It started with the sofa.
Jaki Sooper had been living in her Gainey Ranch home since it was first built in 1999 and, while nothing was wrong with the two-story house, it was feeling a bit dated.
Ordinarily, whenever she wanted to refresh things, Sooper would just move the furniture around, rearranging instead of remodeling. She loves color and has fun mixing different decor styles.
But by last year, she really needed a new sofa. And maybe a chair.
As she started looking for furniture to suit her space, she realized she wanted a different space for the furniture.
The beige tile floor, for instance, always looked dingy, no matter how clean it was. Sooper had hated that tile from the moment she moved in.
She’d spent those same years hating the awkward wall between the kitchen and dining area, which cut off the flow of her frequent dinner parties.
It was time for an overhaul, she decided.
“I can live with something for a while,” Sooper said. “But when I want it out, I want it out.”
Help from a friend
While Sooper enjoyed decorating, the scope of the project she was now contemplating seemed like more than she wanted to tackle alone.
Luckily, help was just a phone call away.
Sooper first met Kevin Sprague nearly 20 years ago, when he was running an art-finish painting business and she hired him to do all the walls in her then-new house.
Over the course of that project, the two became friends — and stayed that way.
Five years ago, Sprague put down the paintbrush and opened his own interior design studio. So Sooper signed up as a client.
“When Jaki called me, she didn’t know what direction she wanted to go,” Sprague said. “She just wanted a change.”
Collaborating on a new look
Together, they sketched out a more open entertaining space — without the dining room wall, picked out new wood-look ceramic flooring, and found stone-like tiles to add drama to the wall around the gas fireplace.
They decided to update the kitchen by painting the cabinets a dark grey and adding white quartz countertops.
They selected fun new lighting fixtures to define the different areas.
And, of course, they chose paint colors. Or rather, they chose a paint color.
Sprague suggested a radical change for his pigment-loving friend. What about a single neutral tone for all the walls downstairs? Something that would unite the whole space and allow the brightly-toned artwork to pop.
It wouldn’t be white, he promised. But maybe a very, very, very pale grey?
Although Sooper was skeptical, she agreed. With the major decisions made, they brought in the contractors. And, since the work was going to take over the entire first floor, Sooper packed her belongings into the garage and moved out — for three months.
So much for a simple sofa.
Putting it all together
Once the renovations were complete, the next part of the work began: deciding which of Sooper’s possessions to put back in the house, and where to put them.
She had large collections of paintings and ceramics, but also of more unusual items like antique handkerchiefs, tansu chests, playful garden sculptures made of brightly painted metal, and a variety of objects with hearts on them.
Some of her things also had sentimental value, like those she’d inherited from her mother.
Together, Sooper and Sprague sorted through it all, finding places to feature the best-loved items, and letting go of the rest.
“I had to get rid of a lot of stuff,” Sooper said. “I’m not one for clutter, but I still had things I’d picked up over the years. I got rid of a lot and I don’t miss it at all.”
While it took several go-rounds to reduce the excess — including a few late-night sessions that may or may not have involved wine — Sooper didn’t have to purchase anything except for the new sofa and chairs.
“Jaki had so much to choose from that we didn’t have to shop,” Sprague said. “She had everything we needed to accessorize that house and make it perfect.”
An open space for eclectic tastes
Sprague said he enjoyed working with a client who was open to creative design solutions. In some instances, Sooper even pushed him to make things more unusual — like the kitchen island, for which Sprague commissioned a custom-stenciled top after Sooper told him she didn’t want it to be the same white quartz as the perimeter counters.
“I have a very eclectic look,” Sooper said. “I like industrial; I like antiques; I like color. Mostly I like fun.”
As a result, one large abstract painting now hangs high over the dining room, where it is set off by steel mesh chairs, a wooden pedestal table, and a chandelier that suggests lightsabers.
Vividly painted stools and sparkly crystal lights contrast with the clean lines of the kitchen cabinets.
The powder room is wrapped floor to ceiling in wallpaper that looks like river stones. And an antique tansu chest serves as a console behind the new couch.
The playful mix of furnishings is set off by the open and clean-looking space around them.
The combination, Sooper and Sprague agreed, is a good one.
As for their friendship, both said it grew stronger during their collaboration. That’s a good thing, Sooper said, because “we’ll have to do the upstairs next.”
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