Bring on the glam

Bring on the glam

Ideas: Bring on the glam

Bring on the glam

Bring on the glam

When Theresa and Thomas Kohl bought their St. Joseph home in 2004, it was very beige. The walls were beige. The carpet was beige.

Story: Jodi Heckel

Photos: Robin Scholz

When Theresa and Thomas Kohl bought their St. Joseph home in 2004, it was very beige. The walls were beige. The carpet was beige.
Theresa Kohl is so not into beige.

She’s transformed the home with a “Hollywood glam” look that is completely unexpected for visitors to the quiet neighborhood of ranch homes. Kohl redecorated with the help of Broadlands native Doug Wilson, an interior designer who has hosted shows on TLC and is best known for his work as one of the designers on “Trading Spaces.” He also has his own design business.

Kohl decorated the home in a shabby chic/country style when she and her husband first moved in, but she really loves black and white and “the sparkly, more dressy look.”

The project started with a grandfather clock. The clock has a modern style, with lots of curves, and it had been painted black with flowers. Kohl repainted it orange — and hated it. Kohl knows Wilson’s aunt, and Wilson heard about the orange clock.

“My reaction was, ‘That’s cool. That’s somebody who isn’t afraid of something different,’” Wilson said.

And, he added, “I knew, beyond the clock, that she had taste,” noting he approved of the sofa and chair she had recently purchased for her living room.

Kohl hired Wilson to help her redecorate. Their relationship has been different than the normal designer-client relationship, Wilson said. There is a camaraderie between the two, and they have a lot of fun, but they also disagreed at times. Kohl has a lot of ideas about what she likes. Sometimes Wilson would tell her no, and other times he would love an idea.

The concept for Kohl’s home was hers, and Wilson provided guidance to make it “liveable.”

“Terry loves sparkle, which is great, but not everything can be sparkly,” Wilson said.

“It’s not the norm to have to tone down a client,” he continued. “Generally I have to break them out of a box. I had to put (Kohl) in a box.”

Before Wilson began working with her, Kohl had recently repainted those beige walls gray and white and bought a new sofa and chair, both upholstered with buttons along the back and arms.

Wilson started with the grandfather clock, suggesting Kohl repaint it yellow and use that color as an accent.

Wilson convinced Kohl to move the black and white drapes she made for the living room windows to the bedroom. They found a yellow and white fabric, and Kohl made new curtains from it for the living room.

“He’s really good about using what you have,” Kohl said. Wilson suggested moving a few other items to different places in the house where they might work better.

Kohl wanted to hang photos of Hollywood stars in the living room, but Wilson vetoed that idea.

“That’s been done. That’s too trite,” he said.

Instead, he suggested producing graffiti art pieces with the signatures of Hollywood stars. Kohl picked her favorites, including Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant. Wilson studied their signatures, then painted them in acrylic onto paper that was washed with different watercolor hues of yellow and gold.

For depth, they created “graffiti” using watercolor pencils and writing the stars’ best-known movies or songs onto the background of each piece. The finished products add yellow to the walls, to tie in with the clock and other yellow items in the room, and they also add an element of Hollywood “without hitting you over the head,” Wilson said.

“There’s an aspect of Hollywood glam of breaking the rules,” he said. “It’s easy to do traditional. But when you go to do something that’s a little against the grain, it’s challenging. It can get too kitschy, too whimsical. But you can pull it into the realm that’s still livable.”

Kohl had covered the living room fireplace facade with black tile. Wilson had her take off wood trim that wrapped onto the fireplace from the wall and paint the facade and mantel black so it stands on its own. Kohl and Wilson wanted to do something quirky with the fireplace. She found a yellow ceramic frog and put it in the grate.

Wilson also considered the scale of the furnishings in a relatively small space. He hung an oversized light fixture in the living room, and he hung it lower than one would usually hang, to balance the fireplace and an oversize armoire.

Kohl painted the kitchen cabinets white, replaced the fronts of the cabinets with glass and added crown molding to the tops of the cabinets. She also got new appliances and countertops.

The two were struggling to find a table that would fit into the dining space and that was affordable and looked good. Then Wilson offered a base for a table — a black column that he bought from a hotel liquidator in Chicago. Kohl found a round, beveled mirror to put on top of the base, and they added a round glass tabletop to make a one-of-a-kind piece.

Kohl purchased a number of furnishings online, including her dining chairs and bar stools, and she showed Wilson photos of them before she bought them to get his approval.

A few items, though, were not up for negotiation — for example, the tuxedo hat pendant lights that hang above the bar in Kohl’s kitchen. She saw them on Pinterest and told Wilson about them. He asked for a photo. Instead of sending him a photo, Kohl went ahead and bought them.

“It’s fun. That’s what we’re talking about with whimsical in a good way,” Wilson said of the lights. “No room should be stuffy.”

Kohl is considering changes in her bedroom as well, including the bed cover.

“I think you should do white with a throw,” Wilson suggested. “Less is more. Just a cotton duvet.”

But Kohl said she was thinking of reupholstering her headboard with gold fabric and sparkly buttons.

“No, we can’t do gold in here. We’re not going to do gold,” Wilson said emphatically.

Later, he acknowledged there is a fine line in saying no to a client and risking offending them. But Kohl does not take offense when he advises something different than what she wants.
Likewise, though, Wilson has suggested items to Kohl that she is not quite as enthused about. He wanted her to hang a ceramic rhinoceros head on the wall next to a buffet, where it could be seen in the mirror over the fireplace by visitors entering the home. Kohl put it high up on her kitchen soffit instead.

Kohl said the finished project “far exceeded my expectations.

“I was able to bounce all these crazy ideas off Doug and he could either tame me down or say, ‘Let’s go with it,’” she said.

“Terry could have done this and it would have been very interesting, but it might have been over the top,” Wilson said. “It’s been a great experience. It’s not struggling to take someone to something out of their comfort level. It’s working with them to make it livable and still something that no one else has.”