Jewel Tones Reign Supreme in this Chicago Abode


Found in Translation in Chicago

Deciphering the desires of a Lincoln Park couple, a designer creates a kicky yet elegant family home.

Traditional Cream Exterior Chicago Townhouse with Gate and Planter

There are two schools of thought when it comes to decorating a new home: Wait until you live in it for a while to get a feel for the place, or have it done before moving in. Homeowner Isabelle Lane leans toward the latter.

Gold and White Chevron Wallpaper Desk with Abstract Artwork and Mid Century Modern Furnishings

Designer Summer Thornton, along with design associate Whitney Mersman, transformed a corner of a Lincoln Park living room into a home office with Serena & Lily’s Beckett desk and Casamidy’s Varenne chair, which is upholstered in Muriel Brandolini fabric. A vintage watercolor—a flea market find—gives the setting a midcentury vibe.

Chevron Gold and White Wallpaper Living Room with Fireplace and Coral Chair

Throughout the home, Thornton incorporated a vivid palette, bold patterns and unique furnishings, as evidenced in the living room. Here, she paired Holland & Sherry’s Honeoye wallcovering and a one-of-a-kind rug from ABC Carpet & Home’s Color Reform collection with metallic pieces such as Casamidy’s Hiver chair and a vintage coffee table from Darren Ransdell Design in Los Angeles.

Subway Tile Dining Area with Fuschia Magenta Patterned Chairs and Pendant

The dining area in the kitchen is anchored by a walnut-and-steel Chilton table from Room & Board, which is encircled by fuchsia chairs by Archirivolto for Calligaris on one side and a custom banquette fabricated by Eli-Wyn Upholstery on the other. A midcentury Stilnovo pole lamp hangs above.

Brown Cabinet Kitchen with Starburst Pendant Lighting and Barstools

Waterworks tiles, a pair of Arteriors Zanadoo brass chandeliers from Creative Visions, Catenary barstools from Token in New York and White Cliff quartz countertops from Cambria add shine to the neutral kitchen.

Colorful Formal Dining Room with Blue and Fuschia and Large Mirror

The table in the formal dining room consists of a Custom Woodcraft walnut top supported by Julian Chichester’s polished-nickel Dakota base. Surrounding it are vintage chairs from Metro Retro Furniture in Pasadena, Texas; they are clad in Cowtan & Tout’s Hurlingham chintz.

Jewel Tone Living Room with Fireplace, Curtains, and Floor to Ceiling Windows

Robust shades of purple, berry and blue prevail in the family room, as seen in Montauk Sofa’s Mary couch in sapphire, Anthropologie’s Caribbean blue Rhys chair and a pair of multicolored Jayson Home Clarke chairs on both sides of the fireplace.

Brick Exterior Patio Deck with Outdoor Furniture and Trees

Floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors connect the family room to the spacious deck, which the team transformed into an alfresco dining area. They added a punch of color with an azure blue umbrella.

Outdoor Patio Deck Fireplace with Wicker Furniture

A fireplace keeps the chill away on cool nights when the homeowners entertain outside. Westport dining and lounge chairs and a Mendocino table, all by Kingsley Bate, provide the perfect setting for a casual dinner party.

Pink and Purple Child's Bedroom with Bird Wallpaper

Pink and purple were top of mind for the daughter’s bedroom, where a Lee Industries lounge chair, a Jonathan Adler pouf and draperies in Lorca’s Xanadu Chintz are anchored by The Land of Nod’s Magic carpet. The Zagazoo Cockatoos wallcovering by Osborne and Little packs a final punch and ties all the elements together.

Master Bedroom Jewel Tone Wallpaper Bed and Dresser

Schumacher’s Cirrus Clouds wallcovering envelops a first-floor guest room. The lacquered cabinet is a vintage find from Pierre Anthony Galleries in West Palm Beach, Florida; the bed was custom-made by Eli-Wyn Upholstery.

Black and White Bathroom with Cloud Wallpaper Pattern and Soaking Tub

The ethereal Nuvolette wallcovering from Cole & Son’s Fornasetti II collection adds a touch of serenity to the master bathroom.

Burgundy Wine Wallpaper Master Bedroom with Four Poster Bed Mirror and Side Table with Rug

Moody purple grass-cloth walls and Made Goods’ Carmen chandelier in the master bedroom wake up cream furnishings, such as Kravet’s Faso rug, vintage John Widdicomb chests from Assemblage Ltd. and the No. 21 bed by The New Traditionalists.

