Cloaked in the scent of sawdust and fresh paint, a newly built house can often take a while to truly feel like home. Once filled with familiar things, the novelty finally softens into something inviting.
A young couple needed help tapping into this nesting instinct for their recently constructed Phoenix abode. They had torn down the previous structure and, working with architect Greg Kent of Kent Architects and general contractor Paul Haynie of Bent Nails, Inc., rebuilt it from scratch to include all their coveted architectural features: vaulted rooms, coffered ceilings, chevron brick flooring and abundant built-in shelving. Despite these custom details, however, the home didn’t quite yet feel like theirs, says designer Lexi Westergard, whom the couple recruited to recalibrate their spaces. The decor “had a more formal, European vibe, and their home wasn’t really in that style at all,” recalls the designer. “It felt like a much older couple lived there, and they needed something younger and fresher feeling. We wanted to keep true to the home’s traditional vibe but add some more modern pieces and streamlined elements.”
Embracing the home’s generous sunlight funneled through skylights and massive French doors, Westergard first refined the interiors with a color palette that was “soothing and serene, with a lot of neutrals, blues and some hints of green.” In the kitchen, for example, Westergard swapped out rustic barstools for French bistro rattan chairs in classic blue and white. For the young daughter’s bedroom, the designer embraced the whimsical pastel pink, tempered with more mature, modern features like a Lucite mirror and a rattan-detailed bed to replace the crib. “We wanted to make it fun and playful,” says Westergard, “but also a room she can grow with as she gets older.”
While the designer employed a universal vibe of hominess throughout, when it came to selecting pieces, she avoided uniformity by incorporating an eclectic mix of materials. “I think it helps to make it more visually interesting and at the same time not speak to just one genre of style,” Westergard explains. In the great room, for example, the designer matched buttery leather with textured linen when selecting the two couches, accented with throw pillows in various patterns and textures. She also clashed table styles, juxtaposing a sleek shagreen number with a whitewashed coffee table and an industrially inspired marble-topped crank side table. “It’s all about creating a more curated feel versus being strictly traditional,” she says.
To further highlight its architectural details, the home called out for objects with greater visual heft, starting with the massive lantern chandeliers adorning the vast ceilings in the entry and great room. “Some of the original lighting was just not to scale,” notes Westergard. “So, we wanted to have these oversize pieces that make your eyes look up, so you can notice the beautiful ceiling details.”
Additional doses of personality were layered in with carefully crafted accents, especially among the custom built-in shelving, which provided ample display space for curated moments of artwork and prized books. “Anytime you have such gorgeous bones, it’s easy to layer the accessories.” Vintage rugs—a personal signature of the designer—also appear throughout the home. “I love including them in projects, because they lend so much character,” she explains. “Plus, they have lived a long life, so they are typically very durable.”
Balancing these practical needs with the family’s lifestyle, she transformed some of the homeowners’ previously owned pieces for the den, which simultaneously functions as a musical haven. Their whitewashed cabinet was retrofitted to display their instruments, while their piano enjoys pride of place in an artful vignette. “We selected an oversize piece of art to make the piano feel more purposeful, like it was always meant to be there.”
Among these carefully composed spaces filled with old heirlooms and new treasures, it didn’t take long for the children (and the parents) to claim the home for their own. “It was so cute to see the kids’ reaction when they came home, how they would pick out their favorite things,” recalls the designer. Now, daily life can feel a bit more livable, with rooms that can breathe and grow along with the family. “Obviously the house was already pretty. But before it didn’t really feel lived in. Now it feels like they truly live there.”