Written by Erin Moore | Photos by Scot Zimmerman
Stepping into the home of an interior designer is always intriguing: When the designer becomes the client, what masterpiece will result? For nationally recognized designer Don Brady, decorating his family’s Salt Lake City home meant fearlessly combining the old with the new, the luxurious with the prosaic, and most importantly, creating a stylish haven for himself and his family.
For years, lavish silks, heavy antiques, and deep colors filled the Brady home. Don and his wife, Sinikka, sensed they needed a change, but hadn’t yet hit the right solution. Then Sinikka spotted a white Christmas tree—modern and minimalist—on display at a local store. Its feathery branches made Sinikka’s heart light and piqued Don’s aesthetic curiosity: They had to have it. With one purchase, the Bradys committed to a design overhaul, not just for the holidays, but also for year-round enjoyment.
Inspired by the new tree, Don began transforming the home: He rolled soft gray paint onto the once-red walls, traded heavy taupe drapes for light Roman shades, and replaced the home’s traditional wood floors with wide planks of bleached pine. Bit by bit, the white-on-white project snowballed.
Once Don had established a theme, his creativity flourished, turning ordinary materials into extraordinary treatments. He transformed white fleece blankets into downy pillowcases. Heavy duty dropcloths, purchased from a home improvement store, became slipcovers for the Bradys’ red leather dining room chairs (salvaged from Salt Lake’s Alta Club before its renovation). Why this unconventional material? “I just like its texture and soft color,” says Don. “And it’s inexpensive—you save where you can, and then you can put value where it’s necessary.” His textiles run the gamut, from the crisp white sailcloth concealing a chartreuse couch to the fine linen that drapes over a high-backed chair.
Of course, the Bradys had obstacles to overcome. After collecting antiques for years, their home is full of historic furniture. “You develop collections over time, and you can’t just throw everything out and start over again,” says Don. Instead, he worked around the old pieces: an antique mirror’s frame went from chartreuse to soft gray, and he painted a dark china cabinet dove white.
And of course, there can be such a thing as too much white. “I think you need a have a touch of dark chocolate in everything,” says Don. To provide a deep-hued anchor to the room’s airiness, he positioned dark elements—from espresso leather chairs to a caramel-toned armoire—throughout the home.
And when he found a massive roll of robin’s egg blue wrapping paper, Don knew its soft color would perfectly complement his newly whitewashed walls. To match the paper, Sinikka knitted soft wool pillowcases in the perfect shade. An antique blue and white birdcage, picked up in the Paris flea market, made a whimsical addition. And of course, the Bradys wrapped every gift under the tree in that inspiring pale blue paper.
Now, after two years of flux, the home is transformed, and it’s exactly what Don and Sinikka desired: light, bright, and comfortable.
After the first snowfall of the year, the glistening snowscape mirrors the winter wonderland indoors. Outside, the powder piles up in chilly drifts, but inside, the rooms are warm and welcoming, and the smells of Sinikka’s holiday cooking fill the home.
Originally from Finland, Sinikka creates irresistible Scandinavian meals that warm even the coldest nights. Uncured ham, ruby-red beet salad, and rich rice porridge with raspberries grace the Bradys’ table. Nearby, traditional cookies and sweets pile high on the sideboard. Even the display of the food has a designer’s touch—Don lovingly arranges the food in an appealing spread that welcomes guests to help themselves to the bounty.
For Don and Sinikka’s five grown children, who crowd the home every Christmas, the interior’s transformation was not unexpected. “They’re used to it changing all the time,” says Don. “When we told them ‘We’re doing all white this time,’ one of our daughters said ‘No, no, don’t do that!’ ” adds Sinikka. “Now she’s doing her house all white.”
And what will happen in a few years when they run out of the blue wrapping paper? “There will be more,” says Don. “Of course,” adds Sinikka while laughing, “in a new color, so we’ll have to change everything again.”
Luckily, the Bradys are unafraid of change; they consider their home a constant work-in-progress. Don has plans for the foyer, for the mantle, for everything—there’s always another idea brewing, and he’s not afraid of trying something new. “This is my advice to everybody: Just start doing something,” he says. “A lot of people are perfectionists, and they don’t want to do anything until it’s perfect, and consequently they don’t do anything. You’ve just got to jump in and start doing, and it all comes to you.”
Shady Tips—Going Monochrome
There’s more to monochrome decorating than painting everything in the same shade. The Brady home offers lessons in tone-on-tone design.
• Don’t paint with just one color. “There are four shades of taupe on the walls here,” says Don. Slight variations in shade add depth to the room; using just one color would look flat.
• Choose many textures. “Don’t use one big bolt of fabric for the whole house,” advises Don. Varied fabric types make furniture seem as if it were collected over many years.
• Opposites attract. In a monochromatic room, splashes of a contrasting color always create depth, as well as a place for the eye to rest.
• Use accent colors. Color is an easy and inexpensive way to change a room’s mood—light blue is calm, bright orange is exuberant. Incorporate accents in surprising places, like the legs of a table, a bookshelf’s backboard, or even with bookcovers made of colored paper. Collect and display dishware to complement or match your décor.
Festive treatments that transform the Brady home
• Employ a local sign company to make glue-on phrases for a home’s walls. Easily removed, these snippets of goodwill are a classy alternative to banners for holidays, birthdays, or any other special occasion.
• Punch up the color: The holidays are a great time to highlight an accent color by using it in ornaments, tablecloths, or other decorations.
• Bring out special slipcovers embroidered with holiday themes like “Joy to the World.”
• Pick wrapping paper and ribbons that match and complement your seasonal décor.
• Unearth special serving dishes. The Bradys have a Finnish silver spoon collection that not only adds twinkle to the celebration, but also complements their color scheme.
• Decorate your hanging light fixtures with ribbons, pine, and ornaments.
• Don’t forget the entryway. Wreaths, strings of bay leaves, or lights make any welcome a warm one.
For more ideas and inspiration, check out our magazine!