It’s a common conundrum among families who have spent 20-plus years in their homes: After raising young children and living with mostly traditional and now-outdated decor, do you stay in the neighborhood you love and orchestrate a massive renovation, or do you start hunting for a new abode?
That was the predicament Steve Somogyi and Filip Malyszko’s clients faced when they inquired about doing a light refresh of their 1950s ranch in Palos Heights, Illinois. The design duo was already working with the couple on plans for a family compound in Michigan. However, the wife had their current residence on her mind when she asked, “‘Can you help us by painting and adding new window treatments?’” Malyszko recalls.
The house bore a strong French country influence with carved wood, cherry floors and a color palette of burgundy, gold, black and deep green. “It was decorated to the nines, but very fancy and traditional,” Malyszko says. “Everything was perfectly coordinated—the drapes matched the pillow trim.” Somogyi got right to the point and, according to Malyszko, told the clients, “‘This is going to take a lot more than a paint job. It isn’t a real representation of who you are and where you are in your life.’”
The couple couldn’t have agreed more. With their children now in high school and college, they were ready for a drastic change. The Michigan residence got put on the back burner, and the Chicagoland abode became the focus. “Make it light and bright,” the wife told the designers. “Our goal was for the space to be more functional for the way we live every day,” she says.
The duo began with reimagining the great room. Working with general contractor James Corso, they built out the roof and added steel supports that bring attention to the voluminous space. The limestone fireplace, adorned with salvaged-steel artwork, also helps to draw the eye up to the 14-foot peak. “We completely blew off the ceiling and reshaped the roof,” Malyszko explains. “The project went from decoration to renovation.” A skylight so large it had to be craned in piece-by-piece floods the space with light, allowing the designers to paint the walls a deep ebony. “It was transformative,” Malyszko says. For furnishings, they replaced the couple’s collection of dark and ornate pieces with clean-lined selections. An oversize coffee table holds center court while custom sofas modeled after the family’s old ones provide all the seating the couple needs to entertain a slew of visitors.
This love of hosting also facilitated the decision to flip the dining room to the front of the house, allowing for a commodious custom dining table that easily accommodates 12 guests. Overhead hangs a dramatic multipendant light fixture that stretches the length of the table. “It’s the first thing you see,” Malyszko says. “It has wonderful movement. The glow of the handblown glass pieces is spectacular.”
The removal of a partial wall that blocked the flow between the kitchen and current sitting area of the great room also makes for easier entertaining. As does the new kitchen of the wife’s dreams, complete with streamlined cabinetry, a custom hood and a live-edge breakfast table with banquette seating offering a cozy spot for informal meals.
In another clever move, the designers created a new entry by enclosing part of the covered front porch and barrel-vaulting the ceiling. They retained the texture-rich limestone of what used to be an exterior wall and turned the space into a darling vignette with a chain-leg console topped by an arched mirror and plaster lamp, all set aglow by natural light streaming in from the adjacent window. Now one of the most chic spaces in the house, the foyer has a strong indoor-outdoor connection that makes it feel like a three-season room.
Each revamped space flows together naturally, thanks to the overall palette of materials. “We wanted to unify the residence so that each room blends together from one area to the next,” Malyszko says. “There is a mixture of textures, neutral colors, contrast and subtle patterns making each space unique, but not jarring.”
Post-renovation, the owners are grateful that they decided to stay in the dwelling that has nurtured their family for more than 20 years. Says the wife, “They literally turned the house into our dream home.”