A Transitional Lake Forest Home with a Rich Material Backdrop


Transitional Brown Great Room with large forest painting

For the great room, Bonner brought in several custom pieces to lend contemporary counterpoints. He then sheathed walls in chocolate-hued wenge panels.

Transitional Orange Parlor with Upholstered Leather Walls

Throughout the home, architect and designer Darcy Bonner took a modern approach to classic styles. Here, the designer outfitted the parlor with pieces from his own line of furnishings, Mattaliano, including two Frank #4 Rockefeller chairs upholstered with a Bergamo silk-velvet.

Transitional Cream Foyer with Curved Staircase

Inspired by a staircase that Jean-Michel Frank designed for Lucien Lelong’s fashion salon in Paris, the curved staircase in the foyer is accented by a cerused-oak handrail. A bronze-and-glass Mattaliano ceiling fixture adds a sculptural element to the muted space, which frames the adjacent parlor.

Transitional Neutral Dining Room with Oval Dining Table

Bonner chose a silk wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries for the dining room, which he complemented with a custom oval dining table with bronze detailing. Great Plains leather covers the chairs, and the bronze ceiling fixture, which features an interlocking ring motif, is by Hervé Van der Straeten.

Transitional Brown Great Room with Expansive Arched Windows

A custom Hokanson carpet and draperies made from Gretchen Bellinger’s Lace fabric provide a textured backdrop for the great room. A pair of white armchairs, upholstered with a hair-on-hide from Keleen Leathers, and a curved sofa face a custom stainless-steel coffee table.

Transitional Brown Kitchen with Eat-in Sunroom

Architect Erik T. Johnson and Bonner worked together to design the kitchen, placed next to an eat-in sunroom. At the client’s request, the kitchen’s upper cabinets feature glass doors on both sides, allowing easy access to the tableware from each room and plenty of light to pass through.

Transitional Neutral Rear Elevation with Red Tile Roof

In a nod to the client’s California roots, Johnson gave the façade a Santa Barbara-style red tile roof and a pale stucco finish. French doors lead to a large limestone terrace, fashioned by landscape designers Jason Quigley and Janie Schaumburg.

Transitional Neutral Hall with Custom Glass Door

General contractor Donald F. Zordani Jr. worked with a local fabricator to create a custom glass-and-metal door for the office entrance. English oak trim lines the hallway, where linear sconces and ceiling fixtures by Kevin Reilly light the space.

Transitional Orange Office with Bronze Desk

Bonner took inspiration from French architect and designer Pierre Chareau in fashioning a bronze-and-lacewood desk for the office. He then lined the room with a Caba Company wallcovering and designed bookcases out of cerused oak. The rug is from Shahbaz Afridi in London.

Transitional Cream Bathroom with Mosaic Travertine Tile Walls

In the master bath, Bonner designed a dramatic tub from travertine with a front panel of Sicis glass mosaic tiles. The room’s walls are sheathed in mosaic travertine tiles, while a Kevin Reilly light fixture is suspended above.

Transitional White Bedroom with Linen-Upholstered Walls

Rogers & Goffigon linen upholsters the walls of the master bedroom, where Bonner designed a custom Macassar ebony bed covered with Gretchen Bellinger fabric. The custom rug is from Tai Ping and the wenge-and-vellum Capucci nightstands are by Mattaliano.

In the town of Lake Forest, looks can be deceiving. Though the Chicago suburb is referenced for its traditional and historic architecture, behind those classic façades, the city also boasts some of the country’s most progressive and modern interiors. This was true in the 1930s, when architect David Adler was designing elegant 18th-century-style houses and his sister, Frances Adler Elkins, was filling them with luxuriously spare pieces by Jean-Michel Frank, and it is true now.

Architect and designer Darcy Bonner followed a similar direction when fashioning a house for a family who wanted to express their modern tastes within the traditional neighborhood. “It was as if David Adler met Le Corbusier,” explains Bonner. “The house has a timeless approach to the floor plan, but then we stripped down all the interior detail, much in the same way that Jean-Michel Frank peeled away the details of his furniture to produce a very modern interpretation of a traditional design.”

Establishing that point of view in laying out the structure was architect Erik T. Johnson, who followed a French Beaux Arts style that called for “a symmetrical approach,” he says. “There’s a clarity to it, and it’s bold, upfront and honest.”

That philosophy materialized into a formal entrance foyer, flanked by an oval dining room and a parlor, which leads into a large great room. Wings branch off on either side, one containing a family room and the other a master suite. Between the wings, landscape designers Jason Quigley and Janie Schaumburg tied the spaces together with a limestone terrace.

“We worked with the architect to bring a similar feel from the inside to the outside so you don’t have a stark contrast at the doorway,” Quigley says. The light limestone complements the Santa Barbara-style stucco façade, but there are no grand embellishments and no ornate flourishes. “The true measure of elegance is a process of reduction,” declares Johnson.

Inside, Bonner began with a rich material backdrop. “A big influence on the interiors was the work of Paul Dupré-Lafon,” he says. “I love his intense, luxurious details.” Venetian plaster lends texture to the foyer, and Bonner gave the adjoining parlor and dining room distinctive but equally luxurious looks. He highlighted the fireplaces in both spaces with custom gilded cast-glass surrounds and hammered-bronze-and-gold-leaf sconces by Hervé Van der Straeten.

In the parlor, upholstered leather walls pay tribute to Frank, and pieces from Bonner’s extensive line of handcrafted furnishings, Mattaliano, also recall 1930s elegance. In the dining room, a custom ebony Mattaliano table stands beneath a sculptural light fixture, also by Van der Straeten. “It is solid cast bronze and almost looks like a woman’s bracelet dangling from the ceiling,” says Bonner.

For the great room, Bonner brought in several custom pieces to lend contemporary counterpoints. He then sheathed walls in chocolate- hued wenge and topped a travertine fireplace mantel with patinated bronze panels. “They give a warm, elegant finish to the space in a modern way,” says the designer, who divided the capacious room into distinct seating areas.

Two lounge chairs covered with Jasper leather pull up to a fireplace, while a Crillon sofa and custom tête-à-tête accented with bronze details anchor the seating areas on either side of the room. At the room’s center, a kidney-shaped Mattaliano sofa with a Great Plains fabric faces a custom stainless-steel coffee table. “The clients preferred to be a little edgy with the furniture,” says Bonner.

The textures become softer in the master bedroom, where bronze strips frame linen-upholstered walls and the millwork transitions to English oak. “This was not a house where you could just order moldings out of a catalog,” says general contractor Donald F. Zordani Jr. “This was very custom, and there wasn’t a lot of room for error.” A custom bed made from Macassar ebony stands between wenge-and-vellum Capucci nightstands, and Bonner chose a Rogers & Goffigon linen fabric to envelope the room. “I wanted to create a luxurious cocoon with interesting details that tie into the rest of the house,” he says.

Although there are many references to ’30s French design, Bonner keeps the house from feeling like a time capsule by introducing “the few pieces that are completely contemporary,” he explains. “There’s a little punch of modernity that represents the 21st century.” By working off the classical architecture with restrained detailing, original furnishings and a sophisticated palette, Bonner created a look that transcends periods. “It’s timeless,” he says. “And that’s what makes this house work.”

—Caren Kurlander