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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Right Fit

Lambert D. Johnson placed his home inside a subdivision that would later take the name Johnson Place. He was the scion of Mead Johnson, an Evansville-based baby formula manufacturer, and his plot of land on the East Side later became the home to barons of industry who raised their families in the neighborhood.

The site is now occupied by families like the Alexanders. Their dedication to family is apparent inside their five-bedroom home. Above the dresser in Matt and Kristie Alexander’s youngest daughter’s room is a portrait. The subject matter is the daughter at a younger age with the same golden hair and a sweet grin. A former housekeeper painted the portrait from a photograph. It was one of Kristie’s favorite photos of her youngest daughter. “(Our maid) took it home and painted it as a surprise,” Kristie says. The décor surrounding the painting looks like a vignette from a Pottery Barn catalog. Bright blue walls contrast with colorful flowers that adorn the ceiling over quilted bedding.

With help from Eddie Erickson, owner of E. Erickson Antiques & Design, Kristie was able to take her visions and transform the 6,400-square-foot, 1960-built home into a classic yet family-friendly living quarters. She and her husband Matt, general manager of Alexander Funeral Homes, previously lived nearby on tree-lined Alvord Boulevard. With an expanding family (now four daughters between the ages of nine and 18), the Alexanders required more space, and in 1999, they bought their dream home.

The ample room may have sold them, but 12 years later, the 4,750 square feet throughout the main level and upstairs have a new look. “I knew it would be a great house,” Kristie says, “but it needed updating.”

She turned to Erickson, whose Downtown shop is a treasure trove of opulent pieces: Karges screens, French chests with ormolu mounts, and Imari porcelain — some hundreds of years old. Evansville Living featured Erickson’s home in its January/February 2007 issue (“Objects of Desire”), and though Kristie had the designer’s influence, her home is not a reiteration of Erickson’s viewpoint. This home boasts comfy couches; rich, warm rugs and carpets; and stools at the kitchen counter for quick snacks. It says, “This is for family.”
Still, Kristie planted worldly pieces throughout her family’s abode. The Alexanders’ foyer is a showcase of this theme where good things come in twos: matching Chinese Imari plates on the wall to the left and identical red and gold chairs with Chinese print near the carpeted steps.

Through the next doorway is a grand floor-to-ceiling window that sheds light throughout the living room and part of the kitchen. Kristie’s favorite part of the light-filled space isn’t the black slate fireplace or the small mud-men figurines on a shelf near the door (though they are delightful accents) — it’s the Chinese shallow bowl on the coffee table given to her by her mother-in-law, Sherry Alexander. The 18th century antique was bought at Rowe’s Import Shop (now closed) and had been damaged before Sherry ever got her hands on it. The blue and white bowl was repaired in Europe before it came to Evansville, with thick, metal staples instead of glue that hold together the once broken pieces. “It gives it character,” Kristie says. “I never knew that you could staple pottery.”

Printed wall coverings are consistent throughout the home, expressing style from both Kristie and Erickson. The dining room and master bedroom carry an unintended theme of birds. They’re found on the walls, drapes, and paintings. “My taste is evolving,” Kristie says. “I don’t like a lot of clutter but wanted important pieces.”

Surrounded by grand furniture and multicultural centerpieces, Kristie appreciates how fortunate she is. Raised by a single mom, she grew up with less financial security than she and Matt now provide their family. And with nice things comes an almost overwhelming fondness in caring for them. “I’m a bit anal,” she says with a smile.

In her daughters’ rooms, she wanted every piece to fit together perfectly with more printed fabric and wall coverings like the rest of the house but with splashes of youthful influences. Offsetting the flowery curtains and comforters in one bedroom is a framed chalkboard covered with a child’s handwriting. A different room uses unusual, yet sophisticated blends of gray, yellow, and black with bedposts that nearly reach the ceiling. Every room carries the classical theme, but every room carries a unique character.

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