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Sarah Kaye was in search of new beginnings when she moved from Manhattan to Denver in late 2011. Although she’d grown up in Denver, the sales and marketing professional had been drawn to New York for the work and life experience—but she couldn’t shake her Colorado roots, so she planned a homecoming.
Naturally, this required a home. Having left most of her furniture on the East Coast, she needed a place where she could start from scratch to build a signature style. “I wanted to be near downtown, but not do city living,” Kaye says. “And I wanted to have a neighborhood feel, but not live in suburbia. I wanted character.”
The solution: a three-story LoHi townhouse on a trendy stretch near Linger, Lola, and Little Man Ice Cream. “I walked in and fell in love,” Kaye says. The two-bedroom, 2.5-bath space—with just over 1,700 square feet—was a blank slate.
Enter Littleton-based design duo Mary Knape and Kelly Zibell of Knape & Zibell Interior Design. Together, the three created a look that’s feminine but not too girly, and glamorous but not over-the-top. “Sarah had kind of a New York sensibility about her,” Zibell says. “We knew she was into black and white, but she loves the color and preppiness of Kate Spade.”
Knape and Zibell recommend starting with a beloved fabric or wall covering and building each room around it. Purple was an easy choice for the living space, and Kaye couldn’t resist a funky lavender zebra-striped ottoman. Add the clean shape of the Bernhardt charcoal sofa and ornately carved French lounge chairs, and the room is an unexpected blend of styles.
The overall effect: flawlessly chic. “Everything doesn’t have to match,” Kaye says. “We didn’t buy the stuff together; you can get a few key pieces to build the room around.”
Even the dining room chairs, bought at a sample sale, don’t “go” with the Maria Yee dining room table. And that’s intentional: The wooden chairs were originally brown, but the team lacquered them white for contrast. Purple accents, such as the Cisco Brothers glass light fixture over the table, pull the space together for a savvy, sophisticated feel. “If I’m cooking or having friends over, this is a wonderful setup to hang out and entertain,” Kaye says.
The master bedroom was built around the bold, black carpet. Crisp, hotel-inspired bedding gives Kaye her favored white-and-black color scheme, while the fabric headboard adds an element of interest as the visual centerpiece. The ottoman and European shams bring a sunny splash of color and a simple stripe to complement the intricate headboard. “As a general rule,” says Zibell, “you can pair a stripe pretty easily with a floral or print.”
Contrasting patterns also work in harmony in the third-floor media room, which was designed around the area rug—one of the only pieces Kaye brought with her. A blue sectional sofa by Nathan Anthony Furniture grounds the room, and solid pink throw pillows match the furniture on the adjoining balcony, pulling the outdoors in and bringing a sense of cohesiveness to the entire top-floor space.
The designers credit the success of the daring style combos to Kaye’s sense of self and her openness to outside-the-box ideas. “One very fortunate aspect of this whole project was our relationship with Sarah,” Knape says. “It was very collaborative. When you have that synergy with someone, it ultimately turns out better.”
Kaye couldn’t be happier with the place she can call her own. “They did an excellent job of capturing who I am and the space I want to live in,” Kaye says. “My friends, and anyone who sees it, always tell me, ‘This place is so you.’ That’s the biggest compliment they could give me.”
Pull It Together: Look for ways to tie in industrial finishes, like the stainless steel appliances and backsplash in the kitchen. The designers incorporated silver and charcoal elements in the rest of the space to unify the open floor plan.
Less Is More: Don’t over-motif your space. “People tend to want to ‘theme’ a room, and it becomes way too kitschy,” Knape says. “Like picking out four animal prints and calling it the ‘Safari Room.’ People love to do multiple animal prints. Our rule is only one to a space.”
Mix It Up: Contrasting patterns, such as stripes, chinoiserie, and damask, can coexist in the same room for a put-together look if executed correctly. “Go for a varying scale so the prints work together,” says Zibell. “Or if there’s a common color thread between the fabrics, that allows you to combine them.”
Be Innovative: Pebble flooring covers the entire bathroom floor—an easy way to create a soothing, spa-like atmosphere.
Get Friendly: Add personal touches that work within your scheme—like the classic black-and-white photos of Kaye’s family and pooch, Boone—to soften a room and add subtle charm.
Make A Statement: Don’t be afraid to go all out with a bold hue—in the appropriate space. The hot pink cushions on Kaye’s patio furniture (from Cost Plus World Market) could have overwhelmed an inside room, yet the color balances and energizes the otherwise neutral balcony in the open air. “This is my place,” Kaye says, “and I can have pink furniture if I want to.”
—Photography by Kimberly Gavin