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The dining room dishes up plenty of conversation pieces: a light fixture made from a vintage washing-machine drum, a totem homeowner Gretchen Bruno purchased while traveling in Alaska, and vintage Ralph Lauren chairs (scored from local treasure trove Watson & Co.). Photo by Emily Minton RedField, styling by Elaine St. Louis

Crafting A Sanctuary in Cory-Merrill

A multiyear collaboration between a homeowner and designer Jodi Cook produces a Cory-Merrill home that celebrates tailored style and meaningful decor.

Gretchen Bruno stood in the middle of her new-to-her Cory-Merrill home and tried to figure out why it felt wrong. “It was 2014, and I had totally fallen in love with the house when I toured it. It had a great flow and pretty light,” she says. “Then we moved in, and it just wasn’t me.” A longtime design enthusiast, Bruno had relished decorating her previous home—a City Park condo—but she couldn’t figure out what to do with this house’s builder-grade finishes and cherry-wood kitchen cabinets.

Luckily, designer Jodi Cook had some ideas. Bruno enlisted Cook’s help to paint the kitchen cabinets (Dorian Gray by Sherwin-Williams), replace the unpleasant sage-green backsplash (Cook chose a textured glazed tile from Waterworks), pick a few living room furnishings, and layer on some window treatments. Mission accomplished.

Well, not quite.

Soon after the initial renovation, Bruno and her partner learned they were expecting a baby, so Bruno called on Cook to help design the nursery. A few more years passed, and the couple enlisted Cook to overhaul the basement, which now includes a bar and media area, guest suite, exercise room, and office. “Then we did a furniture ‘refresh’ upstairs,” Cook says. “Oh, and we built out the banquette in the breakfast area.” By that time, the baby in the nursery needed a big-boy room. “It’s fair to say that I’m always dreaming of what I can do [to my home] next,” Bruno laughs.

Although the women’s collaboration has spanned years, Bruno’s inspiration and motivation haven’t changed. “To me, a home should be a sanctuary,” she says. “I like to walk in and feel a certain way.” She describes her style as “a little bit modern-farmhouse, but also boho-chic,” and Cook adds that when she first met her client, “Gretchen’s Pinterest board was five miles deep.” Cook whittled down all those options using a design strategy she recommends to everyone: Choose anchor furnishings and more permanent decor, such as custom window treatments, in neutral hues and then add color and texture through rugs, pillows, art, and smaller decor items. Here, such elements show off earthy, inviting tones, including eggplant, saffron, and olive green.

The design also showcases one-of-a-kind decor and art that Bruno has collected during her travels around the world. The dining room’s totem pole came from a trip to Alaska, where Bruno fell in love with its carved representation of human relationships: “It tells the story of marriage and strife and families and coming together and harmony,” she says. (No word on what it takes to ship a totem pole from Alaska to Denver.) Nearby, there’s a painting Bruno bought in Nepal that also has a profound message. “The piece was created over 14 months with a single yak hair—just one!” she says. “The subject is the process of life: birth, transformation, destruction, new life.”

Cook helped create high-impact design moments throughout the house by displaying accessories in thematic groupings. “You often get a greater effect from putting similar items together in one place,” the designer says. For example, she gathered the Peruvian woven baskets that Bruno had scattered throughout the home and hung them together on a dining room wall. “This strategy works for all kinds of things,” Cook says. “Vintage books are beautiful when they’re displayed together. Feathers in a vase make a great texture story. We even put a collection of Gretchen’s chunky throws on a vintage ladder in the living room, rather than spreading them out on the furnishings. These styling moments have a big impact on the overall feel of a space.”

They also contribute to the home’s personal, organic-modern aesthetic, a look Bruno hoped to achieve all those years ago. “I believe your home should be a reflection of you and your values, and what you aspire to,” she says. “Investing in your home—even if you have to do it over the course of, you know, seven years or more—is worth it.”

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