For designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke, updating a classic home in Chicago’s North Shore for a couple with two children was right in line with her design style. Known for her European-influenced interiors with a modern twist, Paschke understood how to turn the white-brick, French Provincial-style abode into an inviting space layered with rich materials and a mix of elements. “The home was a bit casual, which the clients and I both loved,” says Paschke. “But we also wanted it to be more elegant while still keeping it comfortable.” Indeed, the house—originally built in 1939 by architect Jerome Robert Cerny—had good bones and the appeal of a charming estate situated on a romantic countryside. “I prefer an older home with tons of character, and this one definitely had that,” says the wife. “We wanted to maintain its history but make it livable for present day.”
Already familiar with the home, architect Austin DePree had lived there with his family before selling it to the current owners, and during his time there, he had drawn up plans for an addition that included a large kitchen adjacent to a casual living area and dining room, a basement guest suite and a renovated staircase. “The ground floor of the house had a compact plan, which worked for the three of us,” says DePree. “But with a second child on the way, we were running out of space.” So, when the architect and his wife decided to forgo a revamp and instead move, the current owners—with whom the architect had collaborated on their previous Chicago house—chose to proceed with DePree’s addition plans. Paschke became involved during the extensive renovation and suggested that the woodwork throughout be painted a high-gloss white and the front door and stairs a high-gloss black. According to Paschke, these modifications highlight the home’s many architectural details.
The new addition plans also aimed to take advantage of the vistas. “I wanted to introduce as much glass as possible and bring the surrounding ravine environment into the living spaces,” says DePree, who worked with project manager Keith Labutta. Builders Dan Schmidt and David Haegeland also tackled the project; the pair had teamed up with the architect on previous additions to the house. “The trick about remodeling and additions is making the new area feel like it’s part of the original house,” Schmidt says. According to DePree, uniting both new and old components was key. “With any historic renovation, it’s important to maintain complementary finish materials, trim profiles and casework details throughout,” he says. “When adding on to an existing home, the scale and overall quality of rooms need to feel connected. We approached the project with these goals in mind and were able to seamlessly weave the new spaces into the old.”
Once the renovation was complete, Paschke paired existing furnishings with new elements designed to make the home feel fresh and young. For example, the living room’s bookcases pop with a blush color from Benjamin Moore, while a zebra-patterned rug in the study adds a graphic note. Details such as lacquered ceilings— executed by DiVinci Painters—and grass-cloth wallpaper coordinate with acquisitions from travels, auctions and antiquing, while a mix of fabrics adds interest. In addition, the blue tones became a unifying cue along with a few unexpected pattern twists. “The wife is conservative but also wanted to have some fun,” Paschke says. Wood breakfast chairs, for instance, are enlivened with blue-patterned seats, and a powder room pops with navy lacquered walls. In turn, the foyer’s eye-catching wallpaper and a ceramic garden stool from New York’s Treillage in the study add surprising touches.
The designer also balanced formal pieces with more casual ones, creating a modern yet timeless and elegant look. Vintage Louis XVI-style armchairs in the living room were updated with white lacquer and upholstered in navy velvet to temper blush accents drawn from a peony photograph, while a linen sofa and custom sisal rug dial down the formality. Furthermore, the wife trusted Paschke to recommend forgiving fabrics and family-friendly furnishings. “I didn’t want to live in a house with rooms that couldn’t be used,” says the wife. “I wanted everything to be inviting.” To this end, a durable upholstered ottoman grounds the family room, and the study’s leather sofa is easy to clean. “The family wanted their home to be pretty but livable,” Paschke says. Additionally, a feminine crystal-and-brass chandelier in the dining room is a glamorous counterpoint to the owners’ masculine wood table and side chairs. “That juxtaposition creates depth,” Paschke says. “The furnishings in every room play off of one another, and pieces can be easily moved around.”
Echoing the cohesiveness of the furnishings inside, the back of the home—which is clad in beveled-cedar siding—was painted to blend with the white-brick façade, and new windows extend the indoors to the outside. A bluestone-clad terrace, with multiple points of access, creates the feeling of an outdoor room. “The ravine takes up at least one-third of the property, but it’s a beautiful feature to take advantage of,” says landscape architect John Mariani, who created an arched boxwood hedge that grounds the rear view to the woodlands and acts as a buffer from the more formal terrace, which includes large planters featuring hydrangeas and perennials in the surrounding beds. “When the kids are on the patio, I can see them in almost any room,” says the wife. “And when we entertain, the whole house feels like an indoor-outdoor space.” But what she loves most about the home is the history and true character that has been preserved.