Boise stylist Kirsten Grove talks about adding details to your decor
Designer and blogger Kirsten Grove moves comfortably through her spacious midcentury modern home in West Boise.
The house has an open, airy feel — simple, modern, crisp.
Throughout the house, subtle details draw your eye and put you at ease: A vase placed just so, her neatly organized collection of small pottery, sleek Danish-style light fixtures, lush potted plants and original art fill its open spaces.
This is the home created by the design maven and her husband, Shane, who did much of the work of tearing out woodwork, painting, refinishing floors and installing appliances.
The couple moved into the house in May 2016 with their children, Ethan, 11, and Eden, 10, and began remodeling and modernizing it room by room. The project is a mild remodel — and a big restyle, Grove says. Though they did break down a few walls in the kitchen, the majority of this transformation happened through what Grove does best: savvy juxtaposition of furniture, color and art.
“I go to bed thinking design, and I get up in the morning thinking design,” Grove, 35, says. “For me, it’s about how I’m going to style a living room. It’s about the couch and what vases I’m going to get. For me, it’s all about what goes in the space.”
Grove is a natural. She’s learned her design skills and developed her aesthetic from experience and by trusting her instincts.
“I think there’s something organic about how I work that people respond to,” Grove says.
And respond they do. Grove writes one of the most popular design blogs around. SimplyGrove.com has fans and followers around the globe who are drawn to her sense of chic.
Through her online presence and her new book, “Simply Styling: Fresh & Easy Ways to Personalize Your Home” (Sterling Publishing), she doesn’t just track the latest trends. She drives them.
She works with private and commercial clients in Boise, Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles and other cities around the country and travels to offer her style expertise and advice. She doesn’t just come in and design someone’s space.
For a time, Grove did e-design, working with clients through her website. That gave her an international clientele, but she doesn’t do that any longer.
“Too much got lost in translation,” she says. “I prefer to work with people one-on-one.”
Now, much of what she does is coach people to find their own style. (It’s $250 for two hours of Grove’s undivided attention; $75 for every hour after.)
“We talk about needs (and) wants,” she says. “It’s amazing what you can get done in two hours. I’ve noticed people, especially thirtysomethings, want the satisfaction of doing it themselves, no matter their budget. I’m there to make sure they don’t make any crazy mistakes. At the end of the day, if they’re thrilled and proud of their space, then I’ve done my job.”
Grove also works closely with Home Depot, Philips Lighting, Benjamin Moore Paints, Target and other manufacturers and retailers to style their latest products and designs with her sensibility. She showcases them either in her own home or in the home of one of her clients/friends.
“I’ve got one client that I’ve painted every single room in her house,” Grove says. “She loves it.”
She also works with commercial clients.
Local Construct, a California-based development company working on several projects in the Treasure Valley, discovered Grove through its L.A.-based PR firm. They connected when Local Construct was remodeling the iconic Owyhee Plaza in Downtown Boise in 2014.
“Finding Kirsten in the market, someone who, like us, has a broader perspective on design trends, and also has a feel for the local flavor, was really good for us,” says Mike Brown, one of the company’s founders.
Grove staged the model apartments, styled the building for photography and helped buy the furniture, fixtures and equipment. She is now working on the company’s other Boise projects — The Fowler and Watercooler apartments.
Born to design
Ever since Grove was young, she wanted to make the world a beautiful place.
“I was born loving this and knowing what I am doing,” Grove says. “When I was 9, I got my first only-me room, and my parents let me design it. I had opinions about the wallpaper, the bedding (and) where the furniture was going to go. I created a play zone, a sleeping zone. I really got into it. I love making things pretty.”
As Grove grew up, she and her family lived at times in Bend, Ore., Seattle and Boise. But it was the time she spent in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that left the lasting imprint and gives her style a relaxed elegance.
“I had an uncle (Stan Klassen) there who was an art collector,” Grove says. “He was very well cultured, and (he) traveled all over the world for his job. And he would meet artists and designers, and he’d bring their work back to Jackson Hole. He introduced me to that world.”
You can see that influence in the decor of her home — the large sweeping Nick Turner photograph of wild horses running through a Wyoming pasture in her dining room, a painting of a steer’s skull, Native American pottery and other touches that evoke the American West.
After her family moved to Seattle, Grove’s life changed dramatically when her appendix burst at age 12. She was life-flighted to Seattle Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery.
The doctors removed her appendix, but because of complications from an infection, they also removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Later it was discovered that had been unnecessary, and the family spent three years embroiled in a lawsuit.
“It was a blessing that it happened when I was so young so I could process that I would not be able to have children before getting into a relationship,” Grove says. “I can’t imagine having that happen when I was older. I knew that whoever I married would be passionate about adoption.”
After high school, Grove and her mother moved back to Boise and she met Shane, a Boise native who now works as a minister at Capital Church in Meridian.
“When I met him and fell in love, I knew Boise would be part of the package,” she says. The couple married in 2000.
Building a blog
“When we got married, I was working at Starbucks and also as a wedding gown consultant,” Grove says. “That was definitely not my forte.”
Then a builder friend asked her to help him design a new home. She picked out flooring, countertops, faucets, colors and all that kind of stuff.
“It was super fun,” Grove says. “Another builder asked me to design a home and then I started designing for friends and family. I told them, ‘I’ll do it for free, but you have to let me do what I want. And you have to let me put it in my portfolio.’ They trusted me.”
Then, in 2005 and 2006, they adopted Ethan and Eden.
“The next year a friend suggested I start a blog about my passion for design. So I did, just for fun,” she says. “And that was the year that if you started a blog, you were a little more heard because there were fewer, especially design blogs. Now there are a ton of them. I just stuck with it. I didn’t quit, even when I wanted to quit.”
