Photo: Eric Piasecki
Libraries drenched in aqua and dining rooms lacquered intense lime green are hard to pull off. But when a Fayetteville, Arkansas, couple asked decorator Katie Ridder to create the interior for their new home, they approached the project confidently. For years, the wife had been admiring Katie's stylish rooms in various design magazines. She knew that along with a palette of uninhibited contemporary colors, plenty of exotic embellishments, and a playful mix of antiques and new pieces, she would get that even rarer thing—a proper, old-fashioned family home. She wanted one where the dining and living rooms, not the kitchen, serve as the house's heart and where she could indulge her very Southern passion: entertaining family and friends.
On Katie's recommendation, the couple hired architect Anik Pearson to design the house itself. Anik modeled it on old Arts and Crafts mansions she had seen in the English countryside. Inside, she eschewed such popular conventions as a double-height entry and monumental staircase in favor of a quieter richness that's based on solid craftsmanship. "We looked to the old techniques of building," says Anik. "Walls are 16 inches thick, and the roof is slate. We asked the stucco installers not to use synthetic stucco and showed them how to mix lime plaster. They hadn't done it that way in decades."
This insistence on old methods of craftsmanship dovetails perfectly with the way Katie works. She is known for her attention to craft and her delight in it. She collaborates extensively with master artisans who create wonderful fringes, unusual lanterns and lamp-shades, leather and shagreen furniture, and complex upholsteries that mix different fabrics and trims in marvelous patterns and color combinations. "I sew myself, so I love all those details," Katie says. "The trims, the welts, the contrasts—I really have a lot of fun with those."
In the living room, where a large window looks out on a garden, she covered the walls in a custom-colored floral wallpaper scene and then pulled from it the enchanting palette of the room: creams, corals, blues, spicy reds, lavenders, greens, and yellows. Her idiosyncratic way of blocking and layering color across a large space is masterful. In this case, it's like being inside a Matisse painting. She mixes cool, summery colors with warm, rich ones, and somehow it works.
Other rooms led to even more color adventures. When Katie discovered that the homeowner collects glassware in shades of lavender, she decided to paint the dining room walls in glossy, hot lime green to set off the collection. With aubergine trim and a vintage mirrored pendant light that looks like a disco ball, it all makes a stunning backdrop for art and furniture, not to mention festive dinner parties. "All the paint colors I choose, you may think they're bright, but they're easy to live with because they have a lot of black or gray in them," she explains.
When asked what her favorite place in the house is, Katie might have said the sunroom with its cool Moroccan tile floor awash in tribal pattern, but she couldn't pick just one area. "In some projects, you have favorite rooms, but in this house, they're all beautiful and well thought out," Katie says. "The homeowner read plans like a professional. She took the time to analyze every tile and door opening, and she got this house exactly the way she wanted it."