This New House


Crisp white woodwork stands out against warm, chocolate-brown walls. The homeowners added a fireplace to ground the new living room, which was created by combining two very small rooms. Notice the exaggerated scale of the houndstooth carpet—a change that makes this traditional pattern much more modern. An oversized mirror between the bookshelves gives the impression of a doorway and visually opens up the space.


In the master bedroom, bold painted stripes anchor the space and act as an oversized headboard. Dark wood moldings and furniture provide sharp contrast to the light walls and floor.

The quiet, tree-lined Chautauqua neighborhood in Boulder is full of 100-year-old houses that have been updated and modernized inside. Tami and Michael Wakeman’s home, however, has flipped that formula on its head. These recent transplants from California bought a rare newer home in Chautauqua a few years ago and promptly set about instilling it with a timeless sense of vintage charm.

“I love antiques and flea market finds, anything vintage or retro,” says Tami, a designer who owns Blanc Canvas Interiors. “My husband prefers clean lines, so we combined our styles for a modern, classic look.”

Although the house was only three years old when they bought it, the couple gutted it. “The house was very compartmentalized and chopped up,” Tami says. “It didn’t fit our lifestyle at all.” With help from architect Jack Rudd, they strategically moved or knocked down several walls to make the space feel more open and welcoming. Traditional architectural elements, such as wainscoting and crown molding, were reinterpreted with fresh, contemporary lines.

A juxtaposition of contrasting elements—dark and light colors, vintage and contemporary furnishings, traditional and modern styles—defines the interiors. On the main level, dark-stained walnut floors stand out against white wood moldings, coffered ceilings and built-in bookshelves. “The high contrast offers a nice sense of balance,” Tami says.

She shakes things up with bold, chocolate-brown walls that add a sense of warmth and drama. “The painters kept questioning my choice, but I assured them it would turn out fine,” she says. “I may love vintage, but I also like to be daring.”

Bright pops of color stand out against a neutral backdrop of cream upholstery and elegant dark wood furniture. “I keep the furniture clean-lined and neutral and add color with artwork and accessories,” Tami says. “That way I can re-invent a room with new pillows and vases.” Right now, green accessories brighten the cream-and-brown palette in the living room, but Tami says the room works just as well with orange or blue pillows. “Changing things around keeps a house fresh and new,” she adds.

Tami frequently rearranges furniture—a dining room chair in the bedroom, a dresser in the entry hall. She selected versatile furniture pieces from Barbara Barry’s classic collections, mixing them with family antiques for a sense of Art-Deco style. To add sparkle and polish, Tami introduces silver and glass accessories, chrome hardware and lots of mirrors.

Drawing on time-honored finishes and styles—marble countertops, beveled subway tile backsplashes and painted wood cabinets—Tami designed a kitchen that brings retro charm together with contemporary conveniences. She custom-designed the furniture-like cabinetry and paired it with honed black granite countertops that resemble old-fashioned soapstone. The walnut island features a stunning Carrera marble counter. Stainless steel appliances and accents, such as a sleek range hood, add a modern twist.

Upstairs, Tami did a turn-about, keeping the walls and floors light and contrasting them with dark-stained walnut moldings. The master bedroom and bath were painted Michael’s preferred shades of blue: Tami paired the serene colors with rich chocolate brown, drawing from the downstairs palette for a sense of cohesiveness. Indulging her passion for bold expression, she painted the wall behind the bed in two-foot-wide stripes of chocolate brown and blue. “Paint is an easy and inexpensive way to make a room feel unique,” Tami says. “This little twist makes the room more playful and unexpected.” 

Also unexpected is the pairing of a glitzy Venetian mirror chandelier with an ultra-contemporary ceiling fan. “The light is so grand and the fan is so clean, it almost disappears,” she says. “This kind of juxtaposition is what this house is all about.”

Although Tami and Michael may be the new kids on the block, their house doesn’t feel new or out of character with the neighborhood. “In fact,” says Tami, “people come in and tell us we did a great job updating our old house.”

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