Through a jeweler’s loupe, beauty lies in the smallest of details. So much depends on microscopic craftsmanship: the exact angle of a gemstone facet, the symmetry of a line, the precise soldering of varying materials into a polished whole. As partners both in life and in their fine jewelry company, the owners of this Winnetka dwelling deeply appreciate the artistry behind the finer points in design—a sentiment shared by Marli Jones, who was tasked with completing their empty-nester abode. “I’m always thinking about how to turn something up just 10 degrees more,” says the interior designer of her work. “From far away, you may not read the level of detail and depth, but you still experience it.”
Architect Scott Renken had already established the main structure’s layout, and the couple coaxed builder Jay Kennedy—who constructed their first family home—from semiretirement to bring it to life. So, Jones and her team, Amanda Clemente Eby and Brooke Kamins, concentrated on honing the architectural finishes. The designer first focused on the woodwork to craft a subtle yet distinctive character, starting with the herringbone flooring that “really opens up and unites the spaces by bringing that pattern everywhere,” Jones says. The entry’s custom fluted wall paneling proved especially intricate, cut perfectly to conceal doors leading to the coat closet and powder room, “so everything felt really seamless,” she adds.
This delicate craftsmanship continues in the kitchen cabinetry, featuring more fluted wood as well as panels of brass inlay painstakingly hand patinated to achieve the right hue. The team also lined the coordinating brass hood with a thin sliver of the same statuary quartzite used for the countertops. Composing this fusion of wood, metal and stone “felt like making jewelry,” Jones notes.
Material and color-wise, the designer favored the subdued over the flashy, from naturally stained white oak millwork to pale Venetian plaster walls exuding a subtle luster. Yet there are a few bold exceptions, such as in the seductive cocktail lounge. There the Venetian plaster is a stormy charcoal, its darkness amplifying the striking veins of the carved brown marble fireplace and forest-green velvet armchairs. The three-seasons porch too embraces a richer palette, its walls lined with Japanese shou sugi ban wood paneling carefully charred to create a textured finish. Inspired by Moroccan mosaics, Chicago artist Steven Hettrich then hand painted a geometric mural on the ceiling washed in tones of weathered gold.
“We gravitated to things that had an interesting shape,” Jones says. And when nothing quite suited, they designed bespoke items, like the dining area’s brass-and-ebonized-oak table that artfully expands and contracts to accommodate both larger dinner parties and more intimate meals. The team also experimented with upholstery, exploring fabric’s sculptural potential by creating elaborate tufting for pieces like the bar area’s built-in banquette and the living room’s oversize sapphire mohair ottomans. The couple’s bedroom in particular became their crowning achievement: Twill-upholstered wood paneling pads the bed and headboard wall. “We wanted to give the space some dimensionality, so the panels almost look like faceted diamonds,” Jones describes.
Lighting often functions as the proverbial jewelry in home design, but Jones pushed poetic license further “by partnering with makers who were doing some really interesting forms that were off the beaten path,” she says. No two pieces are alike, from the foyer’s chandelier cluster of carved-glass globes to the minimalist hexagons floating over the dining table. Reminiscent of playful earrings, sconces throughout the abode feature brass tassel-like details and hammered metal finishes.
For every visibly crafted element, there is another destined to be overlooked at a casual glance—which is by design. There’s the way the recessed shelves float so perfectly in the living room’s built-ins, creating a shadow box effect. Or how the fluted air vent in the entrance hall melts into the surrounding wall panels. And then there are the black-stained oak frames, cut just so to follow an archway’s gentle curve—a curve echoed again and again throughout the home, from the rounded edges of the dining table to the curved lip of the bathroom vanity’s Carrara marble countertop.
Piece by minuscule piece, everything links together into a cohesive whole. “Really no stone was left unturned,” the designer muses. “That’s how you create a really thoughtful space that you get to appreciate time and time again.”