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A Transformation Tale

Warm and welcoming, a reinvented Denver home celebrates tradition with fine architectural detailing, classic furnishings, and fresh expressions of the holiday season



Don Riley

It was a dark and dreary house…
So begins the tale of a four-bedroom, 1970s home cursed with an aesthetic typical of the era: a confined layout, wall-to-wall carpeting, and an abundance of brown-stained paneling and woodwork. But it occupied an excellent location on a large lot, so a California couple considering its purchase brought Denver designer Ingrid Fretheim over to tour the dated property.

Fretheim—with a reputation as something of a design fairy godmother—immediately saw the potential that the home’s passé style had masked. As the group walked through the space, she pointed out assets: high ceilings, hardwood floors and handcrafted details like crown moldings, milled woodwork and built-in bookshelves. “My clients got excited about buying the house after we talked about the different ways we could modernize and freshen it,” she says.

Fretheim rethought the main level’s floorplan, and then brought in the team at Hardin Builders to remove a kitchen wall to create an open space for dining and entertaining. The salvageable hardwood floors were refinished, new floors were laid, and the interior walls were painted with a palette of soft neutrals offset with crisp white trim. The fireplace insert was raised off the floor to create a more inviting hearth, and the dark mantel, woodwork, and bookshelves were all brightened with glossy white enamel.

Using colors and fabrics to create warmth in the living areas, Fretheim deftly blended new furnishings and accessories with some of the homeowners’ existing furniture and artwork. “My clients were still in California, so we forged a long-distance design relationship,” she says. “I sent them fabric swatches and drawings, and they sent me photos and measurements of their things. We made decisions very efficiently.”

In the library, Fretheim laid out the couple’s extensive collection of books and blue-and-white porcelain on the floor and carefully arranged and rearranged the items in the bookshelves. “It took a long time to achieve the right symmetry and balance of the objects,” she says. “It was like figuring out a puzzle.”

Terri Rose of Exquisite Kitchen Design created the home’s sunny kitchen. “We conceived a traditional, functional space for cooking and eating with clean, classic lines,” she says. “The kitchen comprises two zones—a food preparation and cooking area to the left, and a generous storage area to the right. The sink is located in between the zones for convenient clean up.” A separate prep sink is mounted in an oversized island that Rose clad in maple to contrast with the lighter painted cabinets. The husband—who does most of the cooking—requested professional appliances, and Rose had new Tidal White granite countertops fabricated with a buffed, “leathered” finish. “I like this treatment because it adds texture and really shows off the colors and components of the stone,” she says.

The home shines brightly during the holidays, when the owners embellish the rooms with elegant decorations they’ve collected over many years: glittery miniature pasteboard houses, delicate porcelain candelabras, and silvery hand-blown glass Christmas ornaments.

Fretheim says the couple especially enjoys entertaining and welcoming guests. “The house used to be drab and brown, but now when people walk in the door they don’t want to leave,” she says. The dramatic transformation by the visionary designer—who may or may not carry a magic wand—is a happy ending, indeed, for the once-dreary home.

Design Details
Interior Designer
Ingrid Fretheim, Ingrid Fretheim Interiors, (303) 399-8417

Kitchen Designer
Terry Rose, Exquisite Kitchen Design, ekd.com

Contractor, Hardin Builders, hardinbuilders.net

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