Fresh Start

Interior designer Kelly Lambert fashions a crisp, new look for the home of a busy Kansas City couple and their family

Heather and Jon Bortnick had been in their Sunset Hill home for 18 years when they decided it was time for a new look. “We knew we didn’t want to move, but it needed freshening,” says Heather Bortnick. Her first thought was her good friend and neighbor, Kelly Lambert.

“I love Kelly’s taste and she had just sold her business. I called her and said, ‘I need to redo my house, and I think you should start your own decorating firm and help me out,’” remembers Bortnick. Lambert, who had just managed a major renovation of her home, was flattered. With a little nudge, she agreed.

Bortnick wanted to move away from the jewel tones that dominated the home’s previous scheme and toward something lighter and soothing. “One of the things that Jon and I loved most about this house when we bought it was the light. I wanted to take advantage of that. And I was ready to incorporate more modern pieces.”

She and Lambert agreed to start in the dining room. “It’s a beautiful space, and Heather and on are so lucky to have some of Jon’s family’s antiques,” says Lambert. “Heather wanted to keep the shutters, and I knew the best way to go was to make a really big statement on the walls. I told her I’d always wanted to use de Gournay wallpaper.”

Bortnick was not familiar with the hand-painted custom paper, but once she saw samples, they moved forward. The butter-yellow field decorated with birds, blooms and branches creates a warm and dramatic backdrop for the couple’s most traditional pieces.

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Across the generous entry, the living room is a soothing oasis of cream and blue with a sparkle of glass. Classic fabric patterns of damask, flame stitch and leopard are made fresh by their varying shades of robin’s egg blue. A modern, glass coffee table, crystal obelisks and a Murano lamp gleam in the flood of natural sunlight.

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“This is one of my son’s favorite rooms,” she says of her 10-year-old. I find him in here a lot either reading or doing his homework. That’s one of the reasons, when we did the original renovation, that we didn’t add a large family room to the kitchen. We wanted to live in the whole house.”

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Jon’s office, just beyond, has windows on two sides and a stunning black marble mantel that is original to the home. “That fireplace may be the reason we bought the house,” says Bortnick. “We both love it.” Lambert found the modern chairs in New York; Jon often settles here to watch TV.

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“He wanted a Sputnik chandelier,” Bortnick says. “I didn’t even know that he knew what that was, but it was one of his requests for Kelly.” The designer agreed that it would be a great choice.

The blue hues in the sunroom off the kitchen, where the family gathers together, are stronger.

“Blue and white and yellow has always been one of my favorite combinations,” says Bortnick.

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The ceiling here was originally lower, but the couple discovered that the bulkhead could be easily removed and raised the height of the room. New, larger windows allow a flood of natural light that the rest of the house enjoys. The kitchen, just beyond, received a facelift with new paint and marble countertops.

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“The master bedroom is my favorite place in the house,” says Bortnick. Both she and Jon are extremely busy professionals—she is a leading residential real estate agent and Jon has his own law practice—and Lambert was respectful of their time. She put together five complete schemes for the master bedroom design.

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“She laid it all out on the dining room table. The whole room was done in ten minutes,” remembers Bortnick. Well, not exactly 10 minutes, but it was an easy process for client and designer alike. The resulting room is a cocoon of rich, blue-gray. “Heather knows what she likes,” says Lambert. “She’s a dream client.”

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