A Fresh Take on Faux for the Holidays
With a touch of love, the ordinary becomes extraordinary
By Cassie Bustamante • Photographs by Amy Freeman
Shortly after moving into her Oak Ridge home, Tasha Agruso got an idea. An awesome idea. A wonderful, awesome idea — to create what looked like apartment entries out of her daughters’ side-by-side doors. Armed with door knockers, mailboxes, wreaths, doormats — even a lantern Tasha rigged with a battery-operated puck light — Attley and Avery each received a treatment that suited their individual tastes. The kicker? Tasha added address numbers that feature the time each was born, just a minute apart: Avery at 2:57 and Attley at 2:58.
And so began a new adventure in renovating, which was not at all what they had in mind. When Tasha and her husband, Joe, decided to move to the country, they had hoped their new chapter would unfold in a new build. After all, they’d just spent eight years transforming their previous home. “I love renovating, but I was tired,” says Tasha. After bidding unsuccessfully on two newly constructed homes, the couple settled for an eight-year-old home on a quiet Oak Ridge street.
“It ticked every box and, so I thought, we can do the same thing,” says Tasha. “We’ll do it slowly.” In October of 2020, the Agrusos moved out of their contemporary Starmount Forest dwelling and began their journey creating a colorful country oasis for themselves and their 12-year-old twin daughters.
In just three years, Tasha and Joe, a firefighter, have made tremendous strides. Tasha documents the DIY projects and makeovers on her website, Kaleidoscope Living. Her skills have earned her an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show as well as features in several digital and print publications such as Better Homes & Gardens. Through her site (kaleidoscopeliving.com) and on instagram (@tasha.kaleidoscope), where she boasts a formidable fan base of over 100,000 followers, “I educate people about how to decorate their homes in a way that makes them happy,” she says.
And she should know. It’s something she’s perfected in the many years spent making over their new house as well as their former home, the one that she says “changed everything.” During their time spent living in Starmount Forest, her daughters grew from toddlerhood into tween-age; the couple honed their DIY skills; Tasha left her career as a lawyer to forge a path in the digital world through her website’s educational tools and print shop (read about that journey in our 2018 summer issue of Seasons: seasonsmagazinenc.com/designer-profile); and, finally, it “was the house where we finally really understood our style.” And that style? A blend of Joe’s more reserved approach, Tasha’s love of color and pattern, and functionality for all four.
Three years after selling it, Tasha still misses their Greensboro home fiercely. “If I could have lifted that home and moved it, I would have,” she muses. As for the current home, will she ever love it as much? If you’d asked her when they first bought it, “Absolutely not possible.” But now? “If I am here for eight years like I was there and we continue to slowly change everything that we want to change, yeah. I could even love it more.”
Location is the one aspect of a house that cannot be changed and the family knew what they needed. “We’re all just such homebodies.” While she’s sure homebodies can exist in bustling areas, she says there are those “who crave quiet and stillness. That’s the kind we are.”
In their current home, the couple has applied what they’ve learned, chipping away with project after project since moving over the last three years. The makeover that has had the biggest impact on Tasha? Probably not what you’d expect: the stairwell.
“People ask, ‘Why would you take out iron balusters and put in wood ones?’” Tasha says, then answers. “Because we didn’t like the other ones.”
Once the more traditional wooden balusters were put in place, she got to work painting the stair risers and bordering walls in Sherwin-Williams’ Refuge, and the balusters and handrails were coated in Seaworthy. But the crowning touch? “We could have made all the structural and paint color changes to the stairs and it wouldn’t be my favorite if it weren’t for the colorful stair runner,” says Tasha.
Now, the colorful random-rainbow stair runner, she says, “is like a dose of happy every time you walk up and down.” Used every day, visible from the entry, primary bedroom hallway and living room, it serves as the heart of the home.
And did Joe get a say? “I have always said we both have the power of veto,” says Tasha. In fact, it’s something they have resorted to from time to time. After all, she says, “we both live here.” Together, they’ll narrow down choices, eliminating those — such as a very bold, colorful, plaid stair runner — that take Joe beyond his comfort zone. “His little bit of restraint is probably one of the things that makes things not cross the line into too chaotic,” Tasha admits.
That yin and yang of their blended aesthetic is visibly at work in their primary bedroom. White walls pair with white furnishings and a gray upholstered bed, but color comes through in lush, green velvet textiles, and patterned and abstract art. The result? A serene yet far-from-boring sanctuary for a busy couple.
For Tasha, it was important that her daughters each have their own personal havens as well. Avery, a swimmer who favors neutrals like her father, sleeps in a cozy room blanketed in whites and warm woods. Small doses of earthy colors show up here and there in the holiday-green textiles, and artwork such as the Christmas village canvas on her wall, created by Tasha.
