The basement was completely bare when the family moved into the house. “Mike did the wainscotting and we built from there,” says Karen. The masculine space is ideal for lounging and entertaining, with its big screen TV, massive sectional and bar. “Slowly but surely the pool table and sound system came in,” says Karen. “We all do enjoy it down there.”
Maya's Bedroom: Her Castle
Maya’s room is Karen’s “fantasy playground,” which she delighted in pulling together. “Everything from the hot air balloon to the art… it makes me happy. Maya calls it her castle. I’ve never called it that but that’s what she calls it. She keeps everything so neat. She puts everything back so perfectly.”
The Master Bedroom: Sweet Retreat
“It’s like a cloud, very dreamy and airy,” says Karen, describing the master suite, a peaceful place she can retreat to “after listening to music and yapping all day.”
The Family: The Simple Life
When Maya was born, the family lived in Gastown and couldn’t imagine moving out of downtown. “Then, as Maya started running around, the patio was stressing us out,” says Karen. Mike, who works in construction, chose the newly built house and instinctively knew Karen would love it.
White with kids? Choose easy-to-clean materials, such as leather, says Karen.
The Designer: Sisterly Advice
Karen’s sister, Sarita Sidhu, an interior designer, put the finishing touches on the home. “I’ll buy the stuff and she’ll rejig things,” says Karen. “But I always need that final approval from her.”
The Living Room: Streamlined Style
Comfort is king for Karen, who selected the soft, unfussy furnishings. Mike was on board with letting Karen take the lead but had to be convinced not to splurge on an iconic Bubble Chair, designed by Eero Aarnio in 1968. “The pool table in the basement (click through for photo) was the compromise,” she says.
“I love the little tiny details,” says Karen, who likes to change out accessories rather than commit to trends.
Robert Kenney; Food styling by Kathleen Almeida
Karen Khunkhun's family-friendly retreat is ideal for both quiet escape and lively entertaining
You can probably picture the facial expressions and gestures that accompany the sometimes-controversial antics during The Jeff O’Neil Show, which airs on CFOX radio. Thankfully, Karen Khunkhun, one of the morning show’s hosts, offers some much-needed feminine grounding amid the raucous hijinks.
Sure, she can banter with the guys and land plenty of razor-sharp barbs of her own. But when Karen heads home to her husband, Mike Savolainen, and their daughter, Maya, 4, she leaves behind the boys’ club atmosphere for one that’s softer, with a more family-friendly focus.
“I work in rock radio; I work with all men,” says Karen. “But I don’t really have a hard edge to my home.”
Karen has always been drawn to “a light, bright and airy aesthetic,” which she’s achieved in her North Vancouver house by wrapping it in shades of white. The open-concept space is reminiscent of the family’s former Gastown condo – one of the reasons the couple fell for the house when they first saw it two years ago. Karen loves the practicality of the open kitchen, living and dining areas, especially when entertaining. “It feels like everyone is always together; no one is cut off from the actual party.”
For her part, Karen likes to dream up signature cocktails – complete with catchy names (like the Spicy Spring Fling) – and take charge of the appetizers, sometimes seeking inspiration from Jamie Oliver or the website Half Baked Harvest – “I’m obsessed with it,” she enthuses.
This softer side of life seems to suit Karen well. “When I am home, I am definitely the happiest,” she says. “I am so grounded and excited about what’s to come.”
Janet Gyenes is a writer, editor, beverage columnist and co-founder of 70 magazine, an online travel publication. She has co-authored two travel guidebooks on Vancouver and has put her insatiable curiosity to work in words and photos, covering topics such as tasting sherry in Spain, mule-riding in Molokai, and tracking textile trends in Turkey. She regularly writes for BCLiving about food, beverage, design and more.