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Photo by Kylie Fitts

A Boulder Home That Packs a Colorful Punch

One of Boulder’s oldest homes gets a vibrant new look that marries an energetic color palette and prints with “pow.”

The minute Ashley Rheingold set foot in this late-1800s Victorian near Boulder’s Eben G. Fine Park, she knew it was the perfect place to settle with her three kids. “It was the first house I looked at, and I loved the small spaces and the light,” she recalls. “I just felt like this was the right one.”

She also had a feeling about the decor she would fill it with—colorful, feminine furnishings and artworks that were polar opposites from the masculine pieces in her previous home in the mountains. Instinct told her she’d need help marrying such vivacity with historic Victorian architecture, so she called Boulder-based designer Stephanie Waddell, a former schoolmate from Grand Rapids, Michigan, for help. Here, the duo describe their collaboration—and the gorgeous results.

5280 Home: What made you two a good decorating pair?
Ashley Rheingold: I wanted lots of color, lots of patterns, and I knew that I needed help to do that correctly, so that I didn’t make the small space feel smaller.
Stephanie Waddell: Ashley wanted a feminine, colorful, playful angle, and my whole ethos is pattern and color and really making a place feel alive. This was one of those lovely projects where my client had full trust in me.

Even when you made some bold choices, like eye-popping wallcoverings?
AR: You just have to go with it until all the elements of the room are in place and then it all works together.
SW: I often start with one key element, like a tile or wallpaper, and build the palette around that. For example, in the kitchen, a bold wallpaper drove colorful choices like the fish-scale backsplash tile in shades of aqua and the blue-gray walls.

The kitchen’s wallpaper has a classic look.
SW: At first glance, it seems traditional and very feminine with all the vines and flowers, but when you look closer, there’s an edgy vibe. In the vines, there are the faint outlines of skulls, and the background is black. Even in a bright, feminine space like this, I like sprinkling black throughout; it gives the home a bit of gravitas.

What other color theories are at play here?
SW: I have a pattern-design and fine-art background and have always gravitated toward high-contrast colorways and room compositions. I look at a room like a painting: If you’ve got a heavy point over here, you’re going to want to put a tad over there to balance it out. In this living room, we have a rich purple-and-pink vintage rug on the floor, so we pulled those colors into the cloud painting over the sofa, and into the artwork behind the wingback chair, to create a balance.

What’s your take on matching?
SW: I don’t want things to be matchy-matchy. Especially when everything in a house is new, if you let decor be eclectic, the furnishings will appear to have been collected over time, as opposed to being totally curated by a designer. Here, there’s so much pop and bold color that anything goes.

How did you balance that carefree vibe with the dignity of an old home?
SW: By keeping all the original trim, the woodwork going up around the stairs, and several brass light fixtures, which are very traditional. In the breakfast nook, a farmhouse-style dining table is paired with bentwood cane chairs—another nod to the vintage vibe.
AR: Stephanie does a good job of finding pieces that aren’t so modern that they look out of place in the old house, but that aren’t antiques either. My kids didn’t want the look to be “old and creepy.”

The den’s fiery red-orange sofa is far from that.
SW: Ashley fell in love with a limited-edition print of [Rolling Stones musician] Keith Richards exiting an airplane, so that informed the vibe of that room, which is more fun and playful with that super-bold sofa.

Other favorite design details?
SW: I love the pink vine-patterned wallpaper on the stair risers. It’s a fun touch that adds a little emphasis to a pass-through space.
AR: It’s something I would never have thought of—and that’s what I love: While each room has its focal point, the whole house is tied together by that attention to detail.

Ashley, when did you know this was home?
AR: The night we moved in, I got in the old clawfoot tub for a bath; I was feeling kind of weird because we weren’t quite settled. Then I looked down at the drain and saw the label: “Grand Rapids, Michigan”—my hometown. And I thought, “Oh my gosh, this house was meant to be.”

Design Pros

Interior Design: Stephanie Waddell, Istoria Interior Design
Renovation Construction: Seth Murphy, S.L. Murphy Construction

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