Last year was a big year for Grove. The blog was going strong, she got the book deal — and she’s now a name in the business.
In the past three years, she’s been in talks with producers from several home and style networks. “I have not found anything that feels genuine,” she says. “Right now you see tons of flipping shows. That’s what America wants and that’s just not who I am. I’ve done it. I enjoy it, but it’s not my passion. I just want to help people make their home more beautiful. That is the most satisfying thing for me.”
The Groves’ Boise midcentury atomic ranch was built in 1957. It’s one of two identical homes built by two brothers on adjacent lots. Kirsten and Shane bought the corner home and are about halfway through their remodel/redesign.
The Groves are the home’s fourth owners. Most of the house was still in its original condition when they moved in May, but the kitchen had been remodeled sometime in the late 1980s or early ’90s.
So far, the most extensive project on the house has been the kitchen.
They transformed the alley-style into a cooking area that opens on to the rest of the living space. Shane is the family chef and wanted to be able to interact with guests and his family while cooking.
To get there, they removed the top part of the wall between the kitchen and dining room, leaving the lower counter. They also tore out a built-in breakfront on the living room side and the upper cabinets on the east wall.
“That just opened everything up,” she says.
They kept the original lower cabinets and hardware and simply painted them. Grove kept the upper cabinets in hopes they can be reused, and Shane built a large pantry next to the south end of the kitchen to make up for the lost storage. They moved the refrigerator across from the pantry but kept the dishwasher, oven and cooktop in the same place, while upgrading them all with sleek, black stainless steel equipment from KitchenAid.
She replaced the countertops with black soapstone, which has a matte surface and a softer look than granite. It also elevates the look from typical to elegant.
“I always like when something practical can look like a fine piece of furniture,” Grove says. “That’s why I was drawn to the soapstone because it looks less kitcheny.”
The original kitchen floor was damaged by water under the sink, so they sanded it down to even the surface and painted it with Benjamin Moore garage paint.
“It’s a temporary fix,” Grove says. “Eventually, we will tear it out and put down tile.”
The original owners added on a large family room, and an area Grove calls the “man cave” — though it’s not cave-like in the least — and a large storage room that will become a guest bedroom.
“Shane is now thinking that the ‘cave’ will be more like a study and library,” she says. “It’s evolving.”
Throughout the house, Grove kept the integrity of the midcentury modern architecture and design as much as she could, while adding her own vision of style.
“I don’t do kitsch,” she says. “I’m trying to get beyond the idea of midcentury to something more contemporary.”
She kept the original wood floors in the living room and the teak paneling in the man cave that are in great condition. The family room floors were in poor shape, so they tore them out and finished the concrete in a dappled gray stain.
In the dining and family rooms, where the paneling was beaten up, they simply put drywall over it.
In the bedrooms and hallway, the updating was done with decor — deep-hued paints and wallpaper, which are both hot trends right now. The next part of the project includes two bathrooms, and a plan to enclose the back patio and its built-in gas grill. Then they will redo the front and back landscaping over the summer.
Design tips from Kirsten Grove
▪ Keep it simple: Start with a neutral color palette in your home and then add bolder color in layers. Color can be added in your art, textiles and even statement pieces of furniture.
▪ Show your taste: Art is like shoes. The right pair will complete your outfit. Don’t forget about art; you wouldn’t forget about your shoes.
▪ Freshen up with new trends: Brass and gold are still very trendy yet classic. Add metal in your bathroom, kitchen and any other room that you need a punch of awesomeness.
▪ Old is new: You don’t always have to go shopping for new accessories. Raid your china cabinet or closets for items such as baskets, ceramics, pots and books.
▪ Don’t get stuck: Your home should reflect your life. Let your decor change with you. You get new stuff all the time, so let it show in your decor.
Kirsten Grove’s picks for trends to watch
▪ Dark walls: For the past few years, the trend was one dark accent wall. This year, entire rooms will be painted deep, deep hues. “It creates a cozy environment,” Grove says. “I watch ‘The Crown’ or ‘Downton Abbey’; you see entire rooms painted these gorgeous emerald greens and smoky blues, with that molding details. That wouldn’t work in a home like mine, but if you have a nice Tudor-style, a bungalow or Queen Anne home it will work nicely.” Pantone, the purveyors of the Pantone Color Matching system, named “Greenery” as the Color of the Year. It’s a cross between Granny Smith apple and potted-palm green. “It will be interesting to see how people use that in interiors,” she says.
▪ Bigger, bolder lighting: “I’m seeing people getting more creative with their dining room and bathroom light fixtures,” she says. “You see lots of sconces and hallway lighting.”
▪ Mixing decades: People are borrowing from all decades — mixing art deco with 1970s, “Anything boho (bohemian/hippie), chic macramé wall hangings, plants is in,” Grove says. West Elm (which has a store in Downtown Boise, 824 W. Idaho St.) is all about art deco now.
▪ The “new neutral”: Gray in all its shades is still the big trend for exterior — and a growing trend for interior — as a base color. “We were so focused on brown for so long, we got tired of it,” Grove says. “Now we’re on the flip-side with gray. It is the new neutral. It’s modern and stark. People want the contrast. A lot of my clients want to go black and white for sharp contrast, and always shades of gray.”
Grove kitchen project
Shane Grove did most of the demolition and construction for their kitchen remodel. Two subcontractors also worked on the remodel.
▪ Counter Culture, 605 E. 44th St., No. 6, Garden City, (208) 377-3611. CounterCultureIdaho.com
▪ Stephen’s Electric, 2015 N. Bingham Drive, Nampa. (208) 467-4871.
▪ Soapstone countertops from Polycor Design.
▪ Schoolhouse Electric and Supply Co. wall sconces.
▪ Cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore Racoon Fur.
▪ Rug by Momeni Rugs.