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!

Teen-Bedroom---two-beds,-Jeannie-Balsam-Photo-Credit-TBD640
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

The Wright Plus Housewalk, 2015

The Wright Plus Housewalk took place this past Saturday, featuring historic homes here in Oak Park and also in nearby Riverside, IL. The three Frank Lloyd Wright homes on the tour have been maintained and decorated in the Wright style, which is probably as it should be, and the other homes were a mix of modern and traditional.

The Avery Coonley House and Avery Coonley Stables/Coach House

Avery Coonley Estate, Frank Lloyd Wright, Riverside, IL
Coonley Stables Coach House, Frank Lloyd Wright, Riverside, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1908 and 1911, Riverside, IL

The estate has several properties on it, and it’s the grand house with the lily pond that is currently for sale with a listing price of $2.1 million. Wright said that at the time the Coonley estate was built (supposedly with a nearly unlimited budget), that it was the finest house he was capable of creating. The stable is nothing to turn your nose up though — those horses were living large, and of course there were renovations undertaken to turn it into a home fit for humans.

The Oscar B. Balch House

Oscar Balch House, Frank Lloyd Wright, Oak Park, IL
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1911, Oak Park, IL

Balch (no relation!) was a decorator, and one of the only people to hire Wright upon his return to the States after having ran off with a client’s wife. He collected and helped popularize Teco pottery, and it seems fitting that the current owners display their own extensive collection of it throughout the house.

The Mary Walker Herron House

Mary Walker Herron House, Oak Park, IL
Tallmadge & Watson, 1924, Oak Park, IL

This house started its life as a Victorian in the 1880s, was completely remodeled and reworked as a Tudor by Tallmadge & Watson in 1924 (who won out over a competing remodeling bid by Wright), and has gone through another transformation inside by the current owners with modern stark white walls and trim, dark flooring, and mid-century modern furniture. Very now.

The Hemingway House

Hemmingway's Boyhood Home, Oak Park, IL
Fiddelke, 1906, Oak Park, IL
Hemingway’s birth house is in town too, but this was his boyhood home, where he likely formed the opinion that “Oak Park is a neighborhood of wide lawns and narrow minds.” I’d like to think that the latter characteristic has changed some in the years since he lived here. The home was designed with great input from Hemmingway’s mother, and has recently been brought back to a single-family dwelling after having been split into a three-flat since the 1930s. We got to head all the way to the third floor to see Hemingway’s old bedroom.

The Paul Blatchford House I

Paul Blatchford House, Oak Park, IL
Architect Unknown, 1887, Oak Park, IL

The porch features a keyhole opening which is not original, but was recreated based on photographs of the original design. The bones of the home were very similar to my own — same unpainted oak trim throughout, tall windows with wooden shutters, Victorian hardware, and so on. The owners kept it to a traditional Victorian look though (as opposed to what I’ve been doing with my 1891 home), choosing historical paint colors, wall treatments, and furnishings.

* Interior photography was not allowed. All exterior photos in this post were from the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.

Thomas Lennon

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