House + Home Q+A

Calmness and intimacy are the hallmarks of designer Audrey Hollander’s interiors

Updated: 2013-10-05T13:31:52Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

Interior designer Audrey Hollander has renovated 18 homes since she moved to Kansas City from New Jersey in 1969. In addition to transforming residences in Romanelli Gardens, Leawood and Mission Hills, Hollander entirely redesigned the unit she shares with partner Sherry Rush in the Atriums, a condominium complex near the Country Club Plaza that was designed in the 1970s by renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

The space radiates the “calmness, welcoming and intimacy” that Hollander lists as her design goals. Her firm’s name is Home Image, 816-561-1876.

How did you get into interior design?

Early on, I was showing an investment property on Arno Road and a friend said, “You’re creative.” I had never used that word for myself, but I did do lots of education, taking classes in color, art and design in New Jersey, and later at UMKC and Johnson County Community College.

But really, it’s my intuition that governs what I do. For me, there are no rules, there are opinions. I think my greatest skill is I really listen to my clients. Listening is the most important thing. But I always advise people: Don’t keep what you don’t love. You want to create calmness.

Tell me about what you did in this place.

I moved here from a house in Westwood six years ago. It took nine months to redesign our unit. I changed every surface, except for the red tile in the dining room. I turned the atrium into a dining room.

Safdie’s design was an open concept. I added sliding glass doors to create an office for Sherry at the far end. I put in a Murphy bed for when the grandchildren come to stay.

I’m into function and being practical, but I like a welcome feeling. We love to have casual evenings with people for a meal.

I installed rail/wire lighting by Tech. You don’t get that heavy-focus shine, and the individual elements can be moved. It has a dimmer, one of the things that is important to me. I also installed motorized shades in a linen-like fabric in the slanted atrium ceiling. It’s charming at night. You can open the shades and see the stars.

And the furnishings?

I designed the dining table with an ebony coffee finish. I also designed the benches around it and upholstered them in moss green cut velvet.

I do a lot of custom. Custom doesn’t always mean more expensive. It means it fits you. And I’m very much into repurposing, cutting things down. I did that with the rug in here, which has a subtle geometric pattern of purple, red and gold. It was an expensive commercial rug and it’s 20 years old.

You have a very distinctive color sense.

With clients I ask, “Are we working around art or furniture?”

In my living room, I knew I’d be using this red sectional couch that I designed for my previous house. The chair was my grandmother’s. I tend to stay away from trends, but I upholstered it in huge polka dots, which are popular right now. I love red.

It was hard to find carpet and wall color. I settled on a shade I call “pastel mustard,” and painted the walls and the woodwork the same color. I like monochrome, I like peace.

I designed the drapes in white suedecloth with huge grommets. I also used them in the dining room, where the walls are painted in a green suede gray.

In the kitchen we keyed off the 20-year-old almond-green refrigerator. It’s the only thing we kept other than the layout. We painted the cupboards and put in pullouts all over. There was a narrow oven, so we put drawers in that space and added a Jenn-Air in a different spot.

We turned one tall cupboard into a pull-out pantry and created an “appliance garage” on the counter. The backsplash is glass brick. Again, it’s mostly monochrome. That hutch in the corner was oak that we repainted to match the cupboards. The floors are whitewashed oak, and we used a moss-colored, high-grade laminate with a beveled edge on the counters.

The contemporary grass green chairs are daring.

They’re from Contract Furnishings. I also work a lot with Museo, when clients can afford it. They carry so many things, and they’re so helpful. I designed the table with a black top and metal legs. That’s an Allan Winkler piece on the wall.

You have a lot of artwork — glass, sculpture, ceramics.

I’ve always been a pottery collector. One of the finer pieces is that ewer with cups. It was made by Bonnie Seeman, an artist from Florida. You can see from the design that she was into water and coral.

The bedroom is huge.

It’s a 28-foot room. I put in a 51/2-foot-tall closet as a room divider for another office, and the furniture is my mother’s Italian provincial, which I repainted. That’s opaque film on the bottom of the window — I love frosted glass. I like light.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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