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Decorator trusts her design vision in making house a home

Photos by David Bader

December 2012

Kelly Neumann describes her renovated home as her mini-mansion. She tore down walls and reconfigured the entire living space, which included an open-plan first-floor living and dining room.

Asking interior designer Kelly Neumann of Vyolette Design and Consulting to choose the favorite room in her house is like asking a woman to pick her favorite pair of shoes. The sparkly, the comfortable, the sexy — each is a favorite in its own way.

Neumann purchased the 1952 red brick duplex in Milwaukee seven years ago and after visualizing the space for weeks in her head, created a design plan that kept the home’s shell intact while completely breaking down the two-story interior to create her perfect living space. The first floor is an open living area and includes a spacious kitchen with a hearth room and a powder room. The upstairs includes a master suite, two bathrooms, guest room and an office.

In the dining room, Neumann pairs resale shop-find chairs with a high-end inlaid wood dining table.

"I created all of the rooms differently," Neumann says. "They all evoke different feelings. My home is like one big mood ring!"

M: You aren’t afraid of color! What is your connection to the color purple in particular?

KN: Color evokes feelings, moods, comfort and excitement. A color sets the pace or mood for the vision. Purple did that for me. I was naturally drawn to the depth of the color in particular because it has so many layers, shades and moods. Growing up I never cared for the color purple, although my first sofa at 18 was purple. As I evolved I reinvented the color purple over and over again. I fell in love with the color. It is me.

M: Not many people could put a room like this together, let alone a whole house. Why does it work from a design standpoint?

KN: The first step is having a vision. I had that. Re-creating space, thinking about what I like. As a designer, I pushed it as far as I could. Again, layering the patterns, colors. The most important factor is balance. That is what design can lack; it becomes "off" if not done properly. Confidence along with intuition is what my design for myself and my clients is all about. My design worked because it visually agreed to my eyes. It is a process of selecting until it feels right and looks right. I am very visually blessed to be able to "feel" when design is right.

The master suite includes a custom-designed walk-in closet and master bathroom connected to the bedroom. "I knew this space was about keeping it all happening in one zone, which makes my daily morning routine stress-free," Neumann says.


M: This décor is very personal to you. How does it express your personality?

KN: Designing for yourself is so very important. It is your oasis that keeps you afloat from day to day. It should be a safe haven, surrounding yourself with a design and with items that make you happy at different levels and for various reasons. My home is me, every room, every style. It is a mirror of who I am and how I feel. It’s not just one style or one look. It takes all my likes and loves into a space and creates a story. It is possible to design for yourself and still be able to re-sell your home. It can be done. The key is to make sure the "shell" or permanent items are timeless. From there you are simply "dressing" your home. If I took all my treasures away someone else could walk right in with minor changes and start dressing the space to their likings. A big step that people miss when designing their homes is that they put too much emphasis on what others will think. Design is like fashion. No need to change it every day, but it can be just as exciting and personal. My design is my personality.

A 2-inch polished emperador brown marble hexagon tile is the show stopper in the master bathroom. Other special features include a vanity retrofitted from an old dresser and a stand-alone soaking tub.

M: The home is a great representation of high-low design. What are a few of your favorite finds and the stories behind them?

KN: Where do I start? Curb finds, secondhand stores, rummage sales, resale shops, family heirlooms. The other side of the coin is investing in quality items and knowing where to spend: quality flooring, plumbing fixtures, a piece of furniture that will last for 20-plus years, beautiful light fixtures. Sure, I splurged on many items, but I knew how to offset it with the high and low of design. That is an art in design that is a great asset to have for clients and staying within their budget. It can be done, it just takes patience and time. The key is knowing where to spend your money. Again, design is a balance, and not just visually with colors and objects, but with money. You have to know where to spend, where to place that "eye candy," what is worth it and what is not. Design for me is a game: a game of intuition, balance and getting it right. Who says one has to go to one store in one month and create his or her home? It would be impossible to truly design a home from one source. That would not be true design in my book.

M: Who inspires you design-wise?

KN: In my younger years I really thought everyone can decorate or design. I grew up in a home that was beautiful every day; it’s just what I thought was normal. Everyone has a gift. I was using it, but didn’t tap into it immediately. It was naturally evolving as my life was the canvas to my creativity. I took opportunities to create anything I could. The answer is an obvious one for me: my late mother Karen. She was not a designer by trade, but she was a visionary of many sorts. She could take nothing and make it the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. I do not have the patience of my mother in creating small, time-consuming things, but what I did get from her is the vision. One thing that the buying of this home did for me is bring me back home. It is clear to me that my mother lives in this home. I would say that is the most beautiful part of my home.

A lavender chaise lounge faces a fireplace and creates a restful vibe outside the master bedroom.

M: What is the typical reaction of visitors to your home?

KN: Cozy, beautiful, "It is so ‘Kelly.’" That means I accomplished my goal.



This story ran in the December 2012 issue of: