The facade of Kate Bohner’s Wilmington townhouse today.; Bohner’s custom Japanese “cherry blossom” cabinet adds exotic appeal to the living room and hides the TV from view.//photos by Joe del Tufo
Kate Bohner is home at last, in a city townhouse in Wilmington that has the hip vibe of a Manhattan apartment—but with a lot more room.
She grew up in Newark, traveled the world and settled in New York, where she had dreamed of living since she was a little girl.
But when it came time to put down roots, she yearned for a home that would be a sanctuary, with space for friends, family and lots of designer shoes. She came to Wilmington to care for her mother, Jean Bohner, who had undergone a knee replacement. In the process, she rediscovered her home state.
“I was looking for something to move on to and I ended up in my favorite spot,” she says. “My dad always said serendipity allows you to know you are in the right place at the right time with the right people.”
Bohner is the founder of Bohner Bespoke, a boutique branding, communications and crisis management firm. In a successful career as a journalist and entrepreneur, she has been a correspondent for CNBC, co-authored Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Comeback” and managed several financial services firms.
She’s a hard charger who has succeeded in a competitive marketplace. Yet her home is unabashedly feminine. Witness her living room, an inviting space that envelops visitors with the coziness of a sofa upholstered in tufted purple velvet and draped with a cashmere blanket.
“I have been in careers with hard edges,” she says. “I want to come home to a place with nice textures.”
Above the sofa, a mirror is framed in purple embossed crocodile. A fleecy flokati softens a Lucite chair. A large abstract art piece is painted in a unique compound crafted from 50 pounds of melted precious metals.
A television is hidden away in a large custom cabinet embellished with a metal sculpture of a branch decorated with flower petals interpreted in brass spheres.
“I call it the cherry blossom cabinet,” Bohner says.
She originally spotted the piece in a magazine and commissioned a cabinet designed specifically for her apartment in Manhattan. Buddhas she has collected during her travels are perched on top.
Each piece in her home was selected because it appeals to Bohner on a soulful level. She appreciates the precision of an upholstered drum-style end table trimmed with brass and paired with a hammered brass tray. She is fond of sparkle and saturated colors.
The home’s dining room originally used as the living room.//photo by Joe del Tufo
The living room might have been transported directly from her New York digs. She rediscovered the pleasure of a formal dining room when she moved into the Wilmington townhouse.
“Nobody in New York has a dining room,” she says. “Everyone eats out.”
Originally, the dining room was sited in what is now the living room. One weekend, while she was entertaining college friends from the University of Pennsylvania, the group had a brainstorm.
“We said why not flip the rooms?” Bohner recalls.
The dining room, now sited in the front of the house, is ideal for sit-down dinner parties, conferences, and casual lunches and get-togethers. She discovered the William and Mary cupboard in Los Angeles, where she was shopping with her mother. It’s one of several key pieces yielded during mother-daughter expeditions.
“My mother is an amazing person to go shopping with,” she says. “She has incredible taste. She finds things that are beautiful, yet welcoming.”
Jean Bohner also found just the right table for the space, a natural cherry piece from the contemporary furniture maker and design firm Room & Board that readily expands and contracts to accommodate multiple functions in the room.
“When you put two leaves in it you can fit eight to 10 people,” Kate Bohner says. “Without the leaves, it’s a four-top.”
Deep charcoal gray walls set the tone for the dining room, creating a warm, intimate aura.
“It’s a sexy, romantic dining room,” Bohner says.
Tones of gray are layered throughout the first floor. Charcoal melts into dove gray in the living room, lightening into cloud gray in the kitchen.
For the foyer, she chose aubergine, a hue so naturally rich it looks as if it might have been extracted from the skins of eggplant.
It was in the foyer that Bohner decided she wanted to live in the townhouse, built in 1900 in the Highlands neighborhood in Wilmington. She walked in the door, surveyed the high ceilings above and yellow pine floors beneath her feet.
“I said, ‘This is it,’” she recalls.
She appreciated both the vintage charm of the home and the upscale modernization completed by previous residents. There’s a large, well-equipped kitchen with an island for gathering. The second-floor bath is sheathed in marble with such niceties as a walk-in shower and a heated towel rack.
Kate Bohner holds up a vintage photo of her Wilmington
Outdoors, there’s a city garden where her French bulldog Daphne can safely play. An in-ground sprinkler system ensures the plants are refreshed. It’s a place she enjoys sharing with others, relaxing with friends on the patio and hosting an alfresco wedding reception.
“At one time, it was a proper English garden,” she says. “I haven’t reached that level yet, but I find myself becoming more and more interested in plants.”
She relies on Leon’s Garden World to come up with seasonal displays for the window boxes and large pots in front of the house, such as “baby pumpkins in all kinds of colors in the fall, wonderful greens in winter. I love that they work with me. I feel like an apprentice.”
Bohner’s neighborhood might be a microcosm of New York, a pedestrian-friendly blend of homes, shops and restaurants. She often starts her day with coffee at De La Coeur Café. She walks the labyrinth at Delaware Art Museum. She takes Daphne on outings to the dog park at Rockford Park.
“New Yorkers walk everywhere,” she says. “Now I’m in Wilmington and I walk everywhere. I walk to get manicures and pedicures.”
The townhouse has four bedrooms, which Bohner has designated for various functions. The bedroom furniture from her New York apartment is now in the second-floor guestroom. Another space has been reinterpreted as a tranquil yoga studio with a fountain. The third bedroom is a hip home office with industrial-style furniture.
The third floor is a master retreat, with a king-size bed most New Yorkers can only dream about.
“The mattress comes out of the box and grows like a chia pet,” Bohner says. “The first couple of nights I slept like a starfish. Such a delight.”
A walk-in closet the size of a studio apartment is the ideal home for her expansive wardrobe. There’s a laundry room where she takes joy in washing and drying her clothes.
“In New York, I used to drop off things at a wash-and-fold,” she says.
An abundance of space offers the promise of projects. Bohner is planning to transform what once was a three-season room at the back of the house into a year-round retreat.
There’s already a rustic brick floor. Her vision includes a fireplace and lots of comfy seating.
“It will be a chill space, a place to unwind and read,” she says. “It will be a place of relaxation, peace and serenity.”
Let your space reflect your interests. Kate Bohner designated a spare bedroom as a yoga studio.
Celebrate the seasons. Update window boxes and large pots with plants that reflect changes throughout the year. Think daffodils and tulips in spring, geraniums and snap dragons in summer, pumpkins and ornamental kale in fall and fir branches with pine cones in winter.
Enjoy your dining room. It’s not just a place for formal meals. Make it an impromptu conference room. Order takeout and invite a friend for lunch.