Entertaining Guru Builds VRBO Dinner Party Palace in Walla Walla

Kelley Moore creates a retreat for friends in Washington's wine capital.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
A bust of Marie Antoinette stands against lavish hand block printed wallpaper from London-based Cole & Son in the main entry of Kelley Moore’s remodeled 1905 Dutch Colonial retreat in Walla Walla.

A massive bust of Marie Antoinette in the entry sets the tone for Kelley Moore’s recently remodeled 1905 Dutch Colonial house in Walla Walla. “She threw these fabulous parties,” says Moore, who is famous for doing the same. 

“I wanted to create a place for my friends to come and vacation,” says Moore, who, before moving to Walla Walla, served as the entertaining expert for Seattle magazine and King 5 News, as well as garnering spots on national talk shows such as Ellen and The View. Of her home, located in a prime historical neighborhood where old-growth trees line the quiet street, she says: “It’s a haven for me, but it’s also a place for my friends to come and relax—play in the pool, go wine tasting, make dinners.”

Moore’s desire to bring people together is informed by her self-described idyllic childhood. “I watched my parents entertain and make lifelong friendships, and I swear it was all done around a dinner table or a wet bar,” says Moore.

Her recent relocation to Walla Walla from Seattle was driven partly by a visit to the area, during which she discovered an ideal assisted living facility for her mother (her father died in 2007). She also found herself embraced by fellow creatives and entrepreneurs who moved to Walla Walla from metropolitan areas and found their businesses thriving.

“It gives you the mind space to actually be more creative, because you’re not sitting in traffic, you don’t have all the noise—I feel like I can grow more as a person in a place like this.”

Moore's home is rich with conversation pieces and dramatic lighting fixtures. A vintage Murano chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the bright and cozy sunroom.

On her second visit to Walla Walla, she found the Dutch Colonial she now owns. Moore’s affinity for older homes—she previously owned a 1913 Craftsman on Queen Anne and a 1923 Tudor in Montlake—immediately attracted her to the property, even though much of the interior of the 3,700-square-foot home was outdated.

Although Moore had renovated her Queen Anne and Montlake homes, she served as her own contractor with this one, which proved challenging. Like a scene from The Money Pit, Moore was showing the house to friends before the renovation when they heard a massive crash. Part of the kitchen ceiling had fallen to the floor. “That’s when I learned what dry rot was,” Moore recalls. “And if I hear ‘water damage’ one more time in my life, I will jump off a bridge.” 

Touring the home now, you would never know of the struggles Moore faced. Plumbing and the ancient knob-and-tube wiring have been replaced. Moore removed a wall to create a dramatic, grand entry with herringbone-patterned tiles replicating antique brick, and a massive chandelier originally from a mansion on Lake Washington. Removing the wall also exposed the formal dining room just off the entry. An impressive farm table seats as many as 14 guests; built-ins display Moore’s swoon-worthy collection of vintage china and glassware.

After working with neutral palettes in the past, Moore decided to play with color in this home. The dining room has bold dark blue walls, which set off the apricot-colored upholstered chairs and a period navy blue enamel and gold chandelier. 

The kitchen, just off the dining room, required even more extensive renovations. Moore gutted it and installed custom casement windows that look out onto the garden, filling the once dark space (complete with a potbelly stove) with natural light. The custom backsplash was inspired by an Ann Sacks design, and she chose chef-grade appliances.

The breakfast nook, next to the kitchen, now opens out to the garden after Moore opened a wall and installed custom, oversize, full-light sliding doors. Guests can enjoy morning coffee in the cheery space while listening to the water flow from the patio’s three-tiered fountain. The patio itself overlooks almost 19,000-square-feet of the park-like setting, where 100-year-old redwoods bookend manicured gardens and a pool—installed by Moore—just beyond.

The living room is ready for a crowd with a vintage game table and a free-standing bar, built by Moore's father.

Moore’s knack for blending modern and vintage is on display in the breakfast nook, where Louis ghost chairs, draped with sheepskin throws, surround French bistro tables. The living room contains further stunning selections. Moore re-covered sleek barrel chairs with a faux eel skin fabric, and positioned the chairs to flank a playful leopard-print daybed.

She divided the living room into two gathering areas, using a vintage Sicilian game table, where friends gather for roulette, poker, chess and backgammon. A bar that Moore’s father had built with intricate, inlaid wood in Germany sits just adjacent, making it easy to replenish cocktails while playing. 

Moore, who calls herself a lighting hound, has filled the home with jaw-dropping chandeliers and sconces, including two vintage Murano pieces: one above the game table and one in the sunroom, lighting one of several tablescapes filled with pieces of coral, geodes and books on decor. A small sculpture of a woman in the sunroom perhaps sums up Moore’s view of the refined yet delightfully whimsical world she has created. An arm broke apart from the sculpture, but Moore refused to glue it back on, embracing the flaw. “I look at her and all I see is beauty.”

Now that the dust has settled, literally, Moore recently listed the home on VRBO as “Maison 1205.” The home sleeps as many as eight guests and is perfect for celebrations, for which Moore will happily assist in making them memorable occasions.

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