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Inspiration from the Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, 2015

Not only did I tour a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright and other historical homes this past weekend, I also went with my mom to see the Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens. The tickets sold for the home tour benefit the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, and this year they presented the former home of the late John W. Hughes, Jr.

Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, 2015, Exterior

My mom and I are both house looky-loos, and we love John Hughes movies (The Breakfast Club is a favorite for both of us), so I bought tickets for us as a Mother’s Day present. I figured we’d spend the morning touring the house, have lunch and enjoy the day, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the home itself. I’ve been to a handful of showhouses before and while they’re always beautiful, they can be a bit stuffy and too traditional to pull practical inspiration from. Not the case this time!

In front of the Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, 2015

Again, photography was not permitted, but I was able to obtain photos to share of the interiors this time (hooray!). This was my favorite room: the butler’s pantry, with its original cabinetry receiving a fresh coat of paint (Farrow & Ball’s ‘Drawing Room Blue’) along with other updates by Wily Designs LLC.

Butler's Pantry, Wiley Designs LLC, Photography by Werner Straube

My mom’s favorite space was the living room designed by Alessandra Branca. The designer posted several shots of it on Instagram.

Designed by Alessandra Branca for the Lake Forest Showhouse, 2015

My mom also absolutely loved this girls’ bedroom, designed by Jeannie Balsam. A great layout, a window seat, and patterns upon patterns!

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Teen Bedroom by Jeannie Balsam for the Lake Forest Showhouse 2015

Some of what I took away was simply giving myself permission to be more bold. I find myself pulling back a bit in my house sometimes, deferring to the house’s style and history, but yawn. The showhouse was a multi-million dollar historical home, and they painted original dark wood, wallpapered the heck out of it, remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, took apart and opened up built-in closets, and on and on. There was respect for the home, but it was also fun. The kind of place you could actually see a family living in and enjoying themselves. I mean, how could you not enjoy the type of house that has a hallway with monkeys all over the place (by Sarah Whit Interior Design)?

Back Stairs, Sarah Whit Interior Design Copyright © 2015 Janet Mesic Mackie

And behold, a nursery by Steve + Filip Design, drawing inspiration from The Grand Budapest Hotel. Those diapers. Ha!

Nursery Inspired by The Grand Budapest Hotel, Steve and Filip Design, Photograph by Wittefini
Nursery Inspired by The Grand Budapest Hotel, Steve and Filip Design, Photograph by Wittefini

There were many other rooms I wish I could share with you, but the Showhouse didn’t have photos available of every space. There was a garden room with a pink settee (be still, my heart!). A master bath and “women’s reprieve” (former closet) with the most amazing antique furniture. A killer redesigned kitchen by Christopher Peacock Home — not too large — that had me wishing for its pair of built-in fridges with a black interiors. My mom and I both walked out of the home feeling inspired, and we had so much fun touring it! I’ll end here with a floor plan. And hey, feel free to put an offer in on the place. It will be available in June, “price upon request”.

Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, 2015, Floor Plans
Photo credits: JS Eckert Photography, Nicole Balch, Werner Straube Photography, Alessandra Branca, Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, Janet Mesic-Mackie, Wittefini

Your Thoughts on Original vs. Mass-Produced Art?

I’ve talked a little about the vintage painting over my fireplace before. I like it, but it’s not my favorite. It doesn’t ‘speak to me’ or remind me of my time in Venice (seeing as I’ve never been). If anything, it reminds me of the painting that hung above my grandparents’ sofa. They had probably bought it in the late 60s or early 70s, and it was mass-produced to look like it was hand-painted. It was a cityscape, of Venice or maybe some vaguely Italian city, and it plugged in so the lights in the buildings’ windows lit up. It was pretty tacky, but also pretty fantastic.

I know that association doesn’t say much for my painting. I went for it because I liked the look well enough though, and I wanted a painting over the fireplace as opposed to a print or a mirror. It was the right size, color, and price, and I liked the way it was framed. I wouldn’t hesitate to sell it if the day comes that I find something else to replace it, but I’m not in a hurry.

Vintage Painting of Venice

I was walking through the art selection in a big store recently and I started thinking about how people approach art for their homes — more specifically, paintings, not prints. I do have some original art that I’ve slowly collected over the years, but paintings are expensive. I’m not saying they aren’t worth it (because artists should value their time and expertise and charge accordingly), but the fact is that they are typically pretty pricey and therefore often out of reach, especially for larger works.

Big box stores make art more affordable, but there is sometimes a snobbish stigma attached and I’m curious about it. Is it that you’re spending your money at a catalog or chain store rather than supporting an independent artist through a direct purchase? Is it that you may have the same art hanging in your home as many other people? Stores and sites like Z Gallerie, Ballard Designs, Art.com, One Kings Lane, Target, Crate & Barrel, Home Decorators Collection, and Pottery Barn all carry paintings printed on canvas that are mass-produced but aim to look like hand-painted originals. Some can be pretty generic, but there are plenty of interesting options out there too. How do you feel about them? Tacky or tasteful, or does it vary case by case?

It’s easy to advise people to eschew faux-original paintings and only buy the real thing (whether vintage or new), but that’s often easier said than done. So if you’re not a fan of mass-produced art, what do you choose? Will you save up until you can afford a one-of-a-kind (directly from the artist, through a gallery, or through sites like Etsy, Chairish, or Serena & Lily)? Paint something yourself? Search for a well-priced find at the flea market or a student art show? Maybe you tend to choose something else (like a mirror), go without entirely, or you make a distinction between canvas prints offered by independent artists vs. those from big box stores? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In the Clouds

It all started with that Cole & Son Fornasetti Nuvole and Nuvolette wallpaper that I love so much. Now I’m continually finding myself drawn to clouds.

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House & Garden

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House Beautiful

Still loving that Etched Arcadia mural I wish I could find a spot for.

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House & Garden

Edward Asher’s Cloud Studies.

Edward Asher Cloud Studies

Landscape paintings by Robert Roth.

Robert Roth Landscape Paintings
And then there’s this sweet cloud painting (print?) that I keep finding on Tumblr (here and here), but can’t trace back to original sources. I’ve seen the art credited to Chessy Welch.

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Take it away, Bob Ross.

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