Home & Garden

Mount Vernon Victorian home remodel showcases palette of bright interior colors

Brittany Hejda is working on renovating the house she shares with her husband in Mount Vernon on Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Brittany Hejda is working on renovating the house she shares with her husband in Mount Vernon on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The couple is working to make the house more functional while maintaining its original charm. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Brittney Hejda played it safe for 10 years. She stuck to mostly neutrals and mainstream decor as she and her husband, Josef, moved around the country for his military career.

Then she realized how much she missed colorful decor. She started buying brightly colored rugs. “It took off from there,” she said.

Their previous home in the River Heights neighborhood of Iowa City featured a room with a bold yellow pop of color; another room had a bright fuchsia wall.

“I just loved how that made me feel — even on a very dreary day,” she said.

Today, the Hejdas have wholeheartedly embraced color in their Mount Vernon home.

A vibrant Kelly-green ceiling, a metallic pink door and glossy gold crown molding are just a few of the colorful touches the Hejdas have added to the Victorian home they bought last October. Somehow, it all works with the wood trim, hardwood floors, stained glass windows and other original features of the 113-year-old home.

The Hejdas had considered building a new house, but older homes kept “flirting” with them, Brittney Hejda said. They fell in love with the historic home that sits in a neighborhood full of big, beautifully maintained homes on large lots.

Previous owners had already taken care of costly upgrades, including newer cedar siding, basement concrete flooring and drain system and updated electrical.

“It was the perfect house that we could jump into and straight away get to work,” Hejda said. “We didn’t have to worry about hiring a contractor and having a bigger budget.”


At 2,200 square feet, with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the home offers plenty of opportunities for Hejda to add her personal style — “eclectic Victorian?” — while her husband focuses on his priority: making the home energy-efficient.

“He’s never challenged anything design-wise,” she said. “I’m pretty darn lucky in that he has his interests, and I have mine. And we’re really good at collaborating on combining the two.”

Learning by doing

At 30, Brittney Hejda estimates she has lived in 20-some homes over the years.

When she was growing up in Cedar Rapids, her dad, Bill Ender, worked as a construction contractor. The family moved around a lot, and she was expected to pitch in with her dad on home improvements.

“If he was doing a landscaping project, I was there digging a trench,” she said.

Hejda still isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and has done a number of renovation projects because her husband has limitations due to injuries he suffered in the military.

She learns by doing. She installed most of the floors in their former Iowa City home — nicknamed The Treehouse — cutting out warped pieces of reclaimed wood and whacking the boards into place with a mallet. She’s comfortable using a power nailer, air compressors, saws and other tools.

“I never thought I would do that. Now it’s just second nature,” she said.

Deciding priorities

During the renovation of their former Iowa City home, the Hejdas lived in her parents’ finished basement. They tackled plumbing and electrical first, starting in the kitchen.

As they moved in and personalized their Mount Vernon home, the couple wanted their children, Jude, 6, and Aria, 3, to feel at home right away.

“We wanted to give them that instant gratification and a safe place to be,” Hejda said.


Jude requested a “Star Wars”-themed room. Hejda searched online for ideas. On Pinterest, she found a room with painted geometric angles on the ceiling and walls. She adapted the look in blue, adding star decals she bought on Etsy.

“I tried to make sure everything looked organic. It turned out so well,” she said.

Next, it was time to tackle Aria’s bedroom. The red and pink color scheme was pulled from the framed vintage necklaces that had belonged to the girls’ great-grandmothers. Hejda recalls that Aria kept asking, “Where’s my color?” Hejda considered painting the ceiling but didn’t want the small room to feel smaller than it is.

Instead, inspired by photos of painted doors she’d seen online, Hejda grabbed a metallic rosy pink paint and painted Aria’s bedroom door. It’s the perfect feminine, yet modern, pop of color.

“She feels like she has something special, but it doesn’t dominate the room,” Hejda said.

It’s only paint

Sometimes, Brittney Hejda doesn’t get the color right the first time. She chose blue accents — a rug, a large work of art — for the home’s sizable entryway after painting the walls white. But she didn’t like it.

Rethinking the color scheme, she focused on the three stained-glass windows going up the stairway — lavender and plum — with dark leading. For new crown molding, she went with a glossy black paint and loves it.

“It really picks up on the leaded glass,” she said.

Sometimes when she’s unsure about a color, she’ll paint the walls white or buy white curtains.

“I’m trying to avoid that and challenge myself,” she said. The only colors she’s afraid to use are orange and purple. “Any other color, it’s in my house,” she said.

She found a Pinterest photo of a home with a bold blue stripe in the living room and dining room with an old fireplace mantel painted a darker blue. She contemplated doing something similar with yellow but then chose to replicate the color scheme exactly. After all, if she didn’t like it, she could paint over it, she said.


She painted a stripe of blue along the living room ceiling, then added a darker blue paint on the built-in shelf over the window and to the corner fireplace. The result — the living room is now her favorite room in the house.

“With the fun, bright blue stripes and the gold ceiling medallion and chandelier and the blue fireplace, it’s like a rainbow room. I have a pink rug in there,” Hejda said. “It always makes me happy to be home. It’s a very welcoming room.”

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