When you walk into Karen Hillenmeyer’s house, you can tell that it is a family home. You will be greeted with the scent of homemade berry pie, a flickering candle in every room and fresh hydrangea gathered from her garden.
“To make a house a home, I think it is important to incorporate all the senses. It has to look good, smell good and feel good. I want it to feel comfortable. There isn’t a piece of furniture where you can’t relax and put your feet up,” says Karen. Her home certainly checks all of those boxes.
Karen raised her two sons in this house. Chase was 4 and Seth was an infant when they moved in. Almost 30 years later, her adult sons are married and living in their own Lexington homes. Karen’s husband, Darrin, has four daughters of his own. Between the two of them, they have 6 adult children, 2 daughters-in-law, 2 sons-in-law, 2 grandchildren, and multiple “grand-dogs”. That being said, their house is a revolving door of welcomed activity. “At any given time, we can have a full house. You should see this place at Christmas time with 14 stockings hanging on the mantle! It is the best kind of chaos,” said Karen. "He really built a battleship of a home."
When Karen was expecting her youngest son, she would stay up late at night sketching her dream home. She then had a draftsman formulate her sketches into a house plan. It was executed and built by Greg Martelli of Fox Hill. “He really built a battleship of a home. He uses high quality materials and custom workmanship so the house feels solid,” said Karen.
“I wanted a house that had all of the traditional rooms including a formal living room and dining room, but I wanted it to flow, so every room has two doorways,” Karen explained, “This allows traffic and flow through the house very comfortably.”
Across the hall from the living room is the dining room. While the two rooms have their own purpose and identity, they both feature identical Stark rugs and cooperative color pallettes for a cohesive flow from one room to the next. “Each room is unique and collected, yet all the rooms really flow together,” says Karen. This makes it easy for her to move things from one room to another, something she often does. “It helps keep the house fresh and alive instead or becoming stagnant,” she explained.
The large den is where the family spends most of their time. The room is rich with color, and features four oil paintings by an Australian artist, Peter Williams, who has become well known for his paintings of Keeneland and other local equestrian scenes. Karen and Peter have become close over the years and she commissioned him to paint a few photos she took out at the track. “I wanted paintings that reflected Keeneland but were unique to others I had seen. I took photos of jockeys clustered in the paddock and of the lead horses. To see my photos remixed and transformed with a painter’s artistic view onto canvas to create unique pieces was amazing,” said Karen.
Karen has collected antique blue and white porcelain vases and jars for years. They are in almost every room of the house. “When Chase got married, his bride wanted to use them as center pieces for their wedding reception. I think I was able to round up over 50 chinoiserie vases and fill them with hydrangea from my garden,” Karen recalled.
"I don't think a house or garden are ever really done." Karen is constantly updating her home. “I don’t think a house or garden are ever really done,” she said. The kitchen has undergone extensive updates over the years. The cabinets are original; however she recently painted them Farrow & Ball’s Mizzle No. 266. The soft color pairs perfectly with her upholstered counter stools.
Karen used Counter Culture when she replaced the original countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms with Carrara marble. In the last 5 years, she added professional grade appliances including a Viking stove, Wolf range and Sub Zero refrigerator from Pieratt's. The kitchen also features antique baskets, pub signs, original oil paintings and English botanical prints.
"I like a home that is collected. Each piece should have a special meaning."
The second stairwell in the kitchen allows for a vaulted ceiling, which is painted Farrow & Ball’s Skylight Blue No. 205. A dazzling iron and crystal chandelier hangs from the center and adds drama to the otherwise traditional room.
When asked to describe her style, Karen said, “collected, traditional with a modern twist.” She has a lot of antique pieces, but incorporates contemporary items as well. “I like a home that is collected. Each piece should have a special meaning. I like to find things, bring them home, and then figure out where I am going to put them,” she said.
The walnut stained paneled office is nestled between the den and master bedroom. The Stark acanthus patterned carpeting pairs perfectly with the textured ceiling, giving this room a rich feeling. There is no shortage of built in shelves in the house. “I like to read, so every room has a book case in it,” said Karen. "I have found if I stay on course with a traditional style, I am happiest."
The first floor master is outfitted in a tranquil Brunswig & Fil Wallpaper, crystal lamps and mirrored beside chests. The chandelier adds some glamour, while the botanical prints keep with the traditional style of the home. “I have found if I stay on course with a traditional style, I am happiest,” she explained.
The master bedroom leads into his and her walk-in closets, which feature ebony marble floors. The open closets were custom built about 5 years ago.
The master bath is light and airy. The countertops, tub and floor feature Carrara marble installed by Counter Culture. The blue and white porcelain vases appear again in the bathroom, and offer a nice pop of color against the grey and white marble.
On the second floor, no detail is spared. The landing features dozens of botanical prints and a cozy sitting area.
The upstairs has a second master bedroom with en suite bathroom, two additional bedrooms and another full bath. There is no shortage of space for Karen and Darrin’s children and grandchildren to stay!
"Gardening requires planning and patience. I love the reward." Karen has created the garden as an extension of the house. She likes to bring the outside in with fresh flowers in every room. She also likes to bring the inside out by incorporating mirrors, sconces, porcelain jars and other items that are traditionally found inside.