze-inspired rugs, The Labyrinth Collection. I founded my blog as a sophomore in high school to share home and garden, decorating, entertaining and inspiration from emerging Southern design. I transferred from Cornell University’s Design & Environmental Analysis Program to their Hotel School sophomore year to focus on business and entrepreneurship with a hospitality lens, and I’m excited to take a leave of absence this upcoming year to stay in Atlanta and focus on my design work and new business ideas.”

This past year Kevin has happily resided in an 800-square-foot apartment off campus (in the walkable neighborhood of Collegetown) at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY with his roommates, Nina and Olivia. The brand new apartment building finished construction in Fall 2018, just before the trio moved in, and offered them three bedrooms and three bathrooms, with one common living/kitchen/dining room. Upon moving in, Kevin instantly knew he wanted to use the apartment’s design to brighten up their moods and surroundings during Ithaca’s trademark dark days.

“Ithaca gets very dark and cold throughout its long winter, so walking into a colorful, layered, tropical-inspired space was such a great contrast from the outside,” Kevin shares. “I made sure there were layers of ambient lighting, so at night it felt really warm and welcoming with table and floor lamps illuminating the corners of our living rooms. My bedroom was small but cozy, and the depth of the jaguar mural gave the room the feeling of a real retreat, with the crispness of a serene white bed that I could always count on for a good night’s sleep.”

As for the main room that incorporated the kitchen, living and dining area, Kevin’s vibrant design and melange of textures and colors provided a lively backdrop for get-togethers with friends — “We love entertaining and throughout the year we hosted parties for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and an end-of-the-year party; all with themed decor, snacks and drinks,” Kevin says.

Though he’s moving on from this home to head back to Atlanta and buckle down on his design work, conceptualizing this apartment’s aesthetic and collaborating with his roommates proved to be an invaluable lesson and added experience for Kevin. “This apartment was definitely a bit of a departure from my style, which is typically a little more restrained, but being able to respond to my environment and have fun with the space felt really great,” he shares. “I learned the importance of sharing lots of visuals with my roommates so they could see what was going on in my head during the design process and incorporating personal details to make the place really feel like home for us during the school year.” For whatever projects come Kevin’s way in the future, we’re excited to see how his career and style evolve. —Kelli

Photography by Kevin O’Gara / @kfogara

Image above: Kevin shares, “My two roommates are close friends at Cornell, with Nina in the Hotel School with me and Olivia [is a] Communication major. I’m from Atlanta, Olivia is from Arkport, NY and Nina is from Ocean City, NJ. Olivia and I became friends the first week of freshman year, and met Nina through a mutual friend sophomore year and signed our lease together. We’ve been a great trio and have had so much fun in our apartment together. I am so grateful they gave me the reins with our tropical apartment design!”

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