“Star Power ” – Colorado Homes & Lifestyles
Celebrity interior designer Kari Whitman’s Boulder home feels a little bit Hollywood, a little bit Boulder, and a whole lot fabulous.
Before she began designing homes for celebrities like Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell, Kari Whitman was just a kid growing up among Boulder’s distinctive combination of righteous cyclists, collegiate verve, natural splendor and Subaru-driving hippies. “It was a really cool place to grow up,” says Whitman, principal of Beverly Hills-based Kari Whitman Interiors. “I have a profound love for Boulder.”
What does Kari Whitman love best about her living room? The brass feathers that she purchased from Etsy and arranged in a dramatic display up the wall. “They’re the cheapest thing in the room,” she laughs. “There’s a lesson there.” Whitman had the lush sofa custom-made in Los Angeles and paired it with a black, angular coffee table from Caracole and a side table from Arteriors. The curtain “wall” of ball chain separating the living and dining spaces sparkles in brass and stainless steel stripes. A turquoise chandelier from Currey & Company adds a glam jolt of color.
Whitman spent years away from her beloved hometown—pursuing modeling and acting jobs in Los Angeles that gave way to a design career when Eagles drummer Don Henley got a look at her house and hired her to design his own home. But Whitman couldn’t resist the draw of Boulder, and in September 2012 she bought a vintage cottage two doors down from her childhood home.
The architecture, the front porch and the abundant space won her heart, she says. The rest she transformed from a beige-and-boring home into a glamorous, modern retreat. “When you walk up to the house, you expect the inside to be cute and rustic,” she says. “And it’s a surprise when you walk through the door. I like dichotomy. I don’t like anything that’s expected — not in design, not anywhere else in my life.”
So perhaps it was inevitable that one of Whitman’s first design decisions was daring. She enclosed an oddly-shaped, loft-like space outside of the master bedroom and installed 20 porthole windows — reclaimed from ships — in the interior wall. “I have this thing for circles in walls,” she says. “I had seen these portholes somewhere in a New York hotel, and a light went off when we were starting the project. I’m so glad we did it. The light shines up from the first floor. I love it.”
The home is full of such surprises. Case in point: Between the living and dining rooms, Whitman hung a “wall” of ball chain in brass and stainless steel stripes. “I saw these at a very cool burlesque club in L. A., and I knew I wanted them,” she says. Adjacent to the ball chain, Whitman created a playful, linear art installation of brass feathers she bought on Etsy. A spherical turquoise chandelier — “I had to have it,” Whitman says — crowns the room. Upstairs in one of the guest bedrooms, a bold, black-and-white wallpaper image of a lavela, a Brazilian shantytown, covers the wall behind the vintage, mirrored headboard.
“To recycle is to reuse,” says Whitman. True to her word, she picked up this dining table from Clutter Consignment in Boulder and had the host chairs covered in turquoise pleather she had left over from a client’s project. She found the beige chairs at The Amazing Garage Sale in Boulder; the light fixture came from a vintage shop in Dallas. Whitman commissioned a craftsman to create the bench with the corset wrapped chair backs. The metallic silver plaster on the wall and ceiling is from Firenze.
Whitman revived the guest bath by painting the walls and existing cabinet black and adding a sunburst mirror from Oly Studios. The guest room’s wall-sized image (from Flavor Paper) of a favela, a shantytown in Brazil, “makes you think and appreciate,” Whitman says. “It’s powerful. I love the architectural element.” The vintage, mirrored headboard finds a textural foil in the rope light from Atelier 688.
“I just wanted my room to be sexy but comfortable,” Whitman says. To that end, she covered the walls in romantic wallpaper and added skylights to let in Colorado’s incomparable sunshine. Whitman designed the side tables – “inspired by Pucci” – and found the lamp at Material Environments in L. A. The ampersand is from The Amazing Garage Sale in Boulder, and white bedding is “always the right choice,” Whitman says. Whitman covered the bathroom walls in black lacquer and then hung the bold dandelion graphic as a tribute to her childhood.” My mom and I had this game. Who could find a dandelion and blow it?” she says. “It reminds me of my hippie childhood.” True to her commitment to eco-friendly design, Whitman kept the existing vanity and tub.
In the second-floor seating area, Whitman installed 20 porthole windows, reclaimed from old ships and discovered at Seaside Treasures in Clearwater, Florida.” People thought I was crazy,” she says, “but that’s never stopped me before.” Whitman found the white chair at Luna Antiques in Miami, and the black chair, originally from Design Within Reach, at The Amazing Garage Sale.
But don’t let the boldness and sparkle fool you: Whitman also made some very conservative choices in creating her eco-friendly home. “I tried to use everything I had rather than replacing it,” she says. “That’s the best gift I can give the earth.” She kept the existing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, and instead of ripping out the hardwood floors, she had them refinished in a rich, dark hue. The new insulation is a product made from old blue jeans, the new floor joists came from reclaimed wood and recycled leather flooring in the entry nods to her western roots. “I mix old with new all the time,” Whitman says of her style. “People have to know that the nightstands don’t have to match, and a box of $50 feathers can be an art installation. That’s what this house shows. You can have glamour and comfort in one place. You can have fun with your design.” And, as Whitman proves, you can always come home again.