For homeowners and builders Bruce and Linda Ritter design inspiration is everywhere. “Seeing and building so many houses, you make a list of things you want in your own home,” Linda says. “We were coming from a very elegant Cape Cod-style, shingle-and-stone house, and we wanted something different.” The couple’s new space was informed by a melding of moments: a pleasant holiday spent at a friend’s weekend lakeside retreat and their time living in Northern California, among others.
The Ritters, however, had the ability to put their ideas down on paper. In fact, prior to founding their building firm, Bruce was an art director in the advertising industry. “Bruce looks at things for proportion, materials, coloration, and scale,” Linda says. “He has a great eye for how something is going to look when it’s finished. His vision lent a lot to building our own house.”
Unable to pass up a corner lot just blocks from Hinsdale’s charming downtown, the duo sketched out the basic layout for the home they envisioned and took it to architect Richard Olsen to create the technical drawings. “It’s a bit of a hybrid,” Olsen explains. A pair of gables flanks a dormer with a clerestory window that floods the family room with natural light. Vertical board-and-batten siding and a combination of painted and common brick with copper elements lend a more casual feel to the home. “We’re taking some of the cues from Shingle-style homes and introducing a combination of materials and finishes,” Olsen says.
That mix continues into the front foyer, where, in the center of the room, the hand-scraped white-oak flooring has been inset with a leather panel detailed with nailhead trim. “We wanted a ‘wow’ factor when you walked through the front door,” says interior designer Tracy Hickman. “The leather was a way for us to break up all the wood on the first floor and do something different.”
A frequent collaborator with the Ritters, Hickman was brought into the process early on and was instrumental in creating the casual yet refined aesthetic that her clients envisioned. To create a sense of cohesiveness throughout the home, the designer developed a neutral color palette with materials and textures that repeat throughout. “Having a consistent theme helps fuse everything together,” Bruce explains.
Throughout the first level, walls are clad with 8-inch horizontal tongue-and-groove paneling. “It gives the illusion that the house has a wider feel and makes those individual areas seem like one big space,” Hickman explains. In the spacious great room—which has vaulted beamed ceilings and clerestory windows—Hickman selected a linen drapery fabric with a subtle stripe that echoes the paneling’s horizontal motif. She repeated that material in a darker shade on a pair of custom sofas, as well as on a set of doors that hides a recessed cabinet housing a large television. “It’s this layering of neutrals,” Hickman says. “The design is really about texture and subtle valuations of color.”
The quiet palette continues into the combination kitchen and hearth room, which was designed in collaboration by Hickman and the Ritters. Kitchen designer Laura O’Brien of O’Brien Harris then brought their sketches to life. Two-inch white Calacatta marble countertops unify the white perimeter cabinetry with the island and butler’s pantry, which are made of cerused quarter-sawn white oak. This material was also used to frame both the refrigeration—hidden behind white cabinetry—and the range with oversize hood. “The trick is to make your kitchen look beautiful and exciting but also like it’s still a working space,” Linda says.
The long, linear room—which includes a casual dining table with bench seating and a cozy area in front of the fireplace—has also become a favorite spot for guests to congregate during the couple’s many soirees. “During parties, there will be 12 people sandwiched into those benches,” Linda says. “I like functional spaces, but I also want them to feel welcoming and warm. As much as you try to get people out of the kitchen, they tend to stay there anyway.”
Outside, Premier Service vice president Aaron Postma and senior landscape designer Marilyn Maas were able to create defined spaces using a variety of plant materials, their placement and hardscape elements. Postma fashioned a soothing landscape, which coordinates with the home’s interior. “Although white is the predominant color, a touch of blue was added as an elegant accent,” he explains. “The clients wanted a very structured yard that matched the clean interiors. We used columnar hornbeam, boxwood hedging and clipped upright yew, in addition to the low-stylized front garden wall.” Furthermore, the firm’s landscape designer Heather Spera worked with the homeowners to select annuals with interesting foliage.
According to the Ritters, the house is everything they envisioned when they first sketched out its design—something they attribute to their team. “Our home is a portfolio that we take prospective customers through to show them our quality craftsmanship and detail,” Bruce says. “It was exciting to have an opportunity to put more of ourselves into a space that reflects who we are and the way our tastes have evolved.”