Designer Michele Dunker and client Marilyn Kalbach update a Salt Lake City home, infusing it with classic, chic and delightfully posh style.
When Marilyn Kalbach first visited her future home located on a tree-shaded street in Salt Lake’s Federal Heights neighborhood, she was charmed by its tailored gardens, high ceilings and brilliant interior light. The traditional décor, dark colors and crowded furnishings, however, caused her pause. “I could see there were things I really loved and others I wasn’t really sure,” she recalls about the 1980s home. So she turned to interior designer Michele Dunker for a second opinion. The two had collaborated on three of Kalbach’s previous homes and had developed a friendship that extends beyond the projects. “Michele really understands me and I understand her,” Kalbach explains. “When you’re in sync with your designer, it really helps.” Dunker immediately recognized the property’s underlying beauty. “Once we discussed Michele’s vision, I could see it would be a great home for me,” Kalbach says.
“We were most drawn to the home’s classic elements,” Dunker recalls. The exterior, she explains, is European-inspired—simple with interesting windows. Lush gardens envelop the cream-colored house with wisteria-covered trellises, manicured hedges, shaped topiaries and mature shade trees. “It takes a long time for gardens to reach this stage—they’re an art form,” she says. Planters of boxwood orbs add to the landscape’s timeless style and frame an impressive front door. “The door is amazing, tall and grand,” says Dunker. “In Europe, doors and ceilings are massive, and this home’s original owner understood that.” Compelling scale and timeless style continue inside.
“We decided to take the home from massively traditional to traditional-contemporary,” says Dunker. She added molding and shadow-box details to enhance the existing molding and replaced the dark, red-and-hunter-green color palette with one of warm whites layered with ivories and taupes. “I prefer a calming neutral environment,” Kalbach explains. Dunker choreographed a mix of old and new, clean-lined and ornate elements that dance throughout, adding sophistication and endless surprises. In the foyer, for example, she dressed the barrel ceiling with grasscloth lattice wallpaper from which a single Thomas Pheasant pendant light hangs above a custom cowhide-topped table accented with gold studs.
The foyer affords direct views into a beguiling living room. There, and throughout the home, expansive windows and French doors allow dazzling natural light to flood the interior. The soaring ceiling, more than 12-feet high, draws the eye upward with molding masterfully formed in a classic bordered-ring pattern. A Parisian pendant by Boyd Lighting hangs above the serene room where plush seating fills the space with elegance and ease. A palette of luxurious fabrics unifies the furnishings, and Dunker and Kalbach spent hours making the selections. “I love looking at fabrics. We would go through baskets of them, and I’d practically drool over the wools, tweeds and angoras,” Kalbach recalls.
The entry also opens into the chic dining room. Dunker wrapped it in a Phillip Jeffries wool-herringbone wall covering that contrasts with dark, heavily carved wall panels original to the home. A Thomas Pheasant chandelier hangs above a cream-colored Bernhardt table paired with a luxe, high-back settee. Two custom chests frame a garden-view window dressed in tailored Holly Hunt draperies and Conrad shades. “This is my favorite room, it’s so tranquil and inviting,” Kalbach says.
As it turns out, every space—inside and out—delights Kalbach. The calming master bedroom offers a cherished place to lounge and read in front of the fireplace. The light-filled gallery provides abundant wall space to display art and, at its end, a library table surrounded by whimsical benches, stacks of books, curiosities and a custom daybed anchors a sun-warmed spot where Kalbach retreats in front of windows overlooking the gardens. During the summer months, these gardens—and their trellis-covered patio—become an outdoor living room where she spends time relaxing and entertaining. Indoors and out, Kalbach enjoys every space she and Dunker have created. “This home has the right owner,” Dunker explains. “It deserved somebody like Marilyn to make it so special.”
See more inside the Spring 2017 issue.
by Brad Mee Photos by Scot Zimmerman