One of designer Julie M. Kleiner’s antidotes to living under the gray skies of the Pacific Northwest is to fill a home with layer upon layer of vibrant colors and whimsical patterns. “In my mind, I paint almost every house a pale color and imagine bright spring and summer colors for the interior to counter the fact that this is a dark place,” says Kleiner. The designer’s clients liked the idea of lightening things up, too.
More than a decade ago, the couple purchased an early-1900s house in Seattle—complete with wood shingles, stately Craftsman-style columns and a generous front porch—for sale on the same street where the wife grew up. Then, they called on now-retired architect Holden Withington to open up the floor plan. “The previous owner had put up a lot of walls and covered up a pretty banister and some of the molding,” says Kleiner. Afterward, the family lived there for eight years before connecting with the designer, whom they had hired to design their vacation home. “We hit it off, and they decided they wanted me to design their primary residence,” she says. “The wife told me the renovation made her crave something white and bright, and she wanted a gracious interior; something welcoming and happy.”
Answering the wife’s request, Kleiner painted the walls and trims a cheerful white. “Oftentimes, in a traditional-style home, every inch of wood—including window casings, banisters, doors and millwork—is dark and heavy,” says Kleiner. “People are afraid to paint it.” Against the crisp white backdrop, she wove in texture, much of which is, of course, in brilliant color. “I used traditional fabrics like velvets and linens,” says Kleiner, who placed a linen-wrapped console behind a linen- upholstered sofa in the living room; the office displays a pair of side chairs dressed with coral boiled wool. “I also used a lot of blush tones,” the designer says, noting the hues add warmth and softness and offset the possibility of the white trim and lighter wall colors feeling stark or cold. Rose-and-cream-colored draperies in the dining room feature a botanical print trimmed with coral ribbon, and the dining chairs are dressed, in part, with a coral print fabric and trim. Kleiner introduced blue to the dining room in the form of framed de Gournay embroidery-on-silk wallpaper panels that read as artwork. Pops of blue delight in the family room, too, where a lounge chair is upholstered in a pale blue solid and armchairs are covered with bright blue trellis-patterned fabric that features a buttery yellow trim.
Kleiner added florals, stripes, stars and plaids to the mix of botanical, block and diamond patterns artfully woven throughout the residence. “I find you can use a lot of different patterns as long as there’s balance,” the designer explains. “I don’t ever use only tiny or large prints; I like to mix scales.” Kleiner also uses a spot of taupe here and there to temper lively pattern. “Wool or linen, or something with a lot of texture and neutral color, breaks up more traditional prints,” she says. “The grass cloth on the dining room walls is so textured that it’s a pattern unto itself. It reads almost like a natural plaid that offsets the colorful block and botanical prints.”
Likewise, Kleiner incorporated both antique and contemporary furniture and fixtures to create more interest and comfort in the home. “The architecture doesn’t lend itself to something that’s too contemporary,” she says. “I like a good English armchair or a chesterfield sofa. The classics are timeless and go with a lot, but too much traditional style can make an interior feel overly formal. A blend is unexpected and more inviting.” In the living room, for instance, the linen-covered console has a modern profile, while the sofa has an English roll-style arm. Kleiner also arranged a ceramic drum table beside a traditional-feeling armchair and flanked the fireplace with Louis XVI-style tables as well as a pair of upholstered chairs. In some cases, however, she tweaked the classics. “The light fixture in the entry has a very traditional silhouette,” Kleiner notes. “You normally see these traditional fixtures in brass or bronze, but I painted this one a powder- coated pale blue. It just freshened it up.” The fixture hangs above an antique settee with a carved-wood frame, which is another family heirloom.
“I think I’m sometimes trying to create artificial sunlight,” says Kleiner about her impulse toward bright color and pattern. Luckily, she and her clients are on the same page with the home’s look. “The wife wanted something different,” the designer says. “This house and this community are very dear to her heart. They have warmth and history, and the interiors really speak to that.”
— Laura Mauk