Interior design in the Vail Valley is vibrant and alive! And the talent is flourishing with a wide palette of styles. Whether they prefer bold or subtle, contemporary or traditional, these eight designers share a common bond. They are all seasoned with a minimum of seven years under their professional belts, with some having 30 to 40 years of experience in the field. They love their work, the clients they meet and most of all the creativity and the next challenge.
Trained in industrial design and influenced by her father, an architect, Julie Seracuse believes both have helped her to think out-of-the-box to design furniture pieces that suit her clients’ space and needs.
She believes there has been a real trend in the mountains towards a more contemporary clean look and she expects that to continue for the foreseeable future.
“The trick is to keep a design from looking too cold or sterile,” remarks Seracuse. “Successfully done, mountain contemporary is more grounded in the environment.”
As for color? “Like fashion, colors frequently change,” she says, with a twinkle in her eye, as though she knows what’s coming next.
“This kitchen reflects the welcoming spirit and fun nature of the homeowners, Violet and John Ferguson, and has always been good for function and esthetic. Its openness to the great and dining rooms allow family and friends to join Violet while she prepares her meals. The kitchen is where people want to hang out and this kitchen lends itself to that warm feeling, perfectly. The soft green cabinets lift the space with light and are a beautiful counterpoint to the soapstone counter tops that keep the room grounded.”
Whether an extravagant budget at a home with an observatory or a minimal budget at the new West Vail Fire Station, Kathy Peplinski loves the challenge that designing provides.
“I love that my job is creative. Every design job is different and it is like solving a puzzle to find all the perfect pieces to help someone create the home they are envisioning.” Peplinski says.
Recently, she has seen a trend toward a mountain modern look emphasizing cleaner lines of rustic wood perhaps paired with stainless steel.
Even after 31 years in the design business, she admits that interior design has been an unending learning process. “I am still learning,” she says, with a smile.
“This room has a kind of bohemian, colorful look that we call ‘Anthropologie,’ after the store of the same name. It has lots of prints with interesting colors and shapes. As well, a window seat looks out to a gorgeous view of the Gore Range. It’s really a young woman’s room and was designed for the owner’s granddaughters. In fact, every room in this home has its own name such as ‘Fire and Ice’ and ‘Serenity.’ It’s a wonderful home.”
When clients tell Patti Dixon, “Just do it,” it gives her a headache. “The client is either part of problem or part of the solution, which is why it’s so imperative to have them involved,” she says.
“I know that most of the time, the clients don’t know what they want. But through lots of conversations, the design seems to grow and mature.”
As well, budgets are always part of the equation. “Everyone has a budget, no matter the price range of the home,” Dixon explains.
“The challenge of this room was that it was in a log home, yet the owners wanted a contemporary look. So, I had to come up with a common denominator to transform the room. As it happened, there were two: nature and simple. I couldn’t have it fussy. For instance, the clean and strong look of the chandelier has a contemporary look with the steel carrying the massiveness of the logs of the home.”
The name of Denise Bryant-Rives’s store, Misé-en-Scene, which translates to “putting on stage” is appropriately named, as Bryant-Rives has been doing just that for developers for 18 years. She also does interior design for private clients.
“Staging jobs are usually completed within three weeks, so there is no time for ordering custom furniture, like in a design job,” says Bryant-Rives. “Also, the furniture has to be expensive looking and realistic for these multi-million dollar homes, but on a reasonable budget.”
When Bryant-Rives had only two and a half months to complete a three-bedroom job for a Solaris client, she had the clients pick out some initial pieces to reveal their personal style and she ran with it from there. Done in time!
“The only hiccup was when the carpet samples were ‘held hostage’ in customs,“ Bryant-Rives, says, with a laugh.
“This room provides an elegant feel with its soothing neutral monochromatic setting. Punches of color come from the Indian pillows and tapestries. The sofas and chairs are California ‘haute couture’ but I re-designed them with mountain friendly fabrics and nail heads.”
When she was just a child everyone was playing with Barbie dolls, but Daugherty wanted to build and decorate Barbie’s house. It’s no surprise, then, that she would become an interior designer.
She loves the problem solving that comes with her career of choice, especially with remodeled homes. “I try to avoid a signature look and I think that is part of my success,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t like the space when I first see it, but I love to design and see the transformation.”
And Daugherty knows how to work quickly! Clients purchased a home in Glen Lyon and she had only three weeks to design the house before they moved in with their four sons.
“Miraculously, we got them moved in for Christmas and even had a 17-foot tree,” she says.
Antiques like the French Camagüey side chairs set the scene in the dining room with its English drop leaf table that sits under the chandelier designed by Daugherty.
“This is a room where the family can share good food and good stories,” she says. “And the color yellow is a happy color which brings joy and communication. I wanted it to be a place where this close family could come together and enjoy each other in their home.”
Carol Moore’s talents are far-reaching. She’s designed for a cardiac clinic in Japan, a horse farm in New York with a 25,000 sq. ft. house and a 12,000 sq. ft. stable. Moore, an art major, goes for the “wow factor,” by combining bold, hot colors like red with bright orange or purple.
“Red is the new neutral,” she says, “because it can be diluted or saturated for contrast.” Think neutral sofas and bright pillows.
“I love to mix styles together because of the challenge. I also love to strive for a million dollar look within a budget and everyone has a budget, no matter the caliber.”
“I used a combination of textured, neutral fabrics such as mohair, leather and suede so that the art work and rug collection would be the focal point of the room. The room has classic lines and is warm. The neutral, rich palette is as relevant today as it was when I designed it 18 years ago.”
Karin Lanham loves color and likes to build a room from the floor up. She might begin with a beautiful antique Turkish rug made with 100- to 200-year-old wool and natural dyes.Her taste is eclectic and is reflected in her cozy store/office, Karin’s, in Beaver Creek. “It’s like a jewel box. There’s nothing in there that you need,” Lanham remarks with her signature, good-natured giggle. “It’s tapestry, pillows and potpourri. I love it!”
“The only request from the client was that everything had to be all blue and white. That certainly was a challenge, but it came out to be an eye-opener. It’s amazing how much blue and white is out in this world! A Vermeer painting that I had seen when I just eighteen was my inspiration. I never, ever forgot it. I was even able to find Italian marble tiles that had blue veining through them. It feels like a dining room should feel: cozy and comfortable.”
While working as an interior designer in Scottsdale, Arizona, interior designer Marilynn Nicola was asked to custom design a door handle fabricated from iron and wrapped in snakeskin for rocker Alice Cooper. He got it!
Arizona brought many more creative challenges for Nicola. One of her most extravagant projects was to dismantle and then reconstruct an old saloon that featured a 30-foot flag on the ceiling and an oversized movie screen to watch John Wayne movies.
Then there was the time she was asked to design the interiors of eight villas – in the same neighborhood.
“It was a challenge to be creative and individualize each villa and try not to duplicate any of the furnishings and fabrics,” reflects Nicola. “I certainly didn’t want a ‘cookie-cutter’ look for any of my clients.”
“This room is very European. I picked up the personality of the owners and made it comfortable and livable. I never design according to current trends, fads or seasons. My philosophy is good design would be timeless and look great now, and 10 years from now. I feel that my outlook is very evident in this design, which is ageless.”