For Her Own Family Home, This Atlanta Designer Discovered Her Inner Earthy Maximalist
Where floor-to-ceiling stripes and Surrealist wallpapers rule.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:08 AM
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“I’m a kid in so many ways—I love building Paris out of Legos,” designer Kate Hayes says of the figurines and blocks that dapple the shelf above her family’s piano, many of which are pandemic projects she completed with her two boys. “I don’t think what represents good design has to be superstrict or formulaic.”
That experimental spirit can be found in the newly launched plaster furniture brand Brite Bodies, which she cofounded with fellow interior designer Krista Sharif this summer. And it’s a fitting ethos for a pro who corners her whole approach on the fusion of color, pattern, and personality. All of that (and more) are expressed in the 1910 American foursquare Kate shares with her husband, Jack, and sons Coley (6) and Max (3) in the Lake Claire neighborhood of Atlanta. There she melds design mainstays like Cole & Son wallpaper and Kelly Wearstler furniture with funky accents (think: oversize 3-D paper insects, anime posters, and robots) meant to charm her little dudes (and Jack, an animator whom she calls a “big kid at heart”).
“I wanted to pay respect to the historic features of the home,” Kate says of designing the three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath property, where they’ve lived for almost five years. “But I also like the idea that you can just add these modern, weird elements and have [things] almost pop out more because of that contrast. We’re a family that really values fun, and I wanted that to shine through.”
Designing with livability and kids in mind became second nature to Kate. While she admittedly entered into the process unsure of which direction she’d take the house, she found her groove after coating the entryway in Farrow & Ball’s moody Studio Green, a chameleon shade that flexes seamlessly between heirloom-inspired hunter green and smoky charcoal. “I was pretty much my own worst nightmare as a client,” she says, laughing. “Usually we have these really buttoned-up master plans, but when it came to my house, I was just like, ‘Let’s get in there and see what happens.’ As I developed each decision, I realized I’m actually more of a maximalist in my personal life—it’s an earthy maximalism for sure, but I definitely like drama more than I thought I did.”
By leaning into that theatrical DNA, Kate set out to make each room into its own adventure, meant to tempt the family’s curiosity at every turn—from the monochromatic jewel box of an office (that doubled as a kindergarten “Zoom room” for virtual learning) to the pop of an electric fuchsia table in the otherwise serene main bathroom. “As a parent, the whole idea of revisiting your youth is so much fun,” she explains. “You’re reading books you haven’t opened in 30 years, you’re playing games—I do think that the vivacity of childhood comes back to you, and it sort of trickled into the design without [my] even thinking too much about it.”
If the moody entryway sets the tone for drama, the dining room brings the funk, with painted ticking stripes that cover the room with mind-bending graphic appeal. A sweeping pendant light from Petite Friture (aptly named Vertigo) continues the linear effect, while a custom onyx dining table is home base for family dinners, Lego build-outs, and exuberant game nights.
The black and white theme carries into the kitchen, a product of a ’90s makeover by the previous owner that Kate loved. She changed little about the space, save for installing Cole & Son’s dreamy Nuvolette wallpaper on the ceiling (a pattern Jack jokingly refers to as their “pandemic paper,” given the excess black clouds lingering overhead), switching out knobs, and adding quirky anime art. “I realized that one of the common themes throughout the papers I chose for the home is some sort of Surrealism,” explains Kate, who also covered the hallway and stairwell in Cole & Son’s Ex Libris. “I like styles that feel kind of trippy but really pretty, too.”
An heirloom piano (host to many virtual lessons during the pandemic), set into a fire-engine red recess (Sherwin-Williams’s Real Red), marks a transition into the living room, where an Interior Define sofa gets the jumping seal of approval from the Hayes boys. Nearby, a dyed yellow plaster side table gave Kate an opportunity to incorporate a piece from Brite Bodies that just so happens to be in the shape of a rocket ship. There’s no need for parents to “wait it out until the kids are older to design a home they love,” she says. “I believe you can definitely live beautifully with children—it’s all about finding that balance.”
The pendulum swings in the boys’ favor when it comes to their bedroom, an adventurous enclave Kate designed with family trips to Montana in mind. A sunny yellow (Cheerful by Benjamin Moore) coats the ceiling and top part of the walls, while a classic Pendleton quilt and buffalo check rug pack on the Americana vibe.
Creating a room that both kids and adults can be happy with came down to some strategic decision-making for Kate, who allowed Coley and Max to choose the paint colors (from a batch of preapproved Mom favorites), decorate with their toys, decide where to hang art, and weigh in on whether the bug scaling the fireplace was “too creepy” (a resounding no). “I never want to feel like I’m the only one steering the ship,” Kate says of her decision to involve her little ones in the process. “It’s their home, too, and it should be reflective of their desires as well.”
The paint hue in Jack and Kate’s bedroom (Setting Plaster by Farrow & Ball) took a bit more convincing, however, with Kate attempting to get her husband’s buy-in by likening the shade to a relaxing womb. “It was a tough sell,” she says, laughing. Still, he eventually came on board, thanks in part to the masculine edge she added to the room in the form of a sprawling four-poster Restoration Hardware bed she had upholstered in Kelly Wearstler’s graphic Groundworks District fabric.
“I’m still completely in love with it,” says Kate, referring to the textile, the room, and, really, her whole home. “I always aim to create a space for clients where they feel both inspired and comfortable. I think we’ve actually accomplished that here—I hope we never leave.”
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