For designer Kimberlee Gorsline, her biggest project to date had a lot going for it. “The bones of the house had very clean lines, a lot of which we wanted to keep,” she says of her clients’ new place. Moreover, the Mercer Island abode boasted big windows with expansive views of Lake Washington and Bellevue’s city lights. But, built in the 1990s, the house had an opulent style at odds with her clients’ vibrant personalities. “The previous homeowners were more traditional, so they had added green marble inlay to the entry and powder room, the kitchen island and the fireplace,” Gorsline recalls. “And in the formal living room, they had a gilt-framed mirror and gilt light fixtures.”
Without altering the floor plan—except for a few modifications to the master bathroom—the couple wanted to move in a more contemporary direction, so Gorsline worked with builder Ryan Anderson to brainstorm a strategy. “It was a true creative process. We’d say, ‘That’s cool, but what if we did this?’” explains Anderson. “The house was contemporary, but it was divided up, so it didn’t have a real open feel to it. There were a lot of walls separating the spaces, which is a bit of a throwback.” To brighten up the rooms, out went the green marble and in came a more sophisticated palette of materials, from polished quartz to nickel-plated steel, along with a more colorful, midcentury modern vibe. Meanwhile, Gorsline worked closely with Anderson’s team to tone down the home’s more traditional details. “We redid some of the trim, painted the doors and added new hardware,” says Anderson, who brought in colleague Tim Shuck as the project manager.
Gorsline knew that the homeowners love color, plus early in the project she discovered just how adventurous they are. “We were looking for a yellow shower tile for a bathroom, and I found some yellows and golds that were more muted,” she says. “But the wife said, ‘No, I want something a little bit bolder.’ We ultimately decided on a canary yellow, and it was then I realized that she really does like rich, saturated color. I wasn’t scared to use color after that.” The airy home features frequent dashes of daring hues, often in midcentury modern forms—for example, lipstick red chairs in the kitchen, and in the living room, a bright yellow Egg chair and a clean-lined sofa in electric blue velvet. The homeowners also love geometric patterns, which show up in a striking Cole & Son hexagonal wallcovering in the master bedroom and a hexagonal rug from West Elm in the study.
As for the home’s study—with its hunter green walls and dark wood desk and cabinetry—Gorsline transformed it into a bright, cheery place for the family to read. She suggested painting the entire desk and bookcase a vibrant high-gloss coral, and “the wife immediately fell in love with it,” Gorsline says. “I think the coral made the husband nervous at first, but he’s a great partner, and he was happy if she was happy.” For the study’s custom Roman shades, Gorsline chose a geometric fabric by Jonathan Adler in coral, chartreuse, white and mustard yellow. “The rug that I selected for the room picked up on the green in the shade’s fabric, and the sofa is a mustard yellow velvet,” she says. “I also had a pillows made for the sofa out of the same Jonathan Adler fabric as the shade.”
While deferring to his wife on most design decisions, the husband did have one personal request—a blue leather recliner. “I said, ‘Let’s make this man happy; he’s given a lot,’ ” says Gorsline, who loves how the stylish blue recliner looks in the family room. However, to avoid overwhelming the eye with color and pattern, Gorsline was mindful of creating visual balance in every room. “If I chose a bold color or pattern for the furnishings, we balanced it with lighter walls,” she says. “In the master bedroom, for example, we have geometric wallpaper and a rich velvet headboard, so we used crisp white bedding. It was my job to pull it all together in a way that represented the homeowners.”
A similar impulse toward balance also appears in the living and dining rooms, which are relatively spare with kicks of color, including a violet dining table. “They have gorgeous views of Lake Washington, and we wanted to connect those two spaces and keep it open and airy to lift your eyes up to the windows,” Gorsline says. “It’s now light and cheerful.” Although the project began small—with just a few rooms being renovated—when the homeowners saw the spaces begin to come to life, they decided to remodel the entire house. The payoff is a home that went from subdued and traditional to modern and distinctive, with views of the water and eye candy at every turn.