Alexandra Kaehler’s husband had only two requests when she was designing their new home in Winnetka, Illinois: a classic white kitchen and no floral prints. His wish for the kitchen was granted, but his aversion to florals met a different fate. Botanical wallpaper surrounds the master bedroom and the living room has a gracious flower-printed sofa.
But like many spouses of designers, Kaehler’s husband always knows to expect his wife’s “just wait” moments. Her eponymous firm has been turning out high-end residential interiors for nearly a decade. Designing one’s own home, however, is a different story. “I had to really treat myself like a client and create presentations and boards so that I knew everything I chose would be something I’d be happy with in the end,” she says. “I wanted it to feel sort of traditional, but with choices that are unexpected.”
Like many Chicagoans, Kaehler had initially resisted a move to the suburbs. But she and her husband saw the need for space and the desire for a few domestic enticements—a pantry, mudroom and ample master closet among them. They landed on a traditional two-story with an excellent footprint and plenty of green space, but the house was lacking personality. To crack the code on its lackluster elements—paneling, subpar materials, closed-off rooms and a confusing second-floor layout—Kaehler called in her good friend, general contractor Scott Rosett, and noted architect Paul Konstant. “Paul has such a good eye,” she says. “He got it in one second.” A serious transformation was in order, the objective of which, Konstant says, was to make it current and livable, fresh and light, and improve on the character of the structure without tearing it down.
The interior renovation yielded a 21st-century redux for a young family who wanted to put every inch to use. “We reoriented the plan, added new partitions and removed walls to open up spaces,” says Konstant. The formal living room was altered to become the dining room and butler’s pantry (which Kaehler painted a dark green that she’d originally envisioned for the kitchen). The bold space features a mosaic backsplash and brass detailing, and Kaehler selected high-gloss paint over lacquer. “I wanted to see the texture, and having it painted felt a little more old-school.” She hadn’t planned to dress the ceiling but went for it after spying the vibrant wallpaper on Instagram.
Architectural elements added another layer of that desired personality. In the foyer, moldings were added to give the interiors more interest. “Paul made some great tweaks to make it feel really purposeful and special,” says Kaehler. The coffered ceilings in the living room were, as she says, “a happy accident” after contending with an annoying structural beam. Another game-changing move was Konstant’s revision of the all-seasons porch just off the living area. Installing a wall of windows created a beautiful sight line straight to the exterior. Landscape architect Phil Rosborough optimized that view with a graceful design that is in step with architecture and accommodated the outdoor kitchen, pool and lounge areas. “Additional evergreen trees, ornamental flowering trees, summer blooming shrubs and perennials were added to further build up the borders and create a lush, layered and secluded feel with something happening all year long,” says Rosborough. “There was particular emphasis on summer living around the pool and screen porch.”
“One thing that’s really special about this home is that it lives like a garden house in many ways,” says Kaehler. “Every room opens up to the backyard. It’s real indoor-outdoor living. I like that being reflected in the interiors. They bring the outside in and they offer such a beautiful color palette.”