It’s a rare client who references Scottish golf courses, the Great Smoky Mountains’ Blackberry Farm, and the tradition of open-hearth cooking all as design inspiration. Embracing the challenge, architect Richard Olsen and designer Amy Storm set off to create a clever, suburban Chicago residence that taps all these touchstones. “This couple loves to entertain the people they care about, and they want their guests to feel at home,” Storm says. And from the moment visitors arrive in the wide and welcoming foyer, the house begins to reveal a series of joyful destinations, indoors and out.
“This home has traditional roots, but it’s got a clean aesthetic,” Olsen says. The visual simplicity of its forms—steeply pitched roofs, modern dormer windows—belies the complexity of the sloped and narrow lot, which required much consideration (including a civil engineer and lots of retaining walls) to prepare the site for the multistory structure, as well as its pool and pool house, all of which were constructed in collaboration with builder P.J. Murphy. “The clients came to us with Pinterest boards that drove the style of the home,” Olsen continues. “With natural materials like white oak and stone from Wisconsin, we created a play of rough and smooth, dark and light.”
For the interiors, first things first—the couple’s artwork, which they’d collected during their world travels. Because much of the art was quite large, Storm made the point of incorporating the pieces early on in the design. But it was the kitchen that truly needed to anchor the home, offering a main workspace focused on a large island, a wood-burning oven and an adjoining hybrid dining room-cocktail bar, as well as an ancillary kitchen.
Storm then took her cues from the couple’s interest in sports and nature. “They didn’t want an all-white house, they wanted earthy hues,” the designer recalls. “The beautiful quartzite slab on the kitchen island—with its dark green, blue, gray and rust tones—is at the very center of the home, and it’s what ties the palette together,” she adds, pointing to the green tiles that line the cooking hearth and the green-leather ottoman in the living room. “With the vaulted ceilings, wood beams and skylights, it’s the living room that most captures the Blackberry Farm vibe. The room is meant to feel cozy and comfortable,” she explains, noting subtle details, like the steel elements that run through the abode, creating a raw edge but not an overly industrial feel.
In the couple’s bedroom, which they requested be on the ground floor with direct access to the pool and garden, features a dramatic, wood-beamed ceiling much like the living room’s design, but here it was painted a soft white to create “a less woodsy feel,” Storm says. Luxurious details like a teak floor in their shower add a decidedly spa-like ambience.
The basement takes the couple’s entertaining goals to the next level. “The husband is an avid golfer and wanted this space to feel like a Scottish pub,” Storm recalls. A golf simulator established the room’s green palette, which the designer augmented with dark woods and a plaid carpet. “It’s a comfy lounge, an extension of their hosting space.” On the wall near the shuffle-board table, she and Olsen even designed niches where guests could place their drinks when it was their turn to play. “It’s the details,” Storm muses.
Meanwhile, landscape designer Brian Casey created outdoor spaces that are just as equally engaging. Fulfilling a wish list that included raised vegetable beds and a lawn for their dog, Casey also brought in plantings comprised of “flowering trees, shrubs and perennials in a palette of lavender and pinks, as well as evergreens and low-maintenance fescue grasses,” he explains, noting the aid of his design director, Bryan Eastman. “It looks similar to a golf course with the greens and the roughs.” There are fire pits, too, including one perched on the property’s highest point. “We made it a destination,” Casey adds. “Up there, you get a fun, drone-like view of the house.”
“The goal of this home was to offer friends an experience similar to traveling on a vacation,” Storm says. And the result, like a wonderful holiday, leaves everyone wanting to return.