When Pantone Color Institute announced “living coral” as its color of the year for 2019, a news release enthused that the hue “embraces with warmth and nourishment” and was “animated and life-affirming.”
These were not the phrases Anne Kaier came up with when she saw a painter roll the vivid hue over her foyer’s walnut paneling. Instead, she remembered thinking, “What have I done!”
That was 10 years ago. After overcoming initial shock, Kaier has no regrets. The coral Pantone described as “sociable and spirited” brightened a dark entryway. To bring sunshine to her Center City home on even the cloudiest days, Kaier bravely painted the rest of the interior a glossy buttercup yellow.
She used coral as an accent color — on lampshades from Anthropologie and on toss pillows and Indonesian tapestries from Indigo Arts Gallery in Philadelphia. Coral poppies are strewn across the fabric on a living room stool.
Besides vibrant color, Kaier turned to other methods to warm her home and bring nature inside. Floral prints and a screen painted with oranges and green leaves decorate the foyer. A tiny powder room converted from a coat closet is wallpapered with blue birds perched on white blossoms. The second-floor bathroom paper has yellow birds perched on green branches.
Beams in the living room are embellished with flowering vines stenciled and hand-painted by artist Martin Campos.
“I love the process of working with talented artist and crafts people,” said Kaier, who has owned her three-story home since 1995.
For a tight space on the second-floor landing, woodworker Anthony Darnell created a stylish small table from mahogany and ebonized mahogany. Paul Downs crafted the long narrow cherry table in the living room. The large mirror above the table reflects the windows and doors opening to the garden across the room.
Kaier remodeled the kitchen with white cabinets, butcher block countertops trimmed in blue Turkish tile, and a maple floor. Carpenter Jeffrey Van Osten carved a curved shelf from wood of a yew tree that once grew in Kaier’s garden. The silver-and-white art deco light fixture was purchased from a salvage store.
Furnishings in the combination living/dining room include a blue-and-white upholstered sofa, a glass coffee table, a modular Norman Cherner chair purchased on eBay, and a slope-topped Chippendale desk. The 18th-century desk was a gift from Kaier’s father when she earned a master’s degree from Oxford University. She would go on to earn a doctorate in English from Harvard.
Kaier, now retired, has taught writing at local colleges and was a writer for marketing and communications firms.
For most of her adult life, she lived in apartments and condos on the Main Line. When she decided to buy a home at age 50, real estate agents showed her structures in suburban gated communities. “They looked like crackerjack houses a wolf would blow down if he huffed and puffed enough,” she said.
Kaier visited Center City often to see friends, and when she spotted a place with a sizable garden, she bought it. The 1,980-square-foot space was part of a family compound built in the 1930s by a wealthy businessman.
Her new home featured handsome chestnut floors and paneled doors with wrought-iron hardware and a working fireplace. Kaier installed central air conditioning and gradually made other improvements.
She planted a garden with white shrub roses and pots of peonies and admired the honeysuckle vines and cherry blossoms in the moonlight.
Still, she was not really comfortable in her new digs until she rescued a terrified stray cat she named Henry. Together she and the cat acclimated to urban living, and he became the subject of her book, Home With Henry.
Henry went on to live into extreme old age. Kaier now has a tawny cat named Archie. Like his beloved predecessor, Archie enjoys exploring the garden and nestling by the yellow-and-coral striped pillow on Kaier’s 19th-century French bed — an eBay purchase.
“Henry figured out that my house is a good home long before I did," Kaier wrote in her story. "Ours is a lovely place, rich with sunny spots to curl up in. A place to stay to settle. I just had to follow his lead.”
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