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A two-story grid of windows overlooking the backyard adds to the family room’s modern vibe. Cory Stephens’s son sits on the rear staircase, which leads up to the master suite. “Those back stairs became the ones everyone wanted to use,” Stephens says. See more photos in the gallery below.
Every home has a story. A certain Greek revival-style house in Hinsdale, built three years ago for Cory and