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Light-Filled Arizona Home Decked for the Holidays

Krissie Brubaker channels her mom’s look in more casual language

Written by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Colleen Duffley

    A sixth sense for design is Krissie Brubaker’s birthright. She came by it naturally from her mother and business partner, Joan Colangelo. As owners of Trouvé, two Arizona-based French antiques and gift shops they opened four years ago, the two women have opportunities to observe one another’s eye for design in action on their frequent buying trips to France.

    But it’s not as if those close encounters erupt in any epiphanies—they’ve long known each other’s look, literally inside and out. “We both love French antiques, but Mom is more of a purist in her style,” says Krissie, who, like her mom, is the mother of four. “Mom’s look is more formal, probably because she’s had the means to collect finer pieces.” Krissie, on the other hand, is more like her mom was in her own early married days—a connoisseur of the flea-market find and an alchemist who can render fabric remnants into fabulous curtains or pillows.

    Photography: Colleen Duffley
    Produced by Barbara Mundall

    Interior designers: Joan Colangelo and Kristen Brubaker

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    Seasonal Entry

    “I’ve been more a collector of found objects, from which I pull my look together,” muses Krissie. “Mom collects on a different level. Plus, I have this houseful of kids. By necessity, my style has to be more durable.” It’s also younger—beginning with the house itself.

    Natural greens set the seasonal theme.

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    Sweet Details

    First, the couple’s story. Scott Brubaker, Krissie’s husband, is the son of her mom’s best friend; the families lived across the country from each other, so while they were growing up, Krissie and Scott met only once, in third grade. When Scott took a marketing job with the Phoenix Suns—the NBA team then owned by Krissie’s dad—they met again, this time with a destined romance.

    A gorgeous bow and pinecones cap off the stairway garland.

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    Light-Filled Living Room

    The Brubakers built their Scottsdale home from scratch. The process took four years, during which time they lived in Krissie’s parents’ old, yet-to-be-restored Spanish Mission-style house. (See it here.) “Our whole family lived in their house, and I fell in love with its windows. I kind of stole them from Mom’s house when we built this one,” snickers Krissie, who designed her own living room with airy windows as the architectural pièce de résistance.

    The living room’s tall fan-shaped windows were inspired by similar ones in Krissie’s mom’s house.

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    Ready for Christmas

    She also employed her mom’s lessons in light. “My whole life, Mom has talked about the direction of light. With the sunlight so intense in Arizona, you have to be careful to bring in light from the right direction or it can be overpowering. When I planned our new house, I really gave a purposeful placement to the windows, to get the soft north and south light. Only one French door in the entire house faces west,” she notes.

    Sweet Bailey is ready to open her presents!

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    Mantel Details

    Many pieces sprinkled throughout the Brubaker house are gifts from Krissie’s mother. “She’s collected Canton [Chinese export porcelain] forever, and she started giving pieces to me and my sisters,” Krissie explains, noting the collection on her living-room mantel. 

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    White Kitchen

    Krissie designed the island to look like a Louis XVI antique, using a chalky French blue-gray finish. Its Carrara marble top reminds her of “the beautiful patisserie tables we buy in France for the shop.”

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    Blue-and-White Banquette

    At the kitchen banquette white china and a forest of trees conjure up a wintry tablescape—even in Arizona.

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    Keeping Room

    If looks speak volumes, there’s no denying that Krissie’s and her mom’s homes are related, despite the age difference. Not only is a French style dominant in both places, their palettes are akin, as well. Yet whereas Krissie’s mom says her fondness for the colors of “sky and foggy days” is all about their serenity, Krissie’s penchant for the pale is more pragmatic. “I’ve lived my entire life in Arizona, where the heat is intense. It just feels cooler to have soft, light colors in a home. Darker, brighter spaces make me feel too enclosed, too warm.”

    “I had read about a keeping room, and I wanted that in our home,” Krissie says of this cozy space.

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    Sunny Porch

    Red blooms make white wicker look Christmasy.

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    French Influence

    The “Aime Bru” sign on the porch was a must-have from France; Bru is Scott’s nickname

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    Formal Dining Room

    “The dining room chandelier was Mom’s in a previous home. It was the one thing I begged for,” says Krissie. The ceiling high 18th-century French buffet is another piece that Joan has passed on to her daughter. An unconventional and savvy shopper, Krissie found the secondhand table and chairs for less than $1,000.

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    Tabletop Delights

    The silver service is vintage Joan; the reindeer an insouciant Krissie touch.

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    Serene Space

    Her mother’s word, “serenity,” does creep into conversation when Krissie discusses her bedroom. “I love the serenity of its cool blue-gray walls,” she says. In her mom’s footsteps (her mother made her own slipcovers as a newlywed), Krissie not only designed but sewed the bedroom curtains. She also designed the bed, “inspired by a pair of antique gates Mom had for her own home.” (Krissie isn’t the only heir to Joan’s decorating finds; the gates now grace the home of one of Krissie’s two sisters.)

    The bedside table is a Louis XVstyle painted commode. While in college, Krissie lived in Versailles one semester, studying language, Impressionism, and French history.

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    Sitting Area

    Yet arguably the most meaningful gift from her mother is a respect for tradition, especially apparent at Christmas. Both women prefer natural seasonal decorating. “One year when I was in Illinois visiting my husband’s relatives, I saw these amazing red berries in a field. I clipped a lot of them and shipped them to Arizona. We don’t have a lot of berries growing here,” she laughs. Krissie and family also follow the same customs each year when it’s time to choose a Christmas tree. “We love to go out with a group of friends and cut down our own—one that’s airy.” Just like Mom’s.

    The master bedroom’s Louis XVI-style chaise dates to 1890. Krissie made the curtains herself.

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    Family Portrait

    Scott and Krissie Brubaker enjoy Christmas outdoors with their children, from left: Hilary, Hannah, Jayce, Heather, and golden retriever Bailey.

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