When Louisville designer Barry Wooley takes on a new client, he has them fill out a small questionnaire.
Itâ€™s more than â€œWhat color do you like?â€ Itâ€™s also â€œWhatâ€™s your favorite place to go for dinner?â€
â€œI want to get to know my clients,â€ Wooley says. â€œHow they live. What they want from their living space. I need this as a guideline.â€
And, he says, itâ€™s not optional.
â€œI tell people, â€˜Iâ€™m not coming back until you fill this out,â€™ so they know I mean business,â€ the designer says. And, Wooley says, they often review the questionnaire during the project, as a set of markers to keep them on the path â€“ or to redirect the path.
â€œI look at the color of their eyes and their hair, and I try to match it in some way to make them feel better in the space, more comfortable, more at home â€“ and more attractive.â€ For example, he says, â€œI donâ€™t paint rooms green if women have bleached blonde hair. It makes their hair turn green when they sit in the room.â€
So Beverly and Harry Bryan filled out the questionnaire when Wooley visited their Seminary Drive townhouse. The most important direction Wooley received from these clients was, â€œmake it ours.â€
Both had been married before and both spouses had passed away. Beverly had moved into the home previously with her first husband. Harry moved in when they were married three years ago. So the home had a lot of Beverly plus now all that Harry had brought with him.
There was much to do. Wooley calls Beverly â€œa collectorâ€ who has saved a lot of things over the years. â€œIt was like a gift shop,â€ Wooley says. â€œShe has some beautiful stuff, but I told her too much of it devalues the best of it, such as a beautiful bronze statue, a Ming vase, a gilt Federal mirror and a mahogany secretary she bought at Stewartâ€™s in 1950 for $6,500 â€“ probably $35,000 today.â€
She also has what Wooley calls one of the best collections of Depression-era glassware heâ€™d ever seen and a collection of highly prized occupied Japan china (from the years of American occupation after the war when Japanese artisans masterfully copied the worldâ€™s best china patterns). But she kept it all in boring white kitchen cabinetry. Wooley put seeded glass panes in the cabinet doors and lit the cabinets with interior puck lighting.
And as for Harry, â€œhe didnâ€™t have a recliner, there was no place for him to sit or nap,â€ said Wooley. â€œHe was exiled to the chair in his office for life.â€
He brought a great many pieces into the rooms, like a huge beveled mirror with an Acanthus leaf weathered frame, a new rug and a big Murano chandelier.
He also made sure the house had plenty of seating. â€œThey host as many as 30 or 40 people for Bible studies, so they need a lot of chairs.â€ So Wooley kept a lot of the coupleâ€™s existing chairs, just recovering them with fabrics and materials from his store on East Main Street.
Nor was it just recovering their chairs. A lovely curved back, orange velvet, tufted sofa came from Wooleyâ€™s own living room. â€œThey selected it off of a photograph,â€ the designer said, â€œbut the fabric had been discontinued. I didnâ€™t want to disappoint them, so I gave them mine.â€
Wooley always has new clients put red stickers on all the things that mean something to them, that they absolutely wouldnâ€™t replace. â€œI get a sense of their taste, and I wonâ€™t say â€˜oh, thatâ€™s ugly!â€™ about something that means something to them. And I can usually work around almost anything.â€
The designer also takes pride in his abilities as a colorist, so the first thing he did was bring life into the home with a palette of paint colors from his own BWB collection of 72 different hues.
The great room was an oppressive dark emerald green. Now, itâ€™s a kind of soothing blue-gray-green, what Wooley calls BWB Spruce.
Wooleyâ€™s habit is to send clients out of the house for 10 days during the remodeling, then bring them back for a Big Reveal, HGTV-style, when itâ€™s finished. There are usually some surprises.
â€œTheyâ€™ve chosen a lot of the new pieces, but 40 percent of the budget remains at my discretion, to perform what we call â€˜BW magic.â€™ But because of all the groundwork weâ€™ve done, Iâ€™m confident enough to interpret what they want and like.â€
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune