Spring 2024

An Ode to Joy

Words by Jessica Bahr  |  Photos by Josie Henderson

Intrepid homeowners energize their newly built home with jubilant color.

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here’s a lot to be said for a neutral palette. In fact, a lot has been said. Follow the thread of home design trends, and you’ll see many mentions of celebrated non-colors—greige, warm white, taupe and so on. These classic neutral shades feel reliable and bring serenity in their own way.

But there’s something curious with color in recent years. A cast of “new neutrals” has joined the tried-and-true hues, including blush, terra cotta and earthy green. When it comes to color, are we opening our hearts to follow our bliss versus social media mandates?

The truth is: your heart is where your home is, so color choices should feel authentic. Do classic black and white bring you joy? Bring it on. How about a garden’s spectrum of purples, pinks, blues and yellows? Yes and yes, say designers Jill Tran and Patrice Mendelson of Tran + Thomas Design Studio, who gladly fulfilled their clients’ vibrant vision for this newly built home in Overland Park.

While some homeowners may need encouragement to follow their color dreams, this couple was fearless from the beginning. Both have successful, intense careers as doctors and wanted their home to be an expressive release.

“I told Jill I wanted lots of color and bold areas in each room,” the homeowner explains. “I feel energized when I walk through the door, and my husband loves color everywhere. I would tell other homeowners not to be afraid of color and patterns.”

Jill and Patrice excitedly welcomed the opportunity. When they found they shared a love of stunning lilacs, cornflower blues and whimsical butterflies with the homeowners, they took that brilliant baton and ran with it.

This project is unique in its personality, although as Jill and Patrice explain, they’re finding that more homeowners want to push beyond neutral. Even so, their clients often seek permission to make bold choices. For homeowners who hesitate, their questions are always the same: What if I get tired of it? What about resale? Jill is ready with the answer.

“If it’s a color that you love and have always loved, you’re going to continue to love it whether or not it’s trending. It’s a gift to yourself,” Jill says. “People can fall into the trap of putting in the design they think they’re supposed to put in, instead of following their own hearts. A lot of times the excuse is ‘resale,’ but if something’s beautifully done with style and taste, it will have a wonderful resale.”

If incorporating color feels daunting, Jill and Patrice have a few helpful guidelines. First, if you want to go bold, go all in. Fully commit to anchoring elements. Rather than tossing in a few colorful pillows, choose a substantial piece of furniture to be the fulcrum for the rest of the design, or—as is the case with this home—an exciting choice of purple glass tile.

“From the very beginning when pulling fabrics, paint chips and furniture pieces, we had that lavender glass tile that the homeowner loved in mind,” Patrice explains. “She’d also come into the studio and describe their amazing art collection to us. It was important that we honor the artwork, honor the colors that were in the artwork, and that every element works together seamlessly.”

Another way to infuse bold color is to implement various intensities of the same hue. Jill and Patrice relied on this technique especially in the primary bedroom, where a monochromatic play on cornflower blue is as soothing as it is sophisticated.

Finally, if you long for color but need help getting started, choose a designer you trust who will take the time to get to know you.

“We have a gentle process to get emotional reactions,” Jill says. “We hang on every word and really watch their body language. Design is all in the eye of the beholder. It’s emotion. It’s past life experiences. We want to discover what makes them feel amazing and what rocks their soul.”

Patrice adds, “This homeowner really trusted us. She would come to the studio so excited for the presentations to see all the fabrics and all the textures and paint colors…Just delightful to work with and open to new things.” 

This home is also an example of how to make new construction feel more custom. The homeowners chose this location as a semi-custom model by builder Durk Putnam. Jill and Patrice joined after it was in progress, but working within the lines seems to have expanded the designers’ imaginations.

There are surprises around every corner, in every room, and everyone has their favorites.

“Both the guest bath and primary bath are my favorites,” the homeowner says. “The guest bath’s dark floral pattern feels mysterious but still relaxing. The blue, airy mural in the primary bath causes everyone’s jaw to drop.”

For Jill and Patrice, it’s a playful moment they added near the pantry that sums up the whole project. “We added these little butterflies from MacKenzie-Childs with really intense pattern and color. One on the chandelier, one on the closet handle and one on a cabinet knob…They look like they’ve flown in from the pantry. It’s just joyful and fun.”

In other words, far from neutral. 

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