There’s nothing quite like the prospect of a wedding to inspire a makeover—a new dress or fresh hairstyle, perhaps, or, when those nuptials are set to take place at home, a wall-to-wall redesign. The latter is what the owners of this Lake Forest, Illinois, house had in mind after their eldest daughter decided to marry her British fiancé on the same sprawling lawn where she and her four siblings had once played as children. The timing for a refresh of the decor couldn’t have been better, as the couple had recently enlisted architect Peter Witmer and builder Todd Altounian to expand their English country-style residence by adding a new wing to each side—one containing the master suite, the other a two-story, light-filled family room that opens onto a screened porch. “The original house was designed with maids’ quarters and formal living and dining rooms—not really for the way people live today,” Witmer says. “So we basically redesigned the whole floor plan and rebuilt all the spaces the homeowners use the most, with the goal of making the house appear as if it had always been this way.”
As the new and reimagined spaces began to take shape, the couple called upon designer Shelley Johnstone to give each room in the house a fresh look that would celebrate their unique personal style and an important moment in their family’s history.
And what a distinct style that is: Think of a fine European antique—a marble-topped mahogany console table with ball-and-claw feet, for example. Then envision psychedelic Pop art hanging nearby. “They have this old-school elegance combined with coolness,” Johnstone says. “They want their home to be fun and inviting, like they are.” No one was a better person to interpret these bold leanings, which characterize Johnstone’s signature look.
The home’s entryway—which wedding guests would pass through on their way from the front lawn ceremony to a reception in a grand backyard tent—sets up the dichotomy: Along one wall, chairs by midcentury modern design master James Mont cozy up to an antique table in the style of George III. Across a black-and-white checkered floor, the opposite wall holds a grid of vibrant mixed-media artwork by contemporary Pop artist DeVon. On the adjacent sunporch, a larger-than-life portrait of Audrey Hepburn, also by DeVon, mingles with ebony Chinese elm-wood chairs.
In the living room, the contrast is even more striking. There, Johnstone opted for a preppy palette of pinks and greens with splashes of cornflower blue to unify furnishings that evoke several modes of stylishness: a Hollywood Regency-style shell-back grotto chair, a Ming-style coffee table, English mahogany side tables and a pair of French bergères, which Johnstone reupholstered—with a nod to famed decorator and chintz fanatic Mario Buatta—in Lee Jofa’s iconic Hollyhock fabric.
It seems no design decision intimidated the couple. They never hesitated to hang a hallucinatory portrait of Andy Warhol on one of the living room’s demure pink walls, or to wallpaper the dining room with an emerald-green chinoiserie pattern and the powder room in blue cheetah print, or to paint the front door—inside and out—a glossy cobalt blue.
Perhaps the reason for their willingness to take risks stems from the careful calibration of the pieces that were chosen. “We really try to make everything work together,” Johnstone says. “You can take those white James Mont chairs from the foyer and pull them into the living room—or the sunporch, or the dining room. I really like when there’s a marriage going on and it all works.”
Speaking of marriages, the interiors’ cheerful pink, blue and green hues also made appearances at the summertime wedding, from the mother-of-the-bride’s vintage Pucci dress to an assortment of plantings selected by landscape architects Frank Mariani and Rob Schwarz. The new foliage includes broad sweeps of vinca and large Versailles planters overflowing with blooms at the front entrance, and tree peonies, shrub roses and clouds of boxwoods surrounding a bluestone entertaining terrace at the back of the house.
“The wedding and the house really were beautiful together,” Johnstone says. “At the end of the day, my goal is always to create a place to be lived in and enjoyed, so to walk into the home of people I adore and see their daughter getting married there…that was like winning the lottery for me.”