Written and photographed by Graham Yelton
With its wildly bold wallpapers, plush textures and pieces from early, mid and late century, this historic Highlands Condo has shown us what happens when you decorate with no fear. Kelly Kitchens, along with some serious help and guidance from decorator Barri Thompson (of Atmosphere Home Essentials at Pepper Place), turned a dated condo into a bachelorette pad that you might suspect belongs to Carrie Bradshaw herself. Kelly says happily, “I don’t have the limitations where someone else has to agree with what I’m doing. We had this big, blank canvas where Barri would throw something out there, and I would say ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s do a furry chair!’”
While it might have show-stopping style now, 12 years ago when Kelly purchased the condo, it was in desperate need of a makeover. Several layers of linoleum covered the original hardwoods, there was barely any counter top space in the tiny kitchen and all the walls were dark and dated. Kelly admits that she had no idea where to start, so she simply painted the place a neutral color and brought in her hodgepodge of hand-me-down furniture. Her eclectic style left her overwhelmed with choices. “I wanted it to be perfect, but I couldn’t make a decision. I was in this permanent state of temporary.” She knew she was going to need help.
Fast forward eight years, to a wine tasting at Little Savannah, where Kelly meets decorator Barri Thompson. The two clicked and, almost immediately, Kelly offered up her condo and asked Barri to help. They admit that they didn’t have much of a plan going into it. “Barri would come over, we would start drinking champagne, and that’s literally how this thing came about. Next thing you know, I have a patent leather bed!” That kicked things off. Perhaps there were multiple champagne decorating parties, as it’s not everyday that you find a home with this abundance of fabulous wallpaper.
Most people would rather go safe and solid. Not Barri, a self-diagnosed wallpaper addict, who found her match with Kelly. Gold-leaf and turquoise paper in the dining room sets the tone for the eclectic old-world-meets-new-modern style throughout the condo. Next, the silver and pink velvet covering the bathroom walls makes you believe that there really are no rules when it comes to decorating.
Their next feat is to add another eye-popping pattern to adorn the walls in the living room. Barri and Kelly hopped from one room to the next, mixing new pieces of furniture with old pieces that Kelly had collected over the years. Most of them needed paint or fabric, but anything with good, clean lines was worthy of a permanent home. Kelly did the majority of her renovations in the tiny 6 x 10 kitchen. She and her boyfriend, Coke, decided to do the demolition DIY style. “It was very therapeutic. We ripped all the cabinets out. It probably only saved me a few hundred dollars, but it was fun!” Kiwi Kitchens helped create a functional layout for the unusually small kitchen, which proved to be a challenge. The space had some strange quirks, and there simply wasn’t room for ordinary sized appliances. Kelly decided on zebra wood cabinets and then scoured the Internet for smaller specialty appliances.
While Kelly insists that the four-year process was organic, perhaps a good designer just makes it look that easy. The result is a space that nods at old Hollywood elegance with a modern edge. Its plush fabrics make it feel luxurious, while the cow head, hide and natural wood textures ground the space. And just like the perfect cocktail, it’s both energizing and soothing.