Minnesota-based designer knows a thing or two about long, cold winters. "Here in the Midwest, you don't get a lot of sunshine for half the year, which means it's important for us to do interiors that can infuse happiness," she explains. So when a young family who'd recently relocated to Madison, Wisconsin came to her for help decorating their new house, she worked with them to create a color palette that would feel sunny no matter the forecast.
"The house had good bones, but it felt very sterile—everything was gray and white," she recalls. "It's also a really large house, so we also needed to make these massive spaces feel cozy without choosing décor that felt too heavy."
Her solution: infuse every room with color, pattern and texture. "Our nickname for it was 'Nashville preppy,'" Hammel says. "There's a sort of Southern casualness to the couple, so I wanted to bring in a bit of that traditional feel, while keeping it young and lively."
The house's great room proved the biggest hurdle. Measuring nearly 50 feet in length, it includes two sitting areas, a dining area, and a kitchen. "It's kind of like a bowling alley!" laughs Hammel. "Our challenge was to make it feel more liveable and useable."
The rolling hills outside provided a starting point for Hammel. "It overlooks this gorgeous greenery in the spring and summer, so bringing some of that fresh outdoor feel inside was our inspiration," she says of the sky blues, caramel tones and pops of pale pink throughout the room.
Hammel created two separate living areas in the large space, but used rugs to keep them feeling unified: a neutral chenille Pottery Barn rug spans the full area, while matching blue Caitlin Wilson rugs layered on top demarcate each seating arrangement. Crypton fabric and Fiber-Seal coating on the non-performance textiles ensure that the family's four young children can enjoy the room, too. "It feels sophisticated and elegant, but it's still a home that they can live in without worrying about where their kids are all the time." Hammel says.
On the lower level, Hammel turned an empty space under the curved staircase into a playful reading nook. "Basement-level spaces tend to be an afterthought for people, so I like to make an extra effort to make them feel more special," she says. "When people do decorate, they tend to use darker, heavier colors and then don't end up wanting to use the space!"
With a grass-green bench cushion, pink pillows and a collection of vintage tennis racquets on the bookshelves (a nod to the couple's love of sports), the space feels anything but dreary. "It's a great, unexpected moment!" raves Hammel.
So what does the family think of all the pastels? "They love it," says Hammel. "It's not a hard sell anymore—more and more of our clients understand that infusing a space with this soft, pretty color palette can be so transformative."
Plus, she adds, "It feels like springtime all year-round!"
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