Talk about a surprise. So trusting was Nonie Cohen of her decorator's prowess that when she and her husband, Robert, left to summer in Maine in 2010, she gave designer Jerry Birkhead her house key.
Yes, she and Birkhead had chosen a couple of new fabrics together. And yes, he understood her love of things Asian. But none of this could have prepared Nonie (pronounced KNOW-nee) and Robert, about 2 1/2 months later, for walking inside their front door to what essentially was a whole new house.
Birkhead, of course, was there to greet them. "Oh my gosh! The house was wonderful! It was marvelous!" Nonie recalls. Once reassured that his leather armchair still had a place in the family room, her husband was pleased, too, she says, laughing.
To rev up the stateliness factor in what remained, at its core, the Cohens' mid-1960s ranch home, Birkhead added molding, layers upon layers of it, to ceilings, walls, on doors and above them, too. Throughout the house, he also added more color — green in the kitchen, for example, to match an existing countertop — and darkened the existing wooden floors.
Naturally, he rearranged and reupholstered. But it's his layering of details that serves as a continuing source of fascination. To complement the dining room's new floral- and bird-patterned draperies, he had an artist paint portions of the drapery pattern atop the existing beige damask wall covering. "Why get new paper when you like what's there?" he explains.
To emphasize the blue in the dining room's Oriental carpet, he had the back wall of the breakfront painted blue. And in between some of the dining room's multiple new ceiling moldings, tones of blue likewise add a unifying touch.
Home • Creve Coeur
Age • 76
Occupation • A longtime volunteer for several organizations, Nonie began donating her time about 40-plus years ago to the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, which runs Thursday to April 29 in the garage at West County Center shopping mall, on the Macy's department store side. Proceeds will benefit education and literacy programs. For information, check stlouisbookfair.org.
Family • The mother of two, Stephanie Cohen of St. Louis and Michael Cohen of Lawrence, Kan., and the grandmother of three, Nonie is widowed. She was married 53 years.