Kristin Rocke knows how to make a splash. While others are dipping their toes in the pool of maximalist, she dives right in. Case in point: Nora and Ryan Peterson’s new family room in Salt Lake City.

Close your eyes and vision the typical Utah family room. You’re picturing wood, white walls and maybe stone? A beefy fireplace shouldering a mantle with a big-screen TV above? Perhaps a leather sofa, a boxy coffee table and a ho-hum rug under it all? Frankly, who can remember? And that’s the point, according to interior designer Kristin Rocke. “Our rooms should be memorable; they should reflect our personal styles.” Her clients Nora and Ryan Peterson agree. So when they decorated their modestly sized family room–part of the redesign and rebuild of their 1929 house–they wanted something unique and as colorful as their active family. Rocke delivered that, and more.

“The room is lively and exuberant, just like the Petersons,” says Rocke, who conjured a spirited space filled with gutsy colors, patterns and an innovative fusion of materials–her take on maximalism. “This design is abundant, which is great because maximalism works really well in small spaces,” she says. “It is easier to control in a confined area rather than in a house of huge, open rooms.”

But how do you pack so much design into a compact space? “look at it overall and treats like a big mashup, but it is actually really cohesive,” rocke explains. Look at each separate part, she suggests. “It’s not simply more is more. It’s really good more, all carefully considered.” Madcap? No way. “That sounds Delirious. This is too studied and edited.” And most importantly, it’s all about the Petersons. “It’s authentic to the owners and the house. It’s their signature style, and I was so fortunate to work with them and bring it to life.” Here is how she pulled it off.


The family room opens to the dining and kitchen areas and is framed in by three walls: a window wall, an art wall and a fireplace wall. The latter required a bold overhaul. “It was a bare, new-construction fireplace simply faced with drywall,” Rocke recalls. She reconfigured it into a decidedly asymmetrical feature wall packed with savvy storage, dynamic display space and memorable materials. To maximize storage options, Rocke Positioned the raised firebox off-center and above, she created a large TV compartment hidden behind sliding walnut panels. “TVs suck the energy out of a room, so I needed ours to disappear,” Nora says. Rocke loaded the space to the right of the fireplace with storage and display space that includes open, adjustable shelves and deep cubbies–each crafted from black rift-sawn oak set into the surrounding walnut. “The contrast breaks up the boxes and segments the built-ins,” she explains. Dimensional, metallic-glazed tiles surround the firebox with eye-catching texture and pattern.


Nora’s love for blue-greens inspired the palette of blue tones Rocke used to ground the family room and serve as a common thread tying interior spaces together. Then she crafted a kaleidoscope of vibrant accents. “I’m a florist and I love color, but I was shunning it for something neutral,” Nora recalls. “Kristin called me out on that. She said ‘This is you’ and gave me permission to embrace it.” As a result, a color-washed mottled bluer spans the family room’s oak floor, while a custom sectional–cleverly upholstered in three complementary blue-toned velvets–anchors the space with a low, modern form. Like a seasoned chef, Rocke skillfully added spice, tossing in joyous hues with pillows, throws, chairs, art and accents.

Despite the assortment of exuberant colors, textures and patterns, the combined effect reads as unmuting and at ease. “You don’t need someone to hold your hand in their space. The liveliness is really comforting,” Rocke explains. Of course, she admits it’s not for everyone. “You couldn’t put a quiet, unexpressive person in the room. It wouldn’t be a fit.”


“To make a space really good, you have to turn the dial past perfect,” Rocke says. “That’s what this wallpaper does.” Nora preferred working in stages to create this room’s décor, and the wallpaper was the final step to completion.

Rocke proposed a big, adventurous graphic by Black Crows Studio, custom printed in gray and a white that matches the ceiling’s White Dove paint by Benjamin Moore. She reminded her clients that it is only wallpaper. “If you hate it, we can take it down.” But Nora, who dislikes small, repetitive patterns, naturally loved the choice. “it is so out of the box.”


“Asymmetry is dynamic and has more energy, but it is kind of a sharp blade,” Rocke says. “You have to be conscientious of keeping it in check.” To deliver a sense of comfort to a room defined by asymmetry, she created overall balance. She equalized the visual weight of the fireplace wall with the large elongated sectional sitting across from it. Similarly, she countered the run of windows with a pair of matching swivel chairs that mirror the windows’ symmetry. Finally, she positioned statements of color throughout the space to create carefully choreographed rhythm. “They let the eye travel and not get stuck in any one spot,” Rocke says. “In the end, this is a lively, get-up-and-dance king of space and suits the Petersons perfectly.”

Full Throttle

Bold design elements that rouse the room:

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Brad Mee
Brad Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of Utah Style & Design Magazine.