It might sound cliché, but home is where the heart is, said Kathie Bulvin, mother of Hannah, three years old, and Haley, seven months old, and wife to Jeff Bulvin. This is the most important thing in my life Ñ my family. And Christmas to the Bulvins means family. It means being together at home. This is where we find comfort, said Bulvin.
Once a sales representative living in Baltimore, Md, Bulvin is in a new stage of her life as a stay-at-home mom. Her husbands job as regional executive vice president and principal for Axa Advisors, LLC brought them to Louisville two years ago. I feel like I've found my place. I feel very comfortable here. I run my house [now], she explained.
Creating a comfortable home that reflected their personalities was important to both Kathie and Jeff Bulvin. The challenge was to adapt their existing furnishings into their new Louisville house. To help them tie it together, they were referred to Tracee Dore Brown of Tracee L. Dore Interior Design.
While Kathie Bulvin and the girls remained in Baltimore, Jeff Bulvin commuted back and forth. Kathie Bulvin worked with Dore long distance for months while the house was vacant. She handled everything, said Kathie Bulvin, Coordinating paint colors and wallpapers.
Although designing long distance sounds like a daunting task, for Dore it was just a matter of looking at photographs of the Bulvins existing furniture and planning an arrangement for their new house. My job is [that] I am a problem solver, said Dore. Luckily most of the existing furniture fit into their new house, except a large entertainment center that had to be relegated to the basement because of the built-ins in the new home.
To add to the long-distance decorating, there was the challenge of decorating the house so both Kathie Bulvin and Jeff Bulvin got what they wanted. Like many men, Jeff Bulvin wanted a big chair to call his own, however, it is sometimes hard to fit a large chair into the decor. Jeff really wanted a leather chair and ottoman, but he wanted my opinion so we went together said Kathie Bulvin, adding that it didn't prove to be a problem.
Most of the time the Bulvins worked as a team, incorporating his contemporary taste with her traditional style, except for one (somewhat sneaky?) attempt by Jeff Bulvin. I came home one day, and there was a blue painting above the sofa, revealed Kathie Bulvin. He tried to disguise it as a gift for me. Reminding her beloved of her preferences, she told him, If you were buying me a present, you would have been at the jewelry store.
That kind of directness and clarity were also evident from what Kathie and Jeff Bulvin wanted in a home. We wanted to have the dogs out in the yard and swing sets. We wanted neighbors, but not on top of each other, said Kathie Bulvin. And something Jeff's always wanted is space. Jeff Bulvin grew up with three sisters and Kathie Bulvin had five children in her family, so private space wasn't always available. So now, everyone has his or her own space as well as his and her space. I have carved out different spaces in the house for the children and for us, said Kathie Bulvin. And if Jeff wants to go watch football and I want to read a book, we can do that but still be together.
The Bulvins feel their home reflects their past of a more simple time to now, one of being able to acquire finer furnishings. Older pieces remind them of where they have come from. Everything we have is based on the choices we made, said Kathie Bulvin. Having a nice home is a reflection of their success and a way of expressing that without being too stuffy. In fact, that is one of the things Kathie Bulvin loves about her husband. The values Jeff has is what make him successful, and his parents gave him that.
I have a good life, said Kathie Bulvin. I have a good marriage and two healthy kids. I'm very grateful, but my house is not the thing I'm most grateful for.
For the Bulvins, Christmas is a time to count their blessings and appreciate what they have and who they are.
Holly Gregor regularly profiles local interior designers in Today's Woman.