Laurie and Bobby Smith—both city people who grew up in old houses—found the perfect setting for their eclectic furnishings in a 1918 Prairie-style Denver home. But there was one catch. “The house was light and roomy and well-designed, except for the kitchen. It didn’t have good flow or workspace,” says Laurie Smith, who wanted the kitchen to be a family gathering place.
So they planned a major kitchen renovation, never realizing that the room would not only complete the home, but also prove essential to Laurie Smith’s career as a food photographer. “The new kitchen is a magical space,” she says. “The light is so beautiful and there are gorgeous surfaces like marble and soapstone and wood. It works much better for photography than my former studio.”
The primary intent, however, was not to create a place where she would photograph sumptuous dishes for magazines and cookbooks, but to design a more useful and spacious kitchen. The couple hired kitchen designer Mindy Sunday, who carved out more space by removing a wall to the back porch and opening the kitchen to the dining room. “I take what exists and make it bigger, without going up or out,” Sunday says. “It’s really all about space planning, optical illusions, color and light.”
It was important to the designer and her clients to honor the architecture of the house and create a classic look that makes people wonder, “Is it old or new?” The custom Shaker cabinets match the heft of the original window moldings, while inset doors and bin-pulls add to the traditional look. A white lacquer finish pairs elegantly with dark soapstone countertops. The stained sycamore island is topped with timeless Carrera marble.
Among these soothing neutral finishes are hints of the homeowners' colorful personalities. A one-of-a-kind chandelier is a cornucopia of favorite things—bits of rock and shells, crystal and coral. The table is made of a rustic piece of cottonwood that came from an old Mexican wagon; Bobby Smith designed sleek tapered legs for the table to reflect his love of contemporary lines. Colorful artwork expresses Laurie Smith's exuberant sense of style.
The entire house represents the deep roots these Texan transplants brought with them when they moved to Denver—an intriguing mix of antiques and colorful, ethnic textiles and rustic furnishings. “Everything we have means something to us,” Laurie Smith says. “We've either traveled far and beyond to find it, or it's a beloved antique handed down from our families.”
Take their daughter's bed, for example, which was brought by covered wagon to Texas for a great-great grandmother. Or a suite of French antiques discovered in New Orleans. Laurie Smith tells the story of her grandparents stopping in Louisiana years ago on the way to a family vacation in Florida: “My grandmother fell in love with some antique Napoleonic furniture and a huge gold leaf mirror,” she says. “They couldn't afford the furniture and the vacation, so my grandfather called a meeting with the kids, and they voted to scrap the vacation and buy the furniture for my grandmother.”
Today those French antiques are refurbished, reupholstered and happily juxtaposed with rough Mexican mesquite wood, rusted metal objects and colorful textile collections. “An interior designer once told me to get rid of my old Mexican things,” Laurie Smith says. “I couldn't do it. We're from
El Paso and have traveled all over Mexico. These are our memories.”
The homeowner skillfully combines her disparate furnishings, punching up a curvy French sofa with cowhide pillows, adding colorful ethnic textiles to a formal four-poster bed. “I guess I'm sentimental,” she says, “but it works for us.”
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