Moody Black Floral Wallpaper Bathroom with Gold Accents and Ornate Mirror

Thornton placed Casamidy’s Collier mirror in front of GP&J Baker’s Oriental Tree wallcovering in the powder room for over-the-top panache.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to decorating a new home: Wait until you live in it for a while to get a feel for the place, or have it done before moving in. Homeowner Isabelle Lane leans toward the latter. “I’m a procrastinator,” she confesses. “If I waited, years would go by and the house would still be unfinished.” 
With that scenario top of mind, Isabelle and her husband, Mark, a research analyst, decided to hire a designer for their Lincoln Park home while it was still under construction by Ken Brinkman, whose firm was responsible for the exterior architecture, mechanicals and overall floor plan for the house. Referrals from friends led them to Summer Thornton, whose work bowled them over. “We were captivated by its exuberance and positive energy—and the fact that it’s nothing like anyone else’s,” Mark says. 

Ever adventurous, Thornton embraces a quirky and unconventional style and has a penchant for audacious palettes. “I use interesting pieces and bold color to keep things playful and fun,” she says. Those qualities were among the Lanes’ top aesthetic priorities, along with a desire “to make the house, which is traditional by merit of its architecture, more clean-lined and modern,” says Whitney Mersman, Thornton’s design associate. “Plus, the owners have two young children, so they wanted everything in order when they moved in.” 

To make that happen, Thornton and Mersman made sure to expedite design decisions with the Lanes. “We’d show them pieces and color palettes, get a read on what they liked and take it from there,” Mersman says. During this process, the couple developed a deep trust for Thornton’s recommendations. “Summer has strong views about design and what works and what doesn’t,” Mark says. “But she also really listens and incorporates things that are meaningful and personal.” 

For Mark, this included two specific requests for their home: to integrate the exotic artifacts he had amassed during his globetrotting days and to incorporate purple wherever possible as a nod to Northwestern University, his alma mater. For her part, Isabelle was open to ideas. “I’m an indecisive person when it comes to interior design,” she admits. “I have lots of friends who know exactly what they want, but that’s not me.” Translating the couple’s vision, Thornton moved forward with a plan to create interiors that are comfortable, functional and visually engaging. 

To give the home a fresh and more modern look that belies its Beaux Arts-inspired façade, Thornton injected a mix of spirited colors, kicky pieces, gutsy fixtures and bold wallcoverings. Starting in the living room, a study in soft grays and greens, the look is understated but with an edge. A classic Oriental rug adds a dash of purple, pink and mauve, while dazzling metallic furnishings and a zigzagging sisal wallcovering pack a visual punch. All allude to the vivid palette, daring patterns and singular furnishings that follow in the rest of the home. For example, ebullience reigns supreme in the contiguous dining room, where Thornton and Mersman gave the space a personality beyond its size with seafoam blue lacquered walls, a silver-leafed ceiling and a wall-size mirror. The designers used a similar eye-opening tactic in the sleek kitchen and breakfast nook, where opposites such as swanky brass light fixtures, a rustic wood table and fuchsia plastic chairs add decorative tension. 

Isabelle’s favorite space is the family room, where Thornton’s air for color is evident in the cushy yet clean-lined upholstered pieces in shades of purple, red and blue. In this room, the wife is particularly grateful for an entire wall of storage Thornton designed to match the cabinets in the nearby kitchen. “It hides a multitude of sins,” the designer laughs. Behind its streamlined seamless doors, Barbie dolls and Legos hold court with serving pieces and spare picture frames. Vibrant hues continue to the view outside, as an azure umbrella shades the outdoor dining area on the deck. Following the rest of the home’s bright personality, a lower-level guest room sports a sassy mix of turquoise walls, a canary yellow nightstand and a cherry headboard for the bed. And to appease Mark and his like-minded daughter, Thornton made sure to inject purple into their respective bedrooms. In the master suite, she tempered dark mauve walls with navy and cream accents through the furnishings, creating a serene demeanor, while the 6-year-old’s spunky space boasts a hot-pink-and-peacock-blue wall pattern along with a solid lilac shade that also colors the ceiling. 

Today, the residence showcases a carefully edited mix of daringly chic furnishings that convey a bold yet sophisticated and clean aesthetic. And since the project was completed, the Lanes and Thornton have become closer in not only friendship but also proximity, as the designer recently purchased a house around the corner from her clients’ home. Now, when visitors compliment Isabelle about her decor, she can easily introduce them to her fearless neighbor. “Summer not only helped me narrow down what I liked,” the wife says, “but she also pushed me to take risks.” 

Lisa Skolnik