A house hunt is never easy. Aaron and Chrissy Taylor were reminded of this when they decided to leave the city for a more bucolic setting in Winnetka to raise their three daughters. Although the right home failed to present itself, the right lot did. So with a clean slate, they turned to a design team they’d worked with before on a new build. “Once you’ve gone down the custom route, it’s hard to go back,” says interior designer Tracy Hickman, who collaborated on the family’s summer home on Lake Geneva with architect John Myefski and builder Tim Fischer. The team reunited with the couple, which made the project even more enjoyable. “Because they all knew each other, they could be open and honest, which made it more fun,” Chrissy says.
The Taylors desired a Shingle-style home, just like their lake house, but with an amped-up sophistication, rather than a cottage-like ambience. Myefski, whose own residence is Shingle style, drew up the plans taking inspiration from Chrissy’s adoration of the home in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give. “She loved that look, so we picked up on those elements,” he says. At the family’s end of the neighborhood, gridded streets give way to rambling roads that have allowed for larger estates, most of which are traditional and no more than two stories. “We built to maximize the height but scaled the structure to the first floor, so it’s in keeping with the
neighborhood,” Myefski explains.
The design allows for some architectural liberty, he adds. “Shingle style uses a lot of symmetry but not so much as, say, Georgian, so it’s really freeing,” Myefski says. “This isn’t your typical house.” For instance, a “secret” staircase
links the first-floor master suite to the children’s rooms and play area, located on the opposite side of the second floor. The upstairs guest rooms are on the other side, and in the middle is Chrissy’s cozy study, a perfect space for the family to read at nighttime. “The house works well from a planning perspective,” Myefski says. “It should work well for the next 25 years with how the spaces function.”
For her part, Hickman’s primary goal was to create a welcoming, cool-hued space that would make entertaining easy and give the wife the urban feel she worried she’d miss. “I was slightly kicking and screaming,” Chrissy admits of moving to the suburbs. “I would have loved to stay in the city, but we’re closer to Lake Geneva now, and it’s great for the girls to have a yard.” Throughout the home, Hickman played off the exterior palette, bringing the gray of the shingles into nearly every room with different saturation levels. Bolder moments of color can be found through pieces like the Alpaca rug that adds shades of greens, blues and purple to the foyer and the Rick Stevens painting that brightens the dining room with splashes of green, yellow and pink.
The design was almost intuitive, Hickman explains. “I didn’t create mood boards, because I know the family so well, and Chrissy and I have the same taste,” she says. “They were involved in the decision-making but very trusting, so there wasn’t much back-and-forth.” Working with project manager Annette Zelnick, she made several trips to the Merchandise Mart to outfit the home with an approachable elegant look. “No room was supposed to be too precious–beautiful but not precious,” the interior designer says. She achieved this through elements like the foyer’s suede-upholstered ceiling, the hand-printed Weitzner wallpaper on the living room’s coved ceiling and the kitchen’s custom pewter hood and peekaboo butler’s pantry doors. “Everything feels layered and natural,” she says. “There’s a softness and a sense of history, although I didn’t use a ton of antiques. I went more for contemporary pieces with a nod to the past.”
Hickman created warmth using interesting textures, such as horsehair draperies in the foyer, living room and dining room and hemp wallcoverings in the foyer, living room, master bedroom and powder room. “It feels cocooned,” she says. There are also a few sleights of hand, such as the master bedroom’s mirrored eyebrow window and the home’s floating circular staircase. “It’s freestanding with towering windows, so the railing flows freely from the lower level to the second floor,” Fischer says. “It was one of the most challenging areas of the build.”
In the basement, Hickman created a year-round entertaining space with the couple’s daughters in mind. The team recreated the bunkroom from the family’s lake house, this time adding a stage. “The girls and their friends perform shows there,” Chrissy says. “It’s hysterical. While we’re upstairs getting dinner ready, they go down and practice. Then they put on a show for us.”
But perhaps the home’s greatest bellwether of welcome change is the arrival of Harley, the family’s Bernedoodle–a new addition the family couldn’t have accommodated in Chicago. “It’s been an interesting exercise for me,” Chrissy says. “I’m not sure I’d have been ready for a dog at our previous homes, so it reinforces how comfortable this house is.”