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Nothing worked.

The homeowner had become queen of the returns. She purchased home accessories she thought would neutralize the builder’s yellowish-beige on the walls of their spec-built house, but most items only seemed to intensify the color. In frustration, she’d make returns.

“Things didn’t look right or didn’t look finished. I just couldn‘t pull it off on my own,” she says.

After seeing photographs of interior designer Gwen Parker’s eastern Iowa home, she knew what to do. “That’s the look I wanted. I loved it, and I needed her help.”

The collaboration between Parker and the homeowner has forged a friendship — and a home in a design style the Interior Chic design firm owner describes as “transitional.”

It’s the fusion of traditional with contemporary or modern elements.

Walls throughout the main and lower level were painted in shades of soft gray. “Changing the color made a huge difference in the overall appearance. The color appealed to me,” enthuses the homeowner.

The color makes white-painted trim look crisp and clean and draws attention to granite-topped espresso cabinetry throughout the home. Parker also played with layering and texture, such as placing an unusual petrified wood and metal occasional table between matching charcoal gray modified wing chairs and settling a large, square marble-topped coffee table in front of the low-slung black leather sofa. Tripod lights sound a retro note.

Parker created a lounge near the bar in the lower-level family room, coordinating four deep-gray leather-clad chairs with a hammered metal drum-shaped table, and hanging colorful, contemporary lacquered art.

She encouraged the homeowner to go for large-scale accessories and artwork. “It has more impact than collections of small things and looks less chaotic. Everything in a room must have impact and stand on its own,” she explains.

Window coverings are in the works, as well as more changes to the lower level including a new sectional that the homeowner’s husband can stretch out on while watching sports on TV, and transforming the screened porch into a four-seasons room to increase square footage.

With Parker’s expertise, the homeowner has relinquished her “return queen” title. And two new pieces — a white lacquered breakfront credenza with Greek key design and mirrored top and a mother of pearl mirror above it — are standing pat in the foyer.

“I would never have picked those pieces on my own, but they’re very sophisticated, and I just know they’re going to be my favorite pieces,” she adds.


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