This remodel’s eclectic mix of Mardi Gras, feng shui, rock-’n’-roll, down-home, family and New Age themes adds up to one thing: Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Walk room to room in Bobbie Owens’ Boulder bungalow and you almost feel your moods shift with each new hue. In the living room, sunlit sage-green walls seem to evoke a sense of creativity and lightness. The regal purple bedroom emanates romance. The kitchen’s grounding, earthy brown begs you to kick off your shoes and stay for tea.
It’s no coincidence. Before applying a single drop of paint, the 29-year-old Louisiana debutante turned Widespread Panic follower turned organic lover of natural medicine and nutrition called upon a feng shui practitioner to help her choose which colors to put where. She even went so far as to have each bucket of paint blessed and infused with flower and gem essences.
“The painters thought it was pretty far-out, but after it was all done, they said, ‘We enjoyed painting this house more than we’ve enjoyed painting a house in a really long time,’” Owens says.
The spiritually guided color palette wasn’t the only unconventional approach in this six-month, six-figure remodel. At every turn in the three-bedroom, three-bathroom, tri-level home, visitors find an unexpected blend of whimsical color, rock-’n’-roll lifestyle, Southern sensibility and Boulder New Age—a fitting reflection of the woman who created it.
“I’m not an in-the-box person,” says Owens, stating the obvious. “I just wanted to create a place that was fun and lively, and had an inviting, loving feeling. I wanted people to come over and feel like they were not at a stranger’s house.”
The youngest of four kids growing up in Alexandria, La., Owens was “the least conventional” member of her family. After brief stints at conservative southern colleges, she left on a two-year odyssey to follow the Widespread Panic band (to date, she’s seen 300-plus shows). Eventually, her travels landed her in Boulder in 2001, where she found her calling in a two-year program at the North American Institute for Medical Herbalism. (Since graduation, she’s augmented her schooling by studying spiritual healing in Belize, Ayurvedic medicine in India and Andean mysticism in Peru.)
The first time she set eyes on the circa-1890 bungalow just northwest of downtown, she knew it was hers.
“The energy felt great,” says Owens, who dragged friends over after concerts at the nearby Boulder Theater to peek in the windows. “Probably 10 of my friends saw it before I bought it.”
With original maple floors, antique barn doors and hardwood trim, the century-old house reflected a sense of permanence that appealed to her. But the stark white walls and creepy, claustrophobic attic had to go.
Enter Bill Cheatwood of Blue Stone WoodWorks, who landed the attic-remodeling job after Owens interviewed five other general contractors. Again, she says, she “went off energy.”
“I asked myself, ‘Who do I really resonate with?’ Bill is a free spirit, too, and I appreciated that. It paid off tremendously.” Over the course of six months, Cheatwood would serve not only as general contractor, but also as advisor and confidant, getting to know Owens’ buddies (who visit often) and parents (who pitched in with ideas), as he helped guide the first-time homeowner through a remodel that got increasingly complex as time went on, spilling out of the attic to the other floors.
During construction, Owens mostly lived in the basement, studying herbology and nutrition and gathering design ideas, despite a broken heel she suffered while training for a marathon. In the meantime, Cheatwood tore off the roof and added a quaint bedroom, sitting room and deck upstairs, and constructed supporting walls for the upper floor that didn’t previously exist—contending with strict height restrictions and a few disgruntled neighbors along the way. “It was always interesting,” Cheatwood recalls. “You never knew what Bobbie would come up with next. She’s always a surprise.”
The Ba Gua Groove
As the remodel progressed, Owens tackled paint colors. But before she chose a single one, she consulted feng shui specialist Laurelyn Baker of Boulder’s Visions of Home Multi-Cultural Feng Shui. Baker placed a Taoist diagram called a “ba gua” over the floor plan to determine which rooms represented which aspects of life—knowledge and wisdom; health and ancestors; wealth; fame and reputation, etc.—and then helped Owens choose 18 colors to evoke energies that would suit her best in each area.
“Color is one of the most primal visual cues that human beings and animals get. It notifies us of everything, from what is safe to eat to which mates are the right ones to choose. And everyone knows you just feel different in the presence of different colors,” Baker says.
Initially, Owens envisioned a monotone “Zen-like” aesthetic, but the more she pursued that, the more the blues-loving, Mardi Gras queen in her rebelled. “Can Zen be loud with explosions of fluorescent color?” she wondered.
When you step inside Owens’ foyer, you’re greeted by the surprisingly juxtaposed themes of tradition, music, spirituality and family, all enhanced by riotous colors. Southern-style chandeliers grace every room, above maple-planked floors. Widespread Panic and Grateful Dead tunes echo from the impressive surround-sound speakers, and framed lithographs of Jerry Garcia, artistic renderings of late Panic guitarist Michael Houser, and concert posters adorn the walls. The kitchen and upstairs bedroom both host altars, complete with rare crystals, copal resin and palo santo smudge sticks.
Nearly every piece of artwork has a story—and a loved one—behind it: Owens acquired the original Dr. Seuss lithograph at an art show with a dear friend; the colorful bowl made of recycled candy wrappers was a gift from her sister-in-law. And her mother’s skilled handiwork is everywhere in the house, including the glorious hand-painted dining-room set with beautifully brocaded chair seats, hand-sewn beaded pillows, and a funky table made with a collage of Widespread Panic stickers. Ultimately, her once-conservative parents seem to have embraced their daughter’s unconventional tastes.
“I think my parents have grown through me,” Owens says with a smile.
When her parents or friends visit, they often stay in the garden-level basement. With blue-green concrete floors, a House of Blues motif and an efficiency kitchen (handy for late-night snacks and cold beer), the basement is a second home to visitors who come and go as they please, using their own tie-dye-colored keys.
“My friends are my family,” Owens says. “This is the family house.”
As a young woman who set out to create a home reflecting hospitality, generosity and a whole bunch of fun, Owens nailed it.
“It’s more than I ever thought it could be,” she says.