Kansas Citians understand that we live in a big, small town; that we’ll find social connections in the unlikeliest circumstances. The same could be said of the New York design world.
When Massachusetts-born Michelle Oettmeier was trying to leave her job at GQ magazine in New York City for design classes at Parsons and an internship, she soon learned that the design world was a “who you know” world. “I sent out resumes, but I wasn’t getting anywhere,” she remembers.
At a party in Boston, Oettmeier’s mother happened to chat with fabric designer Peter Fasano and told him about her daughter’s dream—to work for Bunny Williams. Fasano made the call and Oettmeier soon began as an unpaid intern.
“I started out organizing a closet the first day,” she remembers. Eventually, she worked her way up to senior designer, all the while taking in Bunny Williams’ sage advice: “If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule.”
Oettmeier has formulated her own version of the rule: “If you like something, it will work anywhere.” New York. London. Boston. Connecticut.
That’s where the Oettmeiers’ career paths had taken the couple. Now they make their home in Mission Hills—with two sons and a dark apricot labradoodle named Winni. Bret is a vice president with DST Systems, while Michelle has her own interior design business.
Two years ago, they bought a 1920s Kansas City colonial.
“It reminded me of home,” Oettmeier says. “And when I saw the coffered ceiling and the fireplace mantel in the living room, I was sold.” But the rooms were small. “I’m not a big open-plan living person,” she says, “but I wanted some openness. I like period-appropriate details with modern layout and function.”
They reconfigured rooms and added five feet to the kitchen. Now, when you walk in the foyer, you immediately see the blend of classic with fresh, antique with modern. Raised paneling painted a creamy white is topped with Thibaut wallpaper in a fretwork pattern. Dark wood floors have an Oriental runner that has been in Michelle’s family for years.
To the left is the dining room, formal yet casual. She had the limed oak paneling painted crisp white. A Restoration Hardware breakfront dominates one wall.
The living room reminds the family of where they spend time each summer with its Nantucket colors of crisp white, a range of blues, and a green the color of marsh grass. “I always start with a rug,” says Oettmeier.
This one by Stanton in an ocean blue with a white geometric pattern that grounds the large sectional. She found the wingback chairs at an estate sale, then had them covered in a Thibaut chinoiserie in parchment, navy, and green. A large blue-and-white ceramic lamp from Bunny Williams Home sits on an antique table from Rooms That Bloom in Martin City.
“I like cozy,” says Oettmeier, “but I also like light, so we put French doors and a French pocket door to close the library off but make it bright.” Linen curtains with blue Greek-key trim add stylish privacy. A pair of wingback chairs that once belonged to Bret’s grandmother were recovered in a cream crewel fabric. The comfy couch is covered in a charcoal menswear pattern.
The kitchen, fresh and crisp in white and blue, features “Feather” wallpaper from Serena & Lily and white custom cabinetry by Dennis Lawrence. The Danby marble countertop has a family connection as it comes from the Vermont quarry where Michelle’s father used to swim as a boy. A window seat in a red, white, and blue Ralph Lauren print cozies up to the informal table and chairs. A Pottery Barn Kids blue-and-white area rug lies underneath.
A powder bath off the kitchen echoes the one in the entryway with its beadboard and overscale wallpaper. “I like powder baths to be a bit of a surprise,” says Oettmeier.
Upstairs, the master bedroom décor starts with a muted geometric area rug. A duvet in pale blue, black, and parchment plays off two slipper chairs in a parchment buffalo check. The mismatched tables on either side of the black four-poster bed echo Michelle’s dislike of “matchy-matchy.”
The master bath in Carrara marble—a basket-weave shower floor and backsplash—has a dressing room on the right and a second dressing room with a freestanding Maax bathtub on the other.
Oettmeier’s office—with idea boards that her husband made with burlap and nail heads—holds baskets of fabric and trims.
“I’ve met so many people from New England who now live here. We formed a book club,” she says. “When they come to my house, they feel right at home.”
Rooms That Bloom
Randy Neal Floral Design
MRM Project Management
McQuaid Brothers Remodeling
Tyrer Wholesale Floor Covering
Michelle Oettmeier Interiors
Kitchen & Library cabinets
Custom Cabinets by Lawrence Construction
Knotty Rug Co.
International Materials of Design