Kyle Schuneman is only 26, yet the Chicago native has worked as a stylist, set decorator and interior designer for nearly a decade, ever since he deferred admission to Loyola Marymount University and moved to Los Angeles when he was 18.
"I've been subscribing to Architectural Digest since I was 13," he said. "I always wanted to design."
By 2010, House Beautiful had named him one of the "Next Wave of Top 20 Designers," and he art directed 75 episodes for "Giada at Home" on the Food Network. Now Schuneman is at work on a Woolite pop-up fashion store to open for New York Fashion Week as well as the House of Rock, a Santa Monica design showcase and charity event venue that's scheduled to launch Sept. 15.
With his camera-ready looks and a well-stocked bag of decorating tricks, Schuneman has one more new role: author. Next week Clarkson Potter/Random House will release "The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces."
It's all a remarkable feat for a decorator who will celebrate his 27th birthday next week and whose first design gig, if you could call it that, was as a production assistant on a Super Bowl commercial.
"I made $150 for sweeping up confetti after every take," Schuneman said, laughing. "That was my glamorous entrance."
After years of "going above and beyond to overcompensate for my lack of experience," Schuneman launched his own firm, Live Well Designs, with a style that's part contemporary and part retro, punctuated by quirky, unexpected touches. He said he hopes his book's easy, how-to format will inspire other twentysomethings to graduate from dorm decor to more stylish, personal environments.
"My peers see my design work for clients who have a lot of money, but most of them have only lived with their parents or in a dorm — and now that they finally have their own space, they can't afford to hire a designer," he said. "Still, all I know is working with a budget. For me it almost helps when there is that creative constraint."
With photographer Joe Schmelzer, Schuneman singled out 10 young apartment dwellers around the country and gave their spaces affordable makeovers. He discovered that while most people his age have a strong opinion about fashion, they don't always have a sense of their own decorating style.
"I had to ask them questions like, 'What kind of hotel do you like?' 'What's your favorite landscape?' Or, 'What's in your wardrobe?' "
From those answers, Schuneman devised personality-driven decorating narratives with labels such as the Art Lover, the Bohemian and the Homebody, the theme for his home at the time, a 700-square-foot apartment in L.A.'s Miracle Mile district.
"This book is for people who aren't going to be able to hire a designer, but they can spend $25 for a hard-working resource filled with great ideas," said Schuneman, who has since moved out of his apartment and put his belongings in storage while he shuttles between projects in San Francisco and New York.
Each profile in the book comes with floor plans, cost breakdowns, how-to instructions and shopping resources, as well as Schuneman's explanations for his design choices. He kindly shared a few of the easiest ideas with us: yarn-wrapped picture frames, punched-up Target dining chairs and dip-dye curtains.
Corrected: An earlier version of this article said the House of Rock was sponsored by Rolling Stone and would be used as a venue for parties. The house is not sponsored by the magazine, and organizers said the events will be charity fund-raisers.