The first time designer Krista Watterworth Alterman met the distaff side of her client duo, the wife was wearing a vintage straw fedora and a flowing white cotton maxi dress. “That gave me a peek into her chic sense of style and elegance,” says Alterman, who took that as a sign for the direction their home should go. “First impressions are often a springboard for invention, and I knew their house needed to showcase a lifestyle and the philosophy of the inhabitants.”
The homeowners, a well-traveled young couple with two children and international roots (she is Eastern European, and his parents are from Argentina), were delighted to find a Mediterranean-style home in a choice neighborhood in Jupiter. “We loved the layout, and when you walk in the front door you see right out to the pool,” says the husband. Not so enchanting were the drab yellow walls, miles of carpet and the four faux Roman columns at the entrance. At that point, they started searching online for an interior designer. “There was a lot of typical Florida design out there, but that wasn’t right for us,” says the husband, who admits to minimalist leanings. “My wife is from Warsaw, and we wanted someone who could balance European style with American comfort; someone who could add oomph without clutter.” Alterman, who isn’t afraid to color outside the classic lines or interject bold palette choices with measured panache, proved the perfect choice.
Starting with the easy fixes, such as removing the columns and carpet, Alterman saved the tile floors and refreshed the kitchen with new marble on the counters and backsplash. When it came time for furnishings, to say she started from scratch would be a gross understatement. “We sold our previous home with everything in it and didn’t even have a fork,” says the husband. Undaunted, Alterman jumped right in. Building on her initial instinct for highlighting the couple’s lifestyle, she established a design theme she dubbed “colorful California gypsy.” “Based on who they are, their abode called for a worldly touch,” she says. “It needed elements that looked like they came from their travels—found, weathered, distressed pieces that would fit perfectly with a minimalist counterpoint.” But first it required the appropriate backdrop, and according to Alterman, the primary layer of the big picture was snowy, bleached-white walls. “Then I selected all the frosty linen and cotton furnishings and added in rattan pieces and a hide rug—things that look like they were found while experiencing life,” she says.
At the core of the gypsy-mode style, often called bohemian-chic, is a feeling of romance and spontaneity and a collected style that is not easy to achieve. For inspiration, Alterman admits channeling HGTV’s Emily Henderson, host of Secrets From a Stylist. “She’s the queen of the unplanned planned room, and she knows how to make boho-chic feel like a lifestyle, not just a design style,” says the designer, who followed Henderson’s lead by creating organic spaces that look and feel as if they evolved over time.
Part of that plan included peppering the spaces with classic midcentury modern pieces. In the living room, for example, the Parsons table-turned-bar, the steel-cage hourglass side tables and a floor lamp inspired by Flos’ Arco light that floats above the sofa provide the requisite charm without going overboard. Inspired by seating at a South Beach restaurant, the designer placed two chaise lounges together in the room for a bed-like effect. “Imagine those upholstered in orange velvet, and it’s pure Knoll 1970s,” she says.
Relying on buyer talent at places such as ABC Carpet & Home, as well as combing through thrift shops and flea markets, the tenacious designer unearthed treasures such as the Lane walnut cube side tables in the master bedroom, a classic Sputnik chandelier that hangs above a Vamdrup Stolefabrik rosewood side conversion table in the offce and a vintage tripod plant stand with an ostrich leather-and-walnut top. Color arrives in the form of accessories such as the turquoise lamps on the living room side tables and accent pillows and throws in all shades of pink. “I love the use of pink, berry and fuchsia in adult spaces,” Alterman says. “It takes a traditionally feminine color and forces you to see it differently.”
In addition to her dead-on design style, the owners heartily appreciated Alterman’s willingness to work within their price range. “She’s a pretty accomplished designer, and she made it easy for us to stick to our budget,” says the husband. For Alterman, whose many credits include having hosted HGTV’s Splurge & Save, paying attention to the bottom line was all part of the day’s work—a particularly easy task when you go bohemian. “This style is meant to showcase a life of travel. It’s about a free-spirited world with items discovered at street fairs and thrift shops—where one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” she says. “It’s the creativity in each selection that’s important, not the price tag.”