After many years in Lincoln Park, Illinois, a family of four decided it was time for more space in a move to the North Shore. Upon finding the perfect property to start anew, they sought the expertise of designer Jenna Wedemeyer, architect Mandy Brown, builder John Dragic and landscape architect Dave Heller. When the clients first approached Wedemeyer, they knew exactly what they didn’t want. “I showed her decor of our Chicago home and pointed out what I didn’t like,” the wife recalls. The discussion revealed to Wedemeyer how she could carry out the owners’ vision: a timeless residence with defined rooms that still has an open, airy quality.
The team began by configuring the two-floor structure to maximize light and create distinct areas. Wedemeyer gave each room definition using texture and pattern, notably through materials with a touch of gloss that take advantage of the ample natural light provided by mullioned windows. “There is a metallic sheen to the upholstery and in the wallpaper,” she says. For instance, the designer chose a metallic cork for the living room to bring “a little bit of shine and reflection in everything,” she says. The dining room’s damask wallpaper is also a metallic cork, and more drama comes into play thanks to a leopard-print wallpaper in the powder room. But the glamour doesn’t take away from the fact this house is meant to be lived in, as evident in the upholstery on much of the furniture. “We chose indoor-outdoor fabrics throughout, so the family can walk inside, barefoot from the patio, and sit on anything,” Wedemeyer says.
The kitchen and the breakfast nook are the most minimal areas in the home because of the abundant use of white. “A white kitchen never goes out of style,” Wedemeyer says. “But if you look closely, the glam is still there.” She chose fixtures that add subtle textural changes, including a bar backsplash in a pewter-metallic subway tile, while dark polished-nickel lanterns and the contrasting island are welcome pops of color. Although the space is open to assimilate with the rest of the residence, it is also sealed off from the adjacent mudroom and dining room, rejecting the open kitchen style that has become popular.
The structure has a natural flow thanks to Brown, who found a thoughtful way to create a spacious floor plan ideal for the family, with or without guests. Instead of relying solely on walls to define spaces, she used volumetric variations and ceiling details as forms of separation. Arched soffits on the first-floor entryways mark room transitions, while coffered ceilings create a warmer ambience in the family room and the entryway. In the master bedroom, vaulted ceilings differentiate the sleeping area from a sitting room.
The house’s strategic use of space and texture is established in the entryway, which Brown produced with Wedemeyer, Dragic and the clients. “In our philosophy,” she says, “the entrance is the most important part of the house. You want to draw the eye to the entry.” A custom cast-stone portal and arched front door greets visitors. Once inside, panelized-wood wainscoting extends to the second floor, emphasizing verticality but tempered by coffered ceilings. A custom chandelier hangs in the foyer above patterned off-white and pewter black tile–a color scheme repeated throughout the home and inspired by the brindle coat of the family dog.
The foyer’s L-shaped staircase was meticulously considered by Dragic. “We wanted to design a staircase that fit the space and looked light,” he says, a look he achieved through railings and balusters that lack angles and turns. The space also provides a view all the way to the backyard. “Through the back doors, the patio became an extension of the family room,” Brown says. “It’s basically an exterior family space.” There, a pergola and a fire table create an outside living space with views of the native plants installed by Heller.
The final result is effective and playful, and its versatility means each room is lived in to the fullest. “This house represents us,” the wife says. “It truly feels like our home.”