Architects and designers can often point to one major project that launched their careers. For architect Mike Shively and designer Catherine Walsh, who both recently established their own firms, it was a limestone-and-painted-cedar shingle-sided dwelling in Winnetka, Illinois. “A lot of the ideas had been germinating, and we got to play them out on a big scale,” says Shively.
The architect was recruited by general contractor Matt Huff, who, with project manager Chuck Gladfelter, first tore down the original Tudor-style structure on the site. There was little time to spare when it came to completing the construction and the interiors, as the clients, a Chicago couple with three children, requested an ultra-tight 10-month timeline. Their home in the city was bursting at the seams, and, the wife says, “I had a fear about moving into a new town in the middle of winter when everybody is hibernating.”
Shively worked closely with the couple to develop a layout that combines defined rooms in the front of the house with open, contemporary spaces in the rear, where double-height windows overlook a sprawling backyard. “The way the windows are designed is amazing,” says Huff, “especially from the back perspective.” The park-like setting is visible from the front foyer, where a well-appointed bar with custom cabinetry, antiqued mirror doors and a Calacatta marble countertop make a striking first impression. “Instead of tucking it into the corner, we made the bar a focal point,” Shively explains. “Cat took it to the next level.”
In the living room, white walls with custom moldings and decorative ceiling beams make an elegant backdrop for a dark sofa and velvet-covered chairs in front of a traditional fireplace mantel with a marble surround. Dark floral-patterned draperies add contrast. “They wanted a mostly light and bright home, but we felt we could have a lot of fun with color used in a more calculated way,” Walsh says. Although subtle, that formula is apparent throughout. In the dining room, a hemp wallcovering with rivet detailing adds texture, while patterned draperies introduce deep purple and gold hues that are echoed in the artwork.
White perimeter cabinetry and marble countertops in the kitchen juxtapose a gray-painted island topped with black Absolute granite finished in leather. “The island is the heart of the whole floor plan, and we wanted it to read like a big work table with tapered legs,” Shively says. A bank of soaring windows provides views of the lush greenery outside. Those vistas can also be enjoyed from the breakfast room and the family room, where large pendants descend from the peaked ceiling. A pair of matching rugs defines a sitting area furnished with a large sectional sofa and a pair of green velvet swivel chairs.
For the various personal spaces, the designer collaborated closely with both the couple and their children. To deliver on the 4-year-old daughter’s wish for a pink-and-red bedroom, Walsh painted wall moldings a pale blush tone and installed them in a grid pattern, adding accents in the form of Roman shades and throw pillows. “She was really interested in the work we were doing,” Walsh says of the little girl, recalling the many questions she asked during the process. “It was very cute.”
The project was finished on schedule, and the designers are quick to credit builders Huff and Gladfelter with meeting the aggressive deadline. “The owner put his arm around my shoulder and told me he couldn’t believe we did it,” Gladfelter recalls, noting that everybody involved in the project understood the timeline, prepared accordingly and acted decisively. “To pull off a custom build in 10 months is really remarkable.”