Funny thing about love at first sight—sometimes it actually pans out, but not in the way you might expect. Case in point: When a young family decided to leave their urban existence in downtown Chicago for life in the suburbs, they thought they had found their forever home in Winnetka. But it was during a time of high demand in the housing market, and inventory was scarce. Like many nest seekers at the time, they put in an offer and were outbid. Crestfallen, they made note of the architect, Paul Konstant, hoping that one day they might hire him to build their dream dwelling.
By luck, in the same town the family discovered a plot of land where a beautiful red-brick Georgian stood that had been left unoccupied over the winter. The pipes had frozen and burst, causing so much damage that saving the structure wasn’t feasible; however, it presented an opportunity. Remembering how much they loved that first house, they purchased the tear-down property and hired Paul to design a new residence on the site: a stately, five-bedroom, white-brick contemporary colonial. “The area is fairly eclectic, so if you drove down the street you wouldn’t know whether it was an old house that had been whitewashed and cleaned up a bit or new construction,” says Paul. “It blends into the neighborhood nicely.”
Gradually, the family settled into the home, but they decided to hold off on decorating the interiors, taking some much-needed time first to acclimate. “When you move into a new home, you’ve worked so hard on all the choices with the architect and the builder that you want to hit pause to decide how you’d like to see it evolve,” says the wife.
That decision proved to be serendipitous: A few years later, Paul’s daughter, Natalie, joined her father’s firm, launching an interior design division. “The timing lined up really well because Natalie came onboard right when we decided to address the interiors,” says the wife. “She and Paul are cut from the same cloth; they both have an eye for design and they totally get it. We couldn’t have planned it better if we’d tried.”
While the home’s interior architecture skewed traditional—think dark hardwood floors, white paneled molding and coffered ceilings—the clients made it clear from the beginning that they didn’t want a typical neutral-toned North Shore house. “They have three young kids and a dog, and they have a lot of energy. Their home should reflect that,” says Natalie. “Using color was a way to bring their spirit into the project.”
Natalie used pale blue as a base, beginning with the walls, which were painted a custom color that at first glance almost registers as white. The barely-there hue ties all the rooms together and serves as a cohesive backdrop for strategically layered accents in shades of cobalt, pink, orange and purple. Some of the boldest shots of color come from the artwork: A vibrant Eddie Martinez print, which the couple bought on a trip to New York City, greets visitors in the entry, and a large-scale Casper Brindle piece made from automobile paint hangs in the living room, hinting at a horizon line through a strong feminine palette.
While the owners are serious collectors, they also prioritized works by three young artists who are lesser-known outside the home: their children. Above the fireplace just off the kitchen hangs a fabric pinboard that serves as a constantly revolving gallery for artwork by the kids.
Filling the home with sophisticated yet kid-friendly touches was an exercise in balance. The designer opted for generously proportioned pieces with more contemporary silhouettes but upholstered them in indoor-outdoor, stain-resistant textiles, reserving the delicate specialty silks for pillows and accessories, a move that appeases both the adults and the younger set. “We’re getting to a point where luxe and livable are one and the same,” says Natalie. “Still, life happens—if someone spills something, it shouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s about making smart choices to create a truly comfortable space.”
And feeling a sense of ease in one’s home seems more important now than ever, whether it’s through simple pleasures like enjoying a worry-free glass of red wine on a white sofa or knowing there are enough private nooks for everyone to steal away to for much-needed down time. “This house gives us a base to be together as a family, regroup and relax,” says the wife. “Right now, there’s no place I’d rather be.”