Lighting, Textiles, and the Hunt: A few of TK’s Favorite Things

Jun 12, 2018 | Living Beautifully

After leaving TK Wismer’s remodeled Butchertown home, I spent the rest of my Sunday afternoon contemplating my own interior design flaws. Every inch of her space, from the ground floor pocket-doors that combine the living and dining rooms to the the third floor rec room, is designed with precision; it is a showcase of good taste and cohesion. You can tell that a designer dwells here; you leave feeling inspired, like you’ve spent time inside the pages of a design magazine.
TK is a freelance designer with one core belief about Living Beautifully: always leave things looking a little better than you found them. This mantra applies to every detail in her recently remodeled Butchertown Victorian, where she lives and rearranges furniture on the regular with her partner, Rob Gardner.

“I believe in taking care of what you have. Our disposable culture weighs on me, so I find it particularly rewarding to repurpose items or buy secondhand where I can. Not to mention, the quality and craftsmanship of materials are often many times superior. Take that tea set,” TK says from her hand-crafted, repurposed wooden dining table. She points across the room to her buffet cabinet, “I bought that from an estate sale. This little old lady had each piece wrapped in dish towels and handed it over to me with such pride. Everytime I look at it, I think of her; she took care of it, and now it is my turn. You wouldn’t get all that from the lady at the Macy’s counter.”

TK relishes in the hunt, and although her collections appear high-end, they primarily come from closeout sales, independent artists, travel, and thrifting. Despite the collection of bric-a-brac throughout the house (antique globes, books, and mirrors), each piece adds to the house’s character and never overshadows it. In her son’s bedroom, you’ll see bright white walls, surf boards, and books, but the focal point is on the room’s giant windows that overlook the trees in blossom and the industry of downtown. Until, that is, you look up: a powdery blue ceiling adds this amazing sense of calm. TK says she likes to paint ceilings and keep the walls white so that the color doesn’t become obnoxious. This blue reminded her of the painted ceilings of North Carolina porches and gives the room a soothing feel.
When helping her clients design a home, she believes in letting the house set the tone. For instance, although she is drawn to chrome, pops of yellow, and the blues and greens of the ‘90s, she has chosen brass accents and muted, powdery tones to reflect her home’s turn-of-the-century history. She plays with modern details throughout to create a cohesive palette that blends the old and the new. A mid-century modern couch that she has moved all over the city resides, subdued in its minimalistic style, in her living room in order for the room’s architecture to be the focal point, not the sofa.

Living beautifully for this designer also means great lighting, beautiful textiles, and scores of magazines. “I eat, breathe, and sleep design. I don’t throw away my design magazines because I know whatever trend is in now will come around again in a few years. There are no new trends, just new expressions of nostalgic looks. I am constantly editing and rearranging things, and my magazines give me inspiration.”

TK says lighting is also integral to the success of a well designed home but is often neglected. “Rob and I agree on most things design. Once, he left a hotel room for the night because it had bad lighting!” she says with a laugh. Throughout the home, the eclectic lighting (brass chandeliers, frosted glass globes, brass library lamps, wooden pendants, etc.) illuminate the craftsmanship of the hand-carved wooden staircase, the exposed brick on the second floor, the remodeled kitchen with slate flooring — all products of Rob and TK’s hand. The two (along with an antique wood expert and a general contractor) converted the duplex into a single-family home. The couple did the demolition themselves, unearthing a gorgeous original staircase and exposed brick.
The collection of Persian and vintage rugs throughout, artificial turf on a balcony, and the bright magenta front door celebrate playfulness and risk-taking in design, another characteristic inspired by TK’s love of design magazines and unique textiles. On the second floor, the converted second kitchen of the original duplex is now a dressing room to house TK’s collection of clothes and dresses. “I don’t even wear them [the dresses], I just like to look at the fabrics for inspiration. I don’t throw anything away.”
Perhaps this is the biggest take away from my time with TK: live beautifully with what you already have. They are your precious things — relish them, move them around from time to time, then pass them on with pride.

Check out TK’s design blog at


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