Could you give a designer carte blanche with your home? Could you leave your house and return a week later to new paint, furniture and art? Could you offer a blank check to pay for it all?
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The traditional three-story Monument Avenue row house was completely transformed by interior designer Kenneth Byrd. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Mike Kilbourne and Jeffery Matthews relax on the third-floor rooftop deck of their Monument Avenue home. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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A subtle geometric motif adorns a Phillip Jeffries grass cloth wallcovering. The ZigZag dining table is from Noir Furniture with chairs from Bernhardt Interiors. A statement-making spiky light fixture by Jean De Merry, an Arteriors mirror and abstract art from LeftBank Art finish the room. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
This isn’t some fantasy TV show; this is the real-life experience that Mike Kilbourne and Jeffery Matthews embraced when they hired Kenneth Byrd, of Kenneth Byrd Design, to redesign most of their historic Monument Avenue home.
After selling virtually everything in an estate sale in early January 2015 — carpets, paintings, furniture — Kilbourne and Matthews waited patiently for the big reveal.
“We lived in an empty house for two months,” Kilbourne says of their existence with an air mattress, TV and TV trays. When they left in March for a week-long trip to Palm Springs, California, all they had seen were paint colors, refinished floors and one chandelier, which they chose from three that Byrd presented.
But it was worth it.
LIKE KIDS ON CHRISTMAS MORNING
After multiple flight delays, the couple arrived home at 1 a.m. “We were like two kids on Christmas morning!” Matthews says. “We had to go in one room at a time and turn our backs on the other rooms, so we didn’t get distracted,” Kilbourne adds. “We were up until close to 4 a.m., just looking!”
The process is all the more remarkable because Kilbourne and Matthews bring different design tastes to the table. “We couldn’t agree on anything,” Matthews says. “I liked bright orange and round; he liked traditional.”
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A luxurious guestroom features a bed from Bernhardt Interiors, grass cloth wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries and a light fixture from Worlds Away. Kilbourne and Matthews agree that Byrd’s attention to detail is impeccable, even down to the linens he selected. “You think you’re staying in a luxury suite,” Matthews says. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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A third-floor guest bathroom was remodeled with clean marble surfaces and a cool gray color palette. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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The gold ceiling wallpaper, installed by a previous owner, was inspired by the décor at the Inn at Little Washington; the homeowners and designer Byrd decided to keep it. The living room’s fireplace surround is tiled in a Carrara marble mosaic from Floor and Décor. Bookcases are painted in Sherwin Williams’ “Mink.” The pillow fabric is Katana by Kelly Wearstler, and the Lucite table is from Bernhardt Interiors. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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A breakfast area is furnished with a table from All-Modern, Bernhardt Interiors’ Gustav chairs and Mary McDonald’s Pythagoras nickel pendant. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
Luckily, the pair agreed on Kenneth Byrd. Kilbourne had seen and saved an article from a 2014 R•Home issue featuring Byrd’s South Side home, and he was the only designer they consulted.
Byrd quickly saw the unique challenges of the project. “They wanted it to be modern but in keeping with the traditional nature of the house, so we needed to strike a balance between the two,” he says.
Kilbourne, who purchased the house in 2001, had changed the main floor very little, keeping the dramatic, hand-painted walls that had a “traditional Eastern flair,” Byrd says, and filled it with formal, Queen Anne-style furniture. “It was very dark,” Byrd observes. Matthews is more direct: “It was like a morgue.”
“We wanted to give them a magical HGTV moment.” —Kenneth Byrd
In their meetings with Byrd and his team, the couple quickly realized they wanted to give the designer free rein — letting him make design choices with no budget. It was a leap of faith they felt was important.
“Kenneth had such inspiring visions of what could be done with the design of our home,” Kilbourne says. “I feel that if you put limitations on a designer or artist, whether it be aesthetics or financial considerations, then you have put a limitation on the full scope of their creativity. Yes, it seemed to be a risk, but we were willing to take it. Thankfully, we are extremely happy with the result.”
MIXING HIGH AND LOW
While Byrd had worked without a budget for commercial clients, these were his first residential clients to take the plunge. But his approach is the same, he says. “For the most part, it doesn’t change the process,” Byrd says. “No matter who the client is, I treat the client’s money as though it were my own. We look for smart buys, and we mix high and low.”
A collection of nearly 2,000 PEZ dispensers is displayed on custom Lucite shelves, making a whimsical design statement in an otherwise serious room. The sectional is from Caracole Couture Furniture, and the coffee table is from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The lamp is by Arteriors. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
One key element to the design that some might consider “low” is Matthews’ abundant collection of PEZ candy dispensers — numbering in the thousands. “They were everywhere,” Kilbourne says. Byrd agrees that the dispensers, while fun, were almost overwhelming. “I thought: How can we showcase these and make it light and airy and floating?” he recalls.
The solution: PEZ “wallpaper.” Byrd covered a wall in the couple’s upstairs family room with custom-made Lucite brackets to hold the iconic items in place. The plan neatly bridges what could have been a serious divide between design and homeowner mandate. “It’s so vibrant and fun,” Byrd says. “Even if you don’t like PEZ, you can appreciate the textural quality of it.”
For his part, Byrd says the project was a delight. “By far and away, this was the most enjoyable experience — start to finish — I’ve ever had with any client. The rooms are thoughtfully composed with a mix of styles, genres and textures,” he says. “We wanted to give them that magical HGTV moment.”