All the Right Moves
A designer breathes new life into a suburban Chicago home, eloquently mixing old and new.
Soothing shades of blue—punctuated with streaks of jewel tones—roll through this Chicago home
in a most delightful way.
This photo: The living room’s colorful painting by Frank Stella inspired the home’s palette. “This house is all about contemporary art mixing with high-quality antiques and timeless contemporary upholstery,” designer Tom Stringer says. Opposite: Lofty ceilings and neutral walls open up the living room and spaces throughout the house.
This photo: The dining room is a daring mix of contemporary and timeless. A 6-foot-tall antique Italian chandelier reflects the patina of brass frames housing Andy Warhol prints of Grace Kelly. Opposite: Linear forms rendered in classic stone and stucco lend distinction to the exterior of the home.
Sometimes it takes more than a little nip and tuck to reveal true beauty. A bit of revitalization, so to speak. Such was the case with this contemporary Georgian home overlooking Lake Michigan in Chicago. While the architecture was picture-perfect, the decades-old interiors needed a facelift. “It was a beautiful house to begin with,” designer Tom Stringer says. “The bones were great. We just performed a little surgery on the interiors. Our goal was simply not to ruin architect Larry Booth’s lovely work.”
Change came in the form of a worldly mix of antiques and classic upholstered pieces that breathe a graceful elegance into the home’s more modern shell. A potent cocktail of traditional and contemporary blends deliciously with a palette of rich blue, terra-cotta, and golden yellow. “It’s a classic color scheme,” Stringer says. “And we used it in a way that’s as symmetrical as the architecture. The combination repeats in inverse proportions throughout the house to keep things flowing.”
United by the palette, antiques with disparate provenances and reproduction pieces appear as though they have grown up together. “There’s an overt European elegance to the interiors,” Stringer says. “To me, there’s no better way to celebrate contemporary architecture than to juxtapose less contemporary elements against it. Antiques look more luscious in a contemporary environment. It makes for an interesting mix.”
Upping the glam factor, Stringer used elaborate portieres to delineate the main floor rooms. Paired with antiques—Italian inlaid commodes, an ornate 6-foot-tall Italian chandelier, and an English antique dining table—the sumptuous treatments set a formal tone in the dining room. A pair of Warhol prints injects an irreverent edge, taming the room’s solemnity.
In the kitchen, Stringer let the interiors bow to the home’s natural surroundings. A wall of windows framing a view of the lake acts as artwork against pale taupe and steel blue cabinets. Honed Calacatta Gold marble countertops add an air of serenity, keeping distractions to a minimum.
Likewise, windows in the master bedroom are framed with draperies of pale blue wool with hand-appliquéd borders that mimic the lake’s calming hue. “It feels as though you’re floating above the bluffs at the lake’s edge,” Stringer says. “We tried to capture that amazing color and bring it indoors as well.”
Amid the blue, a four-poster with hints of gold leaf serves as the room’s centerpiece, an elegant counterpoint to more delicate pieces like gilded fauteuils with blue velvet cushions and a refined coffee table. Together, they create a space that is grand yet inviting. Handsome, yet feminine. “At the end of the day, it’s just a happy house,” Stringer says. “Who wouldn’t want to wake up here?”
Functionality is well-served in the kitchen. Double islands offer maximum counter space and storage, while a secondary prep kitchen hides messy jobs. A pullout trolley provides easy access to small breakfast appliances like the toaster, coffeemaker, and grinder. “To me, kitchen design is about creative problem solving,” Stringer says.
This photo: A gilded chandelier and traditional pinchpleat draperies add timeless flair to modern bath fixtures. Opposite: Casual shades balance the master bedroom’s more formal, hand-appliquéd curtains, just as the sofa balances the gilded fauteuils flanking it.