Designers Kristen Thomas and Heather Hill don’t remember when they began affectionately calling their new client “Gwyneth Paltrow,” but it was early on during a remodel to transform her Lakewood, Colorado, home. “She’d show up to meetings in these amazing outfits, so we knew that this was going to be a different kind of project,” says Thomas. The designers quickly realized their client’s sartorial style would serve as a blueprint for their creative decisions.
“Fashion frames my sense of who I am in the world,” says the wife, whose clothing preferences for clean lines and tailored elegance translated to her vision for the dwelling she and her husband had recently purchased. “It’s important for me to feel grounded, and what I’m wearing gives me a sense of calm and comfort,” she notes. “I wanted my house to do the same.”
The only problem: The residence was constructed in a style Thomas describes as “faux Tuscan” with all the usual hallmarks the phrase conjures (think heavy wood beams), as well as a few quirky features, namely elaborate leaded-glass windows and a bell tower referencing a traditional Italian campanile. Still, the architectural bones—including a vaulted ceiling in the dining room and a soaring interior courtyard—were solid. “The home has a great layout and beautiful flow,” adds Thomas. “We could look past the heavy stone and dark finishes and see what the house could be.”
While the homeowners tasked the designers and general contractor Jon Ingalls with brightening the space, elevating the materials and recasting the stone exterior in an understated stucco, they also wanted to preserve some of the architectural details, including the mosaic-tiled entry and an accordion-style window in the living room that overlooks distant red-rock mountains. They even kept one of the original leaded-glass windows in the main bathroom. “None of us wanted it to look like a just-built house,” says Thomas. “We played off the character that was in place.”
One of the existing features proved to be an obstacle in achieving the elegant, but comfortable feel the design team sought. The original walls were texturized with bits of hay mixed in the plaster, so they had to be painstakingly scraped and smoothed. The setback turned out to be beneficial though as it allowed the designers to go deep on the customization of the house, from coating the walls in the perfect shade of white (Sherwin-Williams’ Creamy) to dry-laying marble tiles in the main bath to dictate the pattern of veining.
At times, the designers felt a bit like stylists curating a star’s ensemble. “Every fabric, every silhouette, every finish was carefully selected,” says Thomas. “Like a tailored outfit, every detail complements one another.” Of those details, color may be the most important. “The hues are very soft, very organic,” says Hill. “There are lots of blush and blue tones—it keeps the spaces from feeling too neutral.” Noting the role texture plays in the natural stone and the upholstered pieces, Thomas adds, “Even though we had an edited color palette, it looks rich because we chose so many beautiful textures.”
The wife is known for dressing with an eye to minutiae. The designers used the same approach for the interiors, with a focus on small details like the brass claw feet on a bench, the contrast welting on a throw pillow or the size of the matting around framed photographs. “There are so many little things that most people wouldn’t consciously notice, but they add up to beautiful effect,” says Hill. “This house is the opposite of cookie-cutter—it’s unique and impeccable.”
But make no mistake, while the home reflects the wife’s polished style, it’s also a place where the family can let loose. “I wanted it to feel restful, welcoming and comfortable,” says the wife, who, along with her husband and 12-year-old daughter, stages what they call “Friday Pizza Night.” “We have the music going while we cook, and we make a big old mess in the kitchen,” she explains. “There’s a lot of flour everywhere, but that’s how we like it.” Adds Thomas, “This house feels so good now; you can feel the happiness and love—what could be more fashionable?”