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Kristen Hutchins' Den

A few weeks ago I came across the work of California-based designer Kristen Hutchins, who recently launched her own design company after working for both Ruthie Sommers and Kelly Wearstler. Once you've had the opportunity to browse Kristen's entire portfolio, I think you'll agree with me that this girl has some serious talent. Her rooms are inventive, colorful and pulled together, but also incredibly livable. I'd describe her style as Hollywood Regency meets beach house, with a good helping of global eclecticism thrown in -- in short, it's incredibly of the moment. But, while her particular style may be trendy right now, her rooms also possess that distinctly California vibe of casual sophistication. And that's a feeling that absolutely never goes out of style.

Of all of Kristen's rooms, my favorite is this yellow and blue den in the Hollywood Hills. While the furniture layout and even color palette is very traditional, Kristen keep the feeling of the space young with trendy ethnic prints and streamlined furniture.

Yellow and blue is a cheery and classic color combination that will never go out of style. Depending on other design elements in the room, the colors can read as beachy and casual or as traditional and sophisticated. Kristen's den successfully walks a delicate balance between these two extremes by including more casual and funky accents (the sheepskin pillow, pieces of coral, bright ikat print) with traditional and tailored furniture. The dark wood and brown rug ground the pale yellow walls, white trim and bright fabrics.

I'm a big fan of using an ottoman in lieu of a coffee table, particularly in a more casual space. An ottoman just says "come on in and put your feet up" and in a pinch it can double as additional seating for parties. And, should you need to rest a drink (or your Lean Cuisine) on it, a tray quickly transforms an ottoman into a coffee table. Kristen did a great job of styling this ottoman for the shoot; it's a great lesson in using a few larger objects in lieu of a lot of little pieces. The overall effect is far more modern, and far less cluttered. Kristen also shows off several popular trends in decorative accessories from 2009 (namely mercury glass, white ceramic animals and lacquer trays) that will continue to be popular into 2010. I also like how Kristen elected to keep the large bay window free of any sort of window treatments, allowing in plenty of light and showcasing the window seat.

What I probably love most about this room is Kristen's choice of fabrics (and I think fabric is, more often than not, what separates a designer room from the the rest of the pack). Zigzags, ikat, ethnic-inspired prints, and more subtle and textural silks and plaids all work together beautifully to give the room texture, visual interest and great style. There's no great secret to Kristen's success though: the key to mixing and matching prints is to keep the color palette tight (here Kristen uses a rich chocolate brown, sunny yellow and porcelain blue) and while not all the fabrics need to contain all the colors used throughout the space, it is important to have one or two fabrics that contain the entire palette.

I'll admit that I'm not the most adept at setting up "vignettes" and "mantlescapes"...and I'll also confess that I find both terms to be a tad pretentious. That said though, I do understand the importance of getting those last little accessories just right -- especially when you're styling a room for a photo shoot. The arrangement on the mantle is asymmetric but still ordered. The soft green of the vase works beautifully with the loose arrangement of wildflowers in the mercury glass vases. I also adore the vintage sconce, which has a lovely bronze finish that nicely contrasts with the antiqued silver of the mercury glass.

If I were going to recreate the look and feel of this room, I would focus on a few key elements: the blue and yellow color palette (which I'd have to kick up just a notch in intensity to suit my own taste), the gorgeous mix of bronze and silver metals, the mix of patterns, and the more traditional, British colonial furniture. For a wall color, I'd go with Benjamin Moore's Hawthorne Yellow, which is a gorgeous shade of yellow that eschews both bananas and corn in favor of pure and sunny sophistication. Think "Four Seasons" yellow. I've also selected four inexpensive fabrics (three of which are available through Calico Corners) as my primary fabric choices. I'd use the "duet dijon", a lovely yellow, white and blue paisley to recover Pottery Barn's Belmont armchair. While Kristen successfully upholstered one of the two sofas in two contrasting fabrics (one of which is a rather bold print), I'm generally loathe to do a sofa in another other than a single solid, relatively neutral fabric -- there's just too great a risk the sofa will look dated long before you're prepared to reinvest in reupholstering it. Accordingly, I'd keep the sofa light and neutral, but use the remaining three fabrics for throw pillows.

Source list (clockwise, from top left): 1. Spencer Sofa (Pottery Barn; $1995 as shown). 2. Bronze Ceramic Table Lamp (West Elm; $149). 3. Metro Lattice End Table (High Fashion Home; $449). 4. Belmont Arm Chair (Pottery Barn; $899 as shown). 5. Sevilla Rug (Ballard Designs; $489 for 6’ x 9’). 6. Fabrics (right to left): kimono (Calico Corners; $15.99/yd); Kalah blue (Calico Corners; $23.99/yd); Duet Dijon (Calico Corners; $14.99/yd); and Blue ikat (Decorative Things; $20/yd). 7. Ceramic Imperial Horse (ZGallerie; $79). 8. Chinese Garden Stool (Wisteria; $149). 9. Stratford Ottoman (Ballard Designs; $249 + cost of fabric). 10. Mongolian Lamb Pillow (West Elm; $129). 11. Mercury Glass Trophy Urns (Ballard Designs; $14.99-$29.99). 12. A Pier on Loch Lomand (; $144.99).

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