All's white with the world

Cedar Rapids woman finds beauty in imperfect objects

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There’s nothing a little white paint can’t fix.

Kate Ford, 36, of Cedar Rapids, lives, creates and decorates by those words.

When Ford and her husband, Brian, moved into their early 1900s home in Wellington Heights six years ago, they didn’t have much.

“I’d sit and look at these Pottery Barn magazines and couldn’t afford any of it,” she says. “So I just started ripping out pages I loved and heading to the thrift store.”

At first, she was a self-described serial room painter. She just couldn’t settle on a color and repainted every room at least once a month.

Then she discovered Swedish design blogs and fell in love with the simplicity of a white palette.

White walls, white furniture and white décor.

“My husband thought I was crazy for painting everything white,” she says. “But once I went neutral, I realized I could bring in any color to the room and just change out the accessories.”

Even with all the white, Ford’s home is anything but stark. It’s quite the contrary, in fact. Whites and grays are brightened with dramatic punches of color — like a rust orange sofa used as seating at the dining room table or the ultra soft brown drapes framing the windows. Blankets you want to snuggle into — white and all — are draped invitingly across the couch. Seating areas are arranged to encourage cozying up with a cup of coffee or to catch up with a dear friend.

“I love comfy,” Ford says. “I want our home to feel cozy, like you could walk in the front door and drop into the couch.”

This time of year, Ford’s decor speaks of the season as well. There are pumpkins on rusty scales nestled in the fireplace facade — which she constructed from scrap wood herself, of course.

The dining room table is covered in burlap, imperfect pumpkins, bones, beakers and test tubes to create a delightfully spooky vignette.

Conversation pieces are her specialty. The letters, symbols, numbers and sayings that she loves to accent with all stand out against the neutral backdrop.

“I love creating the display, creating conversation pieces at the table and thinking outside the box,” she says. “And I can tell you where everything came from.”

Ford won’t divulge her specific spots, but she is always scouting thrift shops, church sales, alleys and curbs. She’s not above dumpster diving either.

“I love the feeling I get when I spot a dumpster piled high with discarded items,” she says. “My biggest thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this.”

Six years and three kids (and a couple of backyard chickens) later, her style may have evolved, but she’s still finding her treasures in other people’s castaways.

She’s been sharing her finds and magicianship for years through design consulting, seasonal sales held at her home and this summer at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers Market. This week, she takes the leap to a storefront in the NewBo District.

213 Ford Lukes & Company, a partnership with friend and Cedar Rapids photographer Nancy Lukes, will offer occasional sales of her one-of-a-kind creations. The first is Thursday through Saturday in conjunction with the NewBo Market grand opening.

It’s the next, natural step for the woman who rearranged her mother’s house as a little girl.

“I’ve always been this way,” Ford says. “What we collect defines what we create, and each discovery has a different story.”

“When you walk through a home you should know that person, what they love. Your home should be a reflection of you.”  

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