Megan Winters works in a white studio. “I have found the only way I can properly do color schemes for my clients is if I’m within white walls,” she says. It’s surprising to imagine Winters spending creative time in the visual equivalent of a lab coat. The deliberately clean slate (save for a spunky inspiration board and a few classic orange Hermes bags and boxes that reference her past life as a packaging designer) is located on the same property as her Lake Forest, Illinois, home, where she enveloped the master bedroom in a navy leopard print. In the guest room she designed for her niece, a scalloped plaid “cloud” headboard is surrounded by pink zebra-print wallpaper. And her laundry room–a graphic kick of tile, equestrian art and oversize lanterns–looks like a Ralph Lauren window. “I knew I wanted for my own home what I encourage all my clients to have their homes speak to: things they love,” says Winters. “My passions are fashion, architecture and horses. I love hot pink. I also love black and white, camel and chocolate. So, I wanted it to be a sophisticated, grown-up house, but I also wanted it to have this fun energy and be a representation of me as a person.”
That opportunity came unexpectedly. A buyer made an offer on her previous house, including nearly all the art and furnishings. (Like any sane designer, she drew the line at the Maison Jansen furniture and Fornasetti plates.) Not in any particular rush to find a new dwelling, she and her husband visited this residence–and Winters was instantly charmed. Situated a half block from Lake Michigan, it had a cupola and the distinguished style of a David Adler home. She fell for the architecture, particularly a structure that was once a stable. “That intrigued me,” she says. “I had not done any historic renovations for myself and it was a challenge, but it held such great potential for me as a designer to go to the next level.”
Winters enlisted Susan Rolander as the architect of record and general contractor Voytek Sobolewski, with whom she has worked for eight years and calls “the construction key to all my projects.” The team took the place down to the studs, keeping only the door, one window, the original openings and the staircase. The rest was reconfigured and reimagined. Part of that reimagining came with a middle-of-the-night bolt of inspiration to do a riff on Frank Gehry’s ribbon staircase. “I’m not a spindle staircase girl–I’m just not–and this is a nod to history while making it very me,” she says, noting the brass embellishments. The foyer walls were treated to black lacquered grass cloth, resulting in a dramatic first impression.
For all her bold gestures, Winters has a deep love of classic principles–French antiques, timeless lines, couturier details–and knows how to deploy them. The dining room expresses her timeless but effervescent approach; it’s a glamorous space where her Jansen pieces mingle with vintage water-gilt settees from Paris. Her beloved Fornasetti plates, a collection gathered over the course of 15 years, infuse dimensionality. Her brother and sister-in-law, who make custom frames, devised the chic acrylic displays that in themselves are architectural elements. Instead of tossing the original Fornasetti boxes, Winter stacked them and used water-gilt ball legs and acrylic risers to create cocktail tables. It’s an off-kilter move, like artist David Egan’s painted apple crates that she topped with acrylic and used as tables in the master. “I like clean lines and I love classicism, but I think it’s important to have personality,” the designer says. Like the fuchsia horizontal stripes that gussy up the eating area of the stylish, well-mannered kitchen: She had her wallpaper installer cut each one from grass cloth–an admitted challenge–then displayed a favorite David Drebin photograph.
Winters infuses every room with much more beyond the “I bought this on holiday” narrative. Her husband’s office is a menswear suite dressed in a modern plaid–a reference to Scotland, where the couple honeymooned and go every year to golf. She also designed the quilted Hermes leather chairs in the living room. Fashioned with stirrups, they reference her time as a competitive equestrian. It all comes together in a deeply personal way that reiterates Winters’ design philosophy: “There is no sense in doing rooms without making them speak to who you are, what you love, and how you want to feel and live in your home.”