On the far wall of Julieann Covino's home office, above a bulletin board festooned with magazine clippings, paint chips, and fabric samples, is etched a Coco Chanel quote: "In order to be irreplaceable, one must be different."
"That's how I design," says Covino, the founder of Jace Interiors, a Cambridge-based interior design company. "Fresh and simple, but with a little bit of whimsy."
That decorating philosophy carries over into her central living space, an intimate yet uncluttered room that spins a personal and, yes, whimsical narrative. Her mother's collection of kitschy Betty Crocker cookbooks get prominent display on a baby-blue chest of drawers situated between the living room and the kitchen.
Brightly colored ceramic mushrooms from her great-aunt, a potter for 70 years, stand out on a side table full of black-and-white family photos. A wooden plaque on the wall in the corner cheekily reads "Fairy Tales Do Come True," a reminder to Covino that, as an interior designer, she is now pursuing her life's passion. "It's so much fun for me," she says, "it's ridiculous."
The 35-year-old Covino prides herself on fashioning new rooms out of already-existing pieces. One of her first stops in a client's home is the basement or attic, where she rediscovers forgotten furniture and accents. "Everything can be recycled," she says. It's an unusual approach from a woman who began her interiors work at the chic Boston Design Center, but Covino is firm that good aesthetics don't come with a particular price tag.
"If you want a $10,000 sofa, I'm not your girl," Covino explains. "I don't think you have to spend a lot of money to have a new room."
In keeping with her company's philosophy -- "your home, your style, my assistance" -- Covino is careful not to impose her own tastes on a client's space.
"If you say you hate the color orange," says Covino, "I won't paint your walls orange." No titian hues adorn her own living room walls; instead, guests are greeted with another quote, a nod to her North End heritage: "Benvenuti! Fatici Commodi," which translated means, "Welcome! Make yourself at home."
Covino completely revamps the space every few months, a habit she picked up while working as a visual merchandising manager at Ethan Allen.
"I get bored so quickly, I change it all around," Covino cheerfully explains. Her latest makeover came when a false hint of autumn permeated the air earlier this month. Her response was to hang a series of framed photographs from the coffee table tome "The Hotel Book: Great Escapes North America," each depicting sun-drenched getaways.
"You can look at them and daydream after a long day -- just escape for a minute or two," Covino says.