Hoosier homestyle

Three creative interior designs inspired by the forests, farms and art of Southern Indiana.


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Southern Indiana styles are as distinctive as the landscapes and lifestyles that inspire them.  From rugged hickory trees, to old-time farm implements, to vividly colored textiles – all contribute to design, and with a pinch of personality, become a home.

Christiane Lemieux, author of Undecorate, no longer believes in looking to interior design professionals for inspiration.  These days she much prefers the amateurs.  According to Lemieux, the Internet offers proof that the most vibrant style ideas come from real people.

A retired orthodontist in Brown County and two textile artists in Bloomington shared with us their personal experiences with the creation of their home’s interiors.  They may have had some help from experts, but these Hoosier homes belong to “real people,” and the styles are all their own.

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Wooden beams and furniture are bathed in natural light from skylights and large windows. Patterned rugs and upholstery adorn the rooms as well as stuffed creatures with names like Manfred and Seawolf. /photo by Zach Hetrick.

Rustic. Pertains to the country and may be rural, rough or unpolished.

Deep in the woods of Brown County, you’ll discover a log home with breathtaking views of 88 wooded acres.  Homeowner Mike Kelley, 61, has filled his home with natural elements and accents that are rustic by definition but not practice.

“It’s not rustic in the sense of not being comfortable. It has modern conveniences,” Kelley says.

Although the pioneers probably would not have thought of living in a log home as luxurious, Kelley’s modern twist is far from primitive.

While he does have turtle shells, antlers and animal skeletons in his nature room, Kelley also has a taste for the finer things.  A catalogued wine cellar that smells of rich cedar and an outdoor shower nestled in a hill, to name a few. He always knew that this was the kind of place he would live.

When Kelley was younger, he visited his neighbors’ cabin in Brown County, and realized that it was exactly what he wanted.  So he completed production of his log home in 1999.

“It fulfilled my lifelong dream of having a place in the woods.”

In the fall of 2011, Kelley retired.  He now resides in his dream home full time.

The log home has been featured in Indianapolis Monthly as well as the Herald Times.  “I feel honored,” Kelley says. “Somebody likes it, and I must have done something right.”

Kelley had help from interior designer Debra Smith; she developed the specific design concepts while collaborating with him on style.

He wanted a home that was open to the environment and the surrounding views.  Kelley was always asking for larger windows and skylights to allow natural light to illuminate the dark wood.

The great room features a massive stone fireplace and upholstered furniture with plaids, Native American patterns and natural colors. A Viking stovetop and a large freestanding butcher-block top island dominate the kitchen.  Rustic hickory furniture in the dining room sits adjacent to a small sunroom with a cast-iron stove and two comfy tan chairs. Many of the accents have special meaning.

Kelley found a large moose head, Manfred, at a shop in Noblesville.  Manfred sports a new hat for each season.  Other items were discovered in art auctions.

Seawolf, a totem pole by wood carver Jon Pinney, stands a little more than six feet tall. It features a bald eagle with enormous outstretched arms, and the bottom half of its body, at the base of the pole, is a whale’s tailfin.

Kelley says that someday he’ll likely donate the totem pole to someone, maybe the library. “I have things that are nice, but it has spirit.”

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A soft light floods into the living room, covering the beige furniture and rose armoire. Other rooms are developed around themes, including the moon, birds and even Elvis Presley. /photo by Zach Hetrick.

Farmhouse. Refers to a farmer’s dwelling.  It is simple and meets the basic needs of its occupants.

At a well-known fork in the road in Brown County, you’ll find a simple yellow home with cherry-red trim.  What used to be just a farmhouse has been reinvented by Mike Kelley into a retreat surrounded by acres of nature trails.

“I gave it a “facelift,” and I gave it the love that it had been lacking in recent years,” Kelley says.  “The house responded to this love, and it restored the house’s will to live.”

He first acquired the Stone Head site in 2004.  The stone carving that gives the home its name is displayed out in front.  The head was originally one of three used as directional markers in the 1850s and is the only one still intact.

Kelley refurbished and redesigned the farmhouse, again with the help of Debra Smith.

“When I think of “Southern hospitality,” I think of a warm, open, easy-going, friendly personality. I think of love,” Kelley says.

He saw the kitchen as an opportunity to establish that sense of Southern comfort.  From the antique-designed sink to the traditional farmhouse dining table, the kitchen encourages togetherness.

Kelley’s guests can select a themed bedroom, such as the lover’s nest, which features mellow-hued furnishings and a white whicker chair. Or the blue moon room has dark night-sky walls and a mismatched rug woven with every color imaginable.  If those two rooms don’t satisfy the guest, the Elvis room might. Red satin sheets, an old VCR player and a five-disk CD changer play up the pop culture nostalgia.

Guests will be sure to stay clear of the basement, where “arachnid testing” is supposedly underway. Playful accents like the spider warning sign keep guests entertained and Kelley’s personality alive.

The front parlor is large enough for guests to lounge and enjoy the television inside the rose-colored armoire.  Kelley selected or created the handcrafted pieces, like the red cedar stair rail, which was designed from trees found onsite.

Susie Young, childhood friend, says Kelley has truly created something new out of this historical site.

“It’s an authentic home,” Young says.  “He did a great job bringing forth more life.”

If you’d like to learn more about the House at Stone Head, visit  houseatstonehead.com.

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Crisp white walls provide contrast against the brightly colored chaise, ottoman and palm tree sculpture. Paintings, glass figurines and a pair of shoes have been placed upon the walls. /photo by Zach Hetrick.

Contemporary.  Being done in or belonging to the present times.

“It’s not cutting-edge contemporary,” says homeowner and textile designer Judith Rose.  “The house is more modern, but very contemporary in its structure/house plan.”

Judith and John Rose, both in their early 60s, moved into their custom-designed Bloomington home in 1998.  After searching for what seemed like ages for the perfect architect, they found Frank Adams.

Adams had a certain flair about him that attracted the Roses’ interest.  He had a signature style with the way he lighted his homes and how he constructed them.

He developed his designs around the idea of a pod, having the center room be the main hub with small attachments to different rooms.  He was able to achieve this effect by having different rooflines on “separate” areas of the home. Although the house is connected, the illusion is that several buildings are close together.

Adam’s creativity was compatible with the Roses.  “I like the creative urge,” Judith says.  “I love to make something happen.”

Although Judith could see herself living just about anywhere, her home couldn’t be placed somewhere else.  The Roses’ home was constructed to fit inside a dip in the landscape and was shaped with materials from the surrounding location. Limestone anchors it to Indiana.

The main room is a large space, and not a traditional one either.  It serves as a hallway you walk through to get to all parts of the home. However, this area is far from a simple passageway.

This grand hall is full of colorful chairs and paintings, with bright white walls to provide a crisp, contrasting effect.  The vivid textile designs and rainbow hues of the furniture bounce off the equally vibrant pieces of artwork.  There are large windows on both the east and west walls that light up the large room.

Another unexpected feature in this house is the lack of straight edges and right angles.  John loves the no-symmetry design, but it can drive Judith a little crazy.

Local artists’ works are the main source of décor, particularly the paintings of Bloomington artist Dawn Adams.  Displays of what Judith calls “early” and “late” Dawn are scattered throughout the home, but most of the pieces can be found in the main hub.  The Roses have been collecting Adams’ work, from portraits of the Roses’ children to natural scenes in the wild, since she was a student.  Other items were acquired through trading and auctions.

“Everything tells a story,” Judith says.  “Nothing was just sort of bought, “Oh, here’s $500, and I want this. No.”

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