Channeling Pat Koelker


COVID is keeping me close to home most of the time these days, which means that I’m tending to lots of house and garden projects.

As the heat and humidity ramped up in July, I found myself gazing out at the endless weeds erupting throughout our property. It was just too damn hot and humid to venture out there. After twenty minutes outside I’d be drenched in sweat. Time to get some interior painting done.


In the last two months, I’ve painted walls in our shed, our entire guest room, kitchen pantry, our bedroom and bath baseboards as well as touched up the walls in those rooms.


I imagine you’re curious about the actual colors I painted in these spaces?


To brighten our shed, I covered the existing dark dark wood walls with BRIGHT WHITE paint. I LOVE my white peg board! For our guest room, I chose a dusty, MID-TONE OLIVE that expresses serenity and quietly frames our gardens outside without competing with the colors of the landscape. In the pantry I used a MUSLIN hue that I had rejected for our guest room. It’s always good to find uses for expensive paint rejects!


Our bedroom and bath are a CRISP LINEN WHITE because our bedroom is rather dark and I wanted a soft, warm glow there. Plus, CRISP LINEN WHITE warms the coolness of our bath’s royal blue tiles while evoking the refreshing blue and white palette of Greece.


Ben Moore Crisp Linen walls and trim in our bedroom. Photo by Ray Greenfield

Most recently, I’ve turned to furniture and painted our den coffee table. More on that in a moment.


Midway through this painting marathon, I realized, Gosh, I’m channeling Pat Koelker.


When I was twelve, my family moved to South Carolina. We lived next door to the Koelker’s. The mom, Pat, was an artist and a young widow with two teenage kids: her son, Jamie, and her daughter, Malia. Malia was a year younger than I – exactly my sister Mig’s age. Mig and Malia soon became inseparable. Needless to say there was a lot of running back and forth between houses.


Whenever I went next door, I knew to expect a surprise because Koelker interiors changed from week to week. That is to say, every week Pat would be engaged in a new creative design project. Pat was talented, she had good taste, and she was resourceful.


In addition to painting paintings, Pat was constantly rearranging them. In no time, whole walls could change. One week a few large paintings would grace a wall, and the next week they would have found a home somewhere else in the house. The wall they had been on would be freshly hung as a gallery wall with thirty or more art works of various sizes.


I especially liked to see what Pat did with furniture. Not only was she regularly moving it around, she frequented her friend Walter Plunkett’s used furniture shop and found all sorts of pieces with good bones that she’d haul home. More often than not, when I popped into the Koelker’s, Pat would be on the floor in their sunroom engrossed in her latest furniture find, giving it a fresh coat of paint. If it was a chair, she’d paint it and then cover it in an attractive modern fabric, and voila! a new life was born.


Visiting the Koelker's was like going to a museum and seeing a vibrant new exhibit each time. I loved it.


Pat’s energy has been rippling through me these past two months, but I have felt her most keenly while tackling my latest modest renovation: our den coffee table. Like Pat’s furniture finds, it’s a table with great lines that needed some jazzing up. Covered in a peachy laminate, its look was cheap. The peach “wood” tone also conflicted with the dark walnut tones of our handsome wood floors. I came up with a two-color composition that accentuated the lines of the piece and played off the colors in our den. The colors? A cool, DUSTY SPRUCE and the warm, slightly GREENISH GOLD of a Bosc pear.


Coffee table BEFORE. Photo by Barbara Clare

I’m happy with it.

Coffee table AFTER. Photo by Barbara Clare

Here’s to all the kindred Pat Koelker’s in the world and their beautifying visions!




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