House Tour: Balancing Act | Midwest Living

House Tour: Balancing Act

What's the secret to the contemporary and vintage mix in this St. Louis designer's home? As with most things in life, it's all about balance.
  • Marry modern and vintage

    Like a grandmother in pearls catching up with a twentysomething wearing a mod print, a pair of  Louis XV armchairs sit across from a contemporary sofa in designer Amie Corley’s living room. The gilded antiques gain youthful spark from the clean-lined piece. Similarly, a touch of class rubs off on the sleek seating. “The point of mixing old and new is to have something that’s a bit more clever and unique,” Amie says. “Begin with antique pieces and layer in contemporary stuff that’s easier to find.”

    Inspired by a Parisian photo shoot in Vogue, Amie painted her living room walls two shades of aqua. “It also reminds me of New Orleans,” the Louisiana native says. “You see that aqua everywhere.”

    Buying Guide: Balancing Act

  • Calm down spunky color

    A fuchsia reupholstered chair and bold car painting by New Orleans artist James Michalopoulos amp up the dining room.

    Jazzy brights look more sophisticated if they’re moderated with whites and neutrals. “I love color,” Amie says. “But I don’t have to do all crazy colors in a room.” Pair one or two pops with subdued hues.

  • Find pattern harmony

    The dining room connects to the foyer, which gains fresh style from an unlikely pattern combination: a Turkish kilim rug and purple-and-white ikat fabric covering the seat and back of a 1970s Pierre Cardin chair.

    Offset a busy motif with a classic stripe or animal print. “Animal prints go with anything,” Amie says. Ikat is another design that works well in a mix. If these make you nervous, start with a lattice or geometric print. “Those are familiar patterns that are easy to imagine on a wall,” she says.

  • Eclectic mix

    Blending styles and adding doses of wild pattern and color give Amie's 1907 Beaux Arts home youthful yet timeless allure. But the self-taught designer admits she had no clue what she was doing when she and her husband bought the house 11 years ago. At the time, local designers were sticking to traditional burgundy, forest green and gold paired with dark, heavy Victorian furnishings. “People here thought old houses should look old,” Amie says. “I didn’t feel like I needed to follow the rules.”

  • Make a wall of difference

    Layers of color and texture energize the sunroom, where paintings, photographs, kids’ art and words in assorted frames take center stage. 

    The key to designing a showstopper gallery wall is varying the media. “You want things that are painted, things that are drawn, a sketch of something,” Amie says. Collect at least 10 pieces before arranging.

  • Plan ahead for kids' rooms

    Floral wallpaper that looks hand-painted jives with peachy curtains in daughter Marie’s bedroom. “It’s definitely girlie,” Amie says. “But I didn’t want it to be a cliché pink girl’s room.” 

    When choosing furniture, rugs and window treatments—decor that can get pricey—imagine putting a full-size bed in the room and not a crib, Amie suggests. “The last thing you want to do is redecorate when they’re 5 or 6 because it feels too babyish,” she says. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun; use bright colors and whimsical fabrics. Work in age-appropriate accents that you can easily swap.


  • Room to lounge

    In son Henry’s room, splatter-dot draperies look playful next to a reupholstered reading chair scored on eBay. Vintage furniture is typically small in scale, so it’s perfect for older homes with compact rooms. 

  • Touch of whimsy

    On the other side of Henry’s room, a holiday garland around a wooden animal head injects whimsy year-round. 

  • Size up lighting

    People often gravitate toward small-scale light fixtures and lamps because they're considered "safe," but Amie advises clients to go big, as she did in the master bedroom. "I can't stand dinky lighting," she says. She designs with overscale chandeliers that "look intentional and make an instant difference in the way a room feels." 

    Amie uses mixed textures—a hide rug, matelassé coverlet, linen drapes—in the master bedroom to create depth.


  • Space saver

    To fit a soaking tub in the master bathroom, the homeowners opted for slim his-and-her sinks.

  • Serving style

    A neoclassical-style bar cart made by Maison Jensen, a turn-of-the-century French design firm, glitzes up a corner of the living room. A gold-painted tortoise shell and a gold-framed vintage painting add sparkle.

  • Creative nook

    Amie typically starts with antique pieces and layers in more modern decor that’s easier to find. She placed the vintage settee in this nook by the staircase and then designed everything else around it. A Lucite coffee table looks mod and unexpected.

  • Color contrast

    In the sunroom, a patterned aqua chair next to a perky pink sofa creates playful contrast. Soft pink paint on walls works as a warm neutral.

  • Cozy retreat

    A chaise lounge, the one piece Amie inherited from her grandmother, provides a cozy retreat in the third-floor guest bedroom. Originally striped velvet, the chaise lounge now wears a more contemporary small-scale animal print.

  • Soothing style

    Soft floral wallpaper brings soothing style to a tiny powder room. Hanging monogrammed hand towels is an easy way to add a personal touch.

  • Colorful gallery

    A gallery wall in the girl’s bedroom shows off framed birthday invitations and Mardi Gras bead art made by Rob Corley, who brings beads back from visits to New Orleans.

  • Fashionable fusion

    A design board by Amie Corley illustrates her knack for mixing tones, textures and patterns.

    Many of her clients admire the eclectic look, but Amie doesn't do only flashy color and pattern. “I have clients who want all white, and I love that, too,” she says. “Getting the balance right is what makes a room beautiful.”

  • Use stain-free fabrics

    Amie swears by Perennials indoor-outdoor fabrics for upholstery and pillows in busy family rooms. “It feels like linen, but it’s acrylic, so you can take your cushion covers off and throw them in the wash,” she says.

  • Paint tried and true hues

    When Amie started working in design, she tested gallons of paint colors on walls. Now, she shows clients 12x12-inch paint boards of her top picks. Her go-to white is Swiss Coffee from Benjamin Moore because it has a little gray in it for depth. Amie finds Farrow and Ball paint is worth the $97-per-gallon price. “Their paints are so highly pigmented that the colors are spot on,” Amie says.

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