“This home feels very edited, light and airy,” explains interior designer Marshall Erb of the brick-and-limestone abode in Northbrook that he designed for his gregarious clients. With plenty of space and clever solutions to accommodate their love of hosting large gatherings attended by dozens of family and friends, the house, according to the owners, hit all the right notes right from the beginning—when Erb first presented his vision for the interiors. “Plenty of designers can share beautiful images and ideas, but I liked Marshall’s personality and the way that he carried himself,” explains the wife. “He was fun.”
Initially recommended by builder Andy Poticha to help with the renovations to the kitchen—which needed some major TLC after its Fresco plaster detailing, wrought-iron light fixtures and other warm Tuscan finishes began to feel dated—Erb’s role quickly grew to encompass the interior design throughout. “The moldings and other details needed to be more simplistic,” Poticha explains.
Working with kitchen design firm O’Brien Harris, Erb nixed the small, existing family room, incorporating the extra square footage into the plan for the redesigned, much larger kitchen. Making this change also flooded the area with natural light and opened up sightlines to the green, wooded exteriors right outside the windows. “Figuring out the layout of the kitchen was the major turning point that allowed us to move forward,” Erb says. Accommodating the owners’ request that the kitchen be kosher, the team crafted separate zones for meat and dairy storage and preparation. “It’s almost like having two kitchens,” Erb explains. “Everything had to be super-productive and extremely organized. It was fun to get into those details.”
While the kitchen expansion was underway, Erb made himself busy elsewhere, too: converting a little-used screen porch into a new, more accommodating family room with a breezy neutral palette and plenty of plush furnishings that have been grouped into zones for conversation, reading and entertainment. “We gave purpose to the rooms that didn’t necessarily have a purpose before,” Erb explains.
That especially applies to the music room, which the owners had formerly used primarily for piano practice. “The music room was extremely formal, and it needed to be a little more welcoming,” says Erb. So, the designer introduced a custom daybed covered in silk to the space so that the owners would have a place to read and relax. A faux-finished wall behind the fireplace creates a textured backdrop for a colorful abstract painting. “I really love that punch of color the painting provides,” Erb says. “It’s bright, fresh and modern, so it makes a good foil to everything that’s going on in there.”
And while the house is full of private spots the homeowners can retreat to for peace and quiet, it’s the public areas—decked out in accordance to their love of large-scale entertaining—that are the true standouts here. The dining room, for example, includes a custom table with seating for up to 28. And, a new three-season porch has been furnished with comfortable chairs around a large stone fireplace for al fresco gatherings. Blue stone flooring leads out to a pergola-covered terrace designed by landscape architect Scott Byron, who also added new plantings and destination gardens for interest and extra privacy. “It’s a secluded area that’s planted with shade perennials so that it’s screened from the neighbors,” Byron explains.
During the project, Erb and the owners developed a very close relationship. “We talked several times a day for a year,” he explains. “The wife trusted me to take her requirements and create something special. It was a nice collaboration, and I think it turned out really well.” The owners wholeheartedly agree. Says the wife: “This house is perfectly designed for our family.”