In the Spirit of the Season

Decorated for the holidays, designer Kris Keller's personal residence reveals her professional philosophy.

By Barb Wilson
Photography by Anne Matheis


First-time visitors to designer Kris Keller’s home are often surprised. Perhaps they expect something classically elegant or ultra-lavish. Or an array of today’s latest design trends. Instead, guests find a living environment that’s as warm and personable as its owner, especially when decorated for the holiday season.  

With 34 years of experience in her field – 25 of those years as founder/director of The Design Source LTD. –Keller is recognized for her award-winning styling. But it’s her design philosophy and unique ability to interpret clients’ personalities and desires that has achieved the firm’s success. “A home should be the ‘spiritual center’ of your life,” she maintains, “a place that gives you pleasure, that soothes, refreshes and supports the way you live.” 

Flexibility should also be counted among Kris’ notable skills, as evidenced by her own home. When planning to downsize 2-1/2 years ago, she was looking for something “cottage-y” – a smaller, more manageable house with lots of character. Time, however, was of the essence, and what Kris found was a traditional ranch built in 1973, recently flipped and freshly renovated inside.  

At 2,200 square feet, the ranch was virtually identical in size to her previous home, which meant that her furniture would fit perfectly. Equally important, the unfinished lower level offered abundant office space for The Design Source. So Kris switched gears and went to work immediately. While contractors built out the lower level in an astonishing three weeks’ time, she focused on creating the comfortable, relaxed look she’d envisioned for the main level.

She decided on “boho glam” – a laid-back retro scheme that combines luxurious textiles, jewel tones and metallic accents – as the best way to meld the home’s vintage styling with her existing furnishings and favorite possessions. For aesthetic continuity, she drew on the ranch’s simple black-and-white exterior, establishing a basic palette of black, white and red for the interior. 

“I redid everything,” Kris recalls, indicating the custom window treatments, grasscloth Phillip Jeffries wallcoverings and the family room fireplace, which she completely redesigned. “I like simple geometric shapes and work with them often,” she explains. Clean and tailored, the predominately white fireplace surround is accented with black polygons, which are repeated in the carved “pillow” shapes lining the mantel.

Throughout the home, family heirlooms, mementos and gifts are an integral part of the décor and, at holiday time, her reverence for family treasures is even more apparent. Although The Design Source frequently decorates clients’ homes for the season, festooning her own home gives Kris special pleasure. “All of my ornaments have personal meaning, and bringing them out each year is like meeting old friends again,” she says with a smile.

The yuletide ambiance is quickly established in the foyer, which showcases a handsome hand-carved chest that had belonged to the designer’s grandmother. Topping the chest are a tasseled antique fiber runner, one of the countless Santas she’s collected over time, long-saved greeting cards and a signed copy of Clement Moore’s "The Night Before Christmas." 

In the living room, a permanent arrangement on one wall is typical of Kris’s ingenuity, where a variety of decorative corbels serve as display shelves for an assortment of handmade miniature furniture pieces. This cozy room was also her choice as “holiday central.” Positioned in the window bay, the slim, cylindrical Christmas tree is well-suited to the scale of the space and deeply layered with ornaments from her childhood and various items made by her son when a youngster. Facing each other at the top of the tree are two doves of peace handcrafted by Kris’s mother-in-law, and on the coffee table is a golden angel made by her mother.

Across the foyer, the formal dining room is similarly festive, with a sheer organza tablecloth covering the massive pedestal table, ornate pillar candles centering the table setting and a number of gold-trimmed decorations that complement the gilded, velvet brocade dining chairs. Four more Santas join the mealtime revelry and, under a romantic figurative canvas by Irene Borg, colorful holiday miniatures are displayed on a glass-and-chrome tea caddy.

Countless seasonal mementos are tastefully distributed around the family room, which is already Christmas-y with its red/white/black color scheme. Santas are tucked everywhere, and a “forest” of miniature Christmas trees, all hand-decorated by Kris, is spread along the fireplace mantel. At one end of the hearth, family stockings are hung on the andirons, and a whimsical bearded elf and snoozing dog guard an antique 19th-century fire extinguisher at the opposing end. On a tray side table against one wall, a group of tiny Dickens characters celebrate the season and a rustic tray holding a number of small items rests on the creamy, linen-upholstered ottoman.

Holiday guests gravitating to the kitchen and breakfast area find plenty of conversation pieces there, as well. A bank of shimmering mercury glass balls and trees extends the full length of the granite-topped island that defines the kitchen and, illustrating Kris’ delightful sense of humor, an amusing vignette is set against the striking basket-weave marble backsplash. On the counter under the cabinets, an armchair Santa exchanges pleasantries with a gold-crowned “Fobot,” a found object robot that caught her fancy at the St. Louis Art Fair in Clayton.    

Dramatically appointed in red and gold, the master bedroom features handmade wall panels, textured and gold-finished; bronze silk drapes; and a stunning bedstead, embossed in metallic leaf, crafted in India, and newly purchased for this room. Somewhat less vivid but thoroughly inviting, the guest bedroom is furnished with a wrought-iron bed, muted red/gold fabrics and knit-covered throw pillows. Adding a touch of romance, an antique Coca Cola tray depicting an iconic Gibson Girl is mounted above the headboard.  

By now, Keller’s motivation as a design professional should be readily apparent. Her personal residence surrounds her with “comfort and joy” on a daily basis, and the same is true when she designs for clients. Whatever the preferred style – from minimalist to classic to opulent, her goal is to assist owners in creating a home that expresses their individuality, supports their personal lifestyle and continually uplifts the spirit of those who live there.   

Designer: Kris Keller, The Design Source LTD, 314-391-7640