The Ideal Design-Centric Day In Chicago, From A Pro Who Has Traveled The World






Gemma Parker Design, founded by Gemma Parker-McKeon, is known for creating interiors that are classic and timeless. Born in Switzerland and having lived around the world, from Hong Kong to London, Parker-McKeon–who decided at age 11 she wanted to become an interior designer–says her travels are a major source of inspiration. Africa, Italy and Asia are among her favorite destinations, though her home city of Chicago, with its proximity to Lake Michigan and its outstanding architecture, is also a boon to her creativity. In addition to her keen eye and exquisite taste, Parker-McKeon has degrees in psychology and communication, which have been highly beneficial to her career. “Residential design is so personal,” she says. “There is so much psychology behind it.” Here, she gets personal with Luxe to share her perfect design-focused day in the city.

10 a.m. Head to The Golden Triangle to peruse Asian and European antiques, furniture and contemporary art. We like to style clients’ homes with authentic items that feel layered, collected and well-traveled. I lived in Asia as a child, and that, along with my extensive travel, often inspires our designs.

11 a.m. Zen out by the water. In the summer, you will often find me walking the lakefront and drawing inspiration from the views of the city and Lake Michigan. During the winter, I find myself yearning for walks by the lake, so a visit to Lincoln Schatz’s contemporary art studio to view his landscape photography fills my need (without the cold!). It is amazing to see his documentation of the shifts of the lake throughout the seasons.

12 p.m. Refuel at The Lunchroom in Space 519. This lovely lunch spot in the Gold Coast is also a great place to pick up home goods (and perhaps a quick outfit or piece of jewelry on the way out!). Fashion inspires our designs, and we often look to the detailing and tailoring found in clothing. I always feast on The Lunchroom’s delicious green and white salad that’s made with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, hearts of palm and pumpkin seeds.

2 p.m. Steps off Michigan Avenue, the MCA is rich in contemporary art. I’m inspired by the experimentation of the artists and their ability to create thought-provoking works that help me view things from a different perspective. Pop into Marisol on the ground floor if you need a caffeine boost!

3 p.m. Stop by A New Leaf to pick up loose flowers. You’ll never find our studio without them. I find so much inspiration in nature–the textures, the colors, the fragrances. They all influence our designs in one way or another. I never buy flowers that are pre-arranged, as I love to create the arrangements myself. It fuels my creative side, but also provides a sense of relaxation and calm.

5 p.m. End the day with a drink at Z Bar and dinner at Shanghai Terrace at The Peninsula, which is close to my home. The views from Z Bar provide inspiring views of the city’s architecture and Michigan Avenue.

Photos: Portrait, Rebekah Albaugh; The Lunchroom photo, courtesy Space 519; MCA Chicago photo, Kendall McCaugherty, Hall+Merrick; The Golden Triangle photo, Singto Khempaseuth, SK Productions.