Kari Armstrong would have been forgiven for playing it safe as she built and designed her 7,800-square-foot Castle Rock home. After all, the principal and CEO of Centennial-based HRI Design was working under the watchful eyes of nearly 30 of her employees. Instead, with support from her sister—and neighbor, and HRI Design co-owner and COO—Kate Pourhassanian, Armstrong made all her wildest design dreams come true. Blending inspiration from HRI’s residential and commercial work across the country (a third sister and co-owner, CFO Kasey Miller, runs an outpost in Santa Ana, California), the team, who worked closely on the home’s design for nearly two years, created a space that’s simultaneously a showstopper and livable for a family of five (and two pups). We talked with them about how they pulled it off—and the lessons the HRI team learned along the way about going big.
5280 Home: What’s it like, as a designer, to work on your own home?
Kari Armstrong: It was so exciting to work with Mike [Woodley, president of Littleton’s Woodley Architectural Group] on my own ground-up build, so I could really throw out those big ideas I’d been seeing and saving. I lived and breathed this house.
Kate Pourhassanian: Literally, lived and breathed.
Kari Armstrong: Like, I didn’t come to work for a while.
Kate Pourhassanian: But then the whole firm got engaged. It was a team effort.
More from our December 2019/January 2020 Issue
- Reaching New Heights
- We Found, We Love: A Wallcovering That Sings the Blues
- Trending Now: Classic Black
- Capsule Is Our New Go-to Source for Vintage Decor
- Design Find: Art You Can Sit On
- This 127-Year-Old Farmhouse-Turned-Airbnb-Rental Is the Perfect Weekend Getaway
- How to Fill Your Home With Art Without Spending a Fortune
You must have approached the project with so many ideas. Did you have trouble narrowing them down?
KA: It was hard to commit. What’s cool, what’s still going to be on trend, and what am I going to love forever? Plus, from the get-go, I felt so much pressure. My whole thought process was that anything I picked, I didn’t want to have seen before. Or I wanted it in a different use. I wanted it to be memorable and unexpected—not what anyone would think I would do.
Is that why you went bold—especially at a time when Instagram feeds are filled with muted palettes?
KA: In the past, I probably would’ve gone down the path of being more subdued—more clean lines, more masculine. I definitely pushed myself because I wanted to step into that thought process about maximalism—to learn through my home and help my designers here learn how to do that balance: the juxtaposition of materials and the palette; the places to go bold and the places to hold back.
KP: And to your point, how many more modern farmhouses can we see? Everything is a modern farmhouse. Everything is gray. There are clear trends—thank you, Chip and Joanna Gaines—that have taken over. This push toward maximalism is an intentional reaction to some of that. But a lot of the materiality is very clean.
KA: The backdrop is warm and cool grays, warm-toned woods. The bones of the house are still very neutral, so I can tweak the stuff that’s more standout-ish as time goes on.
How do you achieve balance in this kind of maximalist design?
KA: I think trying to get some things symmetrical helps. You can have these other pops that catch your eye, but you can rest on the things that are symmetrical.
KP: There are touches of chaos, paired with relief.
KA: It’s all about pattern and placement and color. Make sure things have a neutral background, and then do pops in certain areas and pay attention
to the scale of your patterns. For example, we have a big floral pattern on a wall—hand-painted by [Denver’s] Magpie Painting—juxtaposed with chairs where the print is tiny. We’ve got to talk about the master bedroom.
KA: The first question people ask me is, “Do you get any sleep?!” We sleep fine. I saw the Kelly Wearstler wallpaper and thought, “I have to have this somewhere.” I almost put it in the powder bathroom, but then I was like, “That’s too predictable. I’m going to put it in my bedroom where people will think I’m crazy.” But we get that balance by using all the different materials—the Bernhardt brass bed, black wood, white oak, plexiglass handles on the nightstand—and then finding relief with the white bedding.
How gratifying was it to see this project progress not only as co-workers, but as sisters?
KP: From looking at plans to living around the corner and watching it being built to being in the office every day, trouble-shooting things…it had a different level of expectation and heart intention. You care about the end user in a different way. Plus, I’ll be celebrating holidays here too—so, yes, I have an opinion! It was a good time.