As for that canvas and many of the prints throughout her house, well, Tasha took a note from the Grinch, who could not find a reindeer and made one instead. “Sometimes when you can picture what you want and you know what the space needs, you can’t find it,” she says. So, she makes it. She has both painted with watercolors and created with graphics editing apps, first using Illustrator, but is excited to try her hand at Procreate with digital brushes she just ordered. “We’ll see how that journey goes,” she quips.
Attley, a dancer who craves bright colors like her mother, has the same Pure White paint by Sherwin-Williams on her walls, accented by a vibrant floral wallpaper in aqua, pink, green and golden yellow behind her bed. Her furniture is painted in saturated hues of coral, peony and mustard, all playing off the whimsical large-scale paper. And, of course, the artwork in her room was also designed by mom.
Just as Tasha teaches readers of her website to decorate in a way that makes them happy, she wanted her girls to get the memo.
“It just felt almost like a subliminal message to send to them: You’re your own people, you have your own identities, you have your own spaces and I love them both so much.”
That individualism spills out into the hallway where she created those apartment-style doors. And while the mailboxes are mostly a fun decorative detail at this point, Tasha anticipates using them in the upcoming teen years. With Attley and Avery turning 13 later this month, Tasha says, “We might be entering that phase of life where it’s hard for them to say things directly to us and vice versa,” she says. “Sometimes it’s easier just to communicate things in writing.”
Tasha sites these doorway makeovers as a prime example of what she believes. “The whole reason I chose the name Kaleidoscope Living . . . is because I have always believed and hope to have proven that you can take very ordinary objects and make them extraordinary.” It’s just like when you look through a kaleidoscope: “The most basic thing can become incredible.”
Just outside their doorways in the upstairs hall is a nod to both Joe and his father, a volunteer firefighter who passed away a few years ago. A vintage “Fire Dept.” sign that once belonged to Joe’s dad hangs above two antique fire extinguishers Tasha surprised Joe with several years ago. Until now, she says, they hadn’t found the right home.
Back on the main floor, the balance between Joe and Tasha’s aesthetics can be seen at play. In their living room, Tasha sits on a lush, comfortable sectional, her feet propped up on a warm leather ottoman. Behind her, a picture ledge featuring large-scale art, a patterned accent wall and textiles provide her favorite details. “I am always led by color and texture and pattern,” she says. Next to her, a stitched color-block pillow exemplifies those elements.
While selecting art used to intimidate Tasha, who felt herself unqualified, over time she learned to trust her instincts. “Finally, I realized I should probably just pick what I like,” she says.
Opening to the spacious living room, the kitchen serves as visual eye candy, featuring an island Tasha painted in the same vivid teal as its cabinets, Fusion mineral paint in Seaside. While the island is lined with four large and comfortable leather-woven counter stools, the family still opts to use their dining room regularly. “I just have a pet peeve of rooms not being used, so we don’t treat our dining room like it’s precious or special,” says Tasha.
Her years of learning to do what she loves have led to what she’s sure will be a highly controversial dining room decision. “By God, we’re putting a TV in there!” she says. These days with the juggling of their active kids’ schedules, Tasha and Joe eat dinner with Attley most nights while keeping Avery’s warm for her return, which generally coincides with when the family sits down to watch a show together. Current stream? Modern Family.
While a TV in a dining room is far from conventional, so is this modern family. Tasha leans into what works for them. “I know a lot of people have what you would call a traditional Christmas meal that looks a lot like Thanksgiving would look,” she says. But the Agrusos? They keep it simple with a Christmas meal of spaghetti and meatballs, a nod to Joe’s Italian heritage.
Because Joe works as a firefighter, there are times when he can’t be home for the holidays. Another unique Agruso family tradition? Tasha and the girls bake “something yummy” to bring to the station. “That’s a weird part of our tradition, but it’s part of our reality.”
One thing they always make time to do together is decorate the Christmas tree, usually before Thanksgiving so that they can enjoy its glow for a longer time. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, Tasha follows her heart, staying true to what she loves, “which is probably why I have things that I bought 20 years ago that I still love.” Avocado-green and dusty-red ornaments — nontraditional traditionals — purchased from Crate & Barrel during Tasha and Joe’s first Christmas together still, to this day, adorn their tree and fit the existing aesthetic.
After all, when you decorate by choosing what you really love, you’re sure to be happy with the outcome. “It’s like what bra and underwear you pick. Is it comfortable to you?” asks Tasha as she takes in the home she’s been personalizing for the last three years. She laughs and adds, “I have literally never thought of the undergarment analogy, but it’s actually a really good one.” OH