Designer helps couple transform blank white slate into comfy, classy room

  • By Sarah Jackson / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, April 4, 2007 9:00pm
  • Life

W hen John and Christy Kunin moved from Washington, D.C., to the Woodinville area in 2005, they had a big house to decorate.

Their home checked in at more than 5,000 square feet if you count the unfinished basement.

But of all the rooms, they wanted their kitchen and the adjacent family room in particular to be beautiful and livable.

That’s where they knew they would spend all their time.

Fortunately, their kitchen was already outfitted with gorgeous cherry cabinets, wood floors and black granite counters.

Their family room, however, was an intimidating blank white slate.

“There was absolutely nothing in this room,” Christy Kunin said. “We bought this couch, and I got stuck.”

It was a large, leather sectional, deep reddish brown, perfect for lounging with sons, Jake, 10, and Christopher, 8. The fireplace, flanked by white columns and dramatic trim, provided an instant focal point.

But what next?

Compared with their elegant kitchen, the room looked lame and lopsided.

Function was at stake too. They needed storage for incidentals, including their many daily newspaper subscriptions and their stereo equipment and large CD collection.

That’s when the Kunins hired Lisa Purdy, an interior designer and the owner and founder of Rosa Mundi’s Antiques &Interiors in Edmonds and Woodinville.

“We had never sat down and tried to do a coordinated room before,” Christy Kunin said.

Purdy, whose Woodinville shop and design center is just blocks from the Kunins’ home, started by asking the couple to consider a variety of fabrics and color palettes.

“We spent a lot of time working on colors, which was kind of fun,” John Kunin said. “It turned out we like a lot of the same things.”

Then they went rug shopping with Purdy, who had them bring three large ones home just to see each of them in the space.

Right away, they knew the quasi-contemporary rug with a floral design was perfect. Its strong black accents echoed the black granite in the kitchen and fireplace surround and really tied the two rooms together.

Next, Purdy helped the couple find a cabinetmaker who could create built-in shelves and cabinets on both sides of the fireplace to perfectly echo the color and style of those in the kitchen.

Christy Kunin, familiar with Western Washington’s distinctively gray winters, worried dark wood would make the room dreary. She was thinking white.

But, “Lisa always said, ‘You want a room that’s cozy,’” John Kunin said. “It’s cheering.”

With the cabinets, they scored CD and electronics storage on the right side, and on the left side, a place for their art, mixed in with family photos, books and other carefully selected mementos.

“Lisa helped us figure out what this should look like,” Christy Kunin said of the cabinet configurations and color. “It makes all the difference. I love them.”

Now there is a sense of balance with floor-to-ceiling cabinets on both sides of the space.

“It’s more of a great room now, instead of a living room and a kitchen,” Purdy said.

With the rug as an inspiration piece and the cabinets in place, it was time to accessorize.

Purdy helped the couple shop for furniture at the Seattle Design Center.

“We got some great values,” John Kunin said, adding that they found the perfect piece to store their newspapers, wine and other incidentals – an elegant armoire placed between the family room and the dining room.

Topped with a stunning three-panel glass sculpture right at eye level, it’s the first thing guests see when they enter.

“It makes you want to come in,” Purdy said of the armoire, which has double doors with curvy latticework laid over a custom-selected beige fabric.

Purdy helped the Kunins stretch out of their design comfort zone by guiding them toward key accent colors and styles.

Two whimsical armchairs perched next to the family room’s large picture window have raised floral patterns in a rich, blood-orange hue.

“We brought a little red in to balance it so everything wouldn’t be brandy-colored or brown,” Purdy said, adding that the chair style is perfect for the Kunins’ contemporary tastes.

Purdy also helped bring in a touch of sage green with two tall table lamps that fit the room’s tone and scale.

With the major pieces of furniture in place, the Kunins, who let their project evolve over a year, still needed window treatments and pillows.

John Kunin did not want the room’s windows, which look out into a grove of evergreens, to be obscured by heavy draperies. He also wanted to keep the blinds for privacy and protection from the late-day sun.

Purdy consequently designed custom-made faux Roman shades that don’t pull down but instead work more like valances, hiding the blinds when they’re up and framing them when they’re down.

She used the same fabric and technique for the dining nook windows off the kitchen.

Christy Kunin said she had fun choosing fabrics for the project, especially when it came to the custom-made, machine-washable pillows used to soften the look of their large sectional.

She ultimately settled on soft patterns with leaves, elephants and, on one accent pillow, a pineapple, repeated in a Roman shade over the kitchen sink.

The Kunins could have done their project more quickly, but with their busy schedules, they decided to take it slowly. He works in the pharmaceutical industry and she works for Microsoft.

“It was kind of fun doing it in stages. You’re not overloading,” John Kunin said. “Take your time.”

Christy Kunin loved having the oversight of a design professional.

“This was the first time we worked with a designer, and it could not have worked out better,” she said. “It was really nice to have someone with a sense of how it should be. We were exposed to colors and fabrics we never would have seen.”

The Kunins are thrilled with their final design. They said they love using it every day and get compliments from guests all the time.

“This is where we live,” Christy Kunin said. “We use these two rooms more than anything.”

Reporter Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037 or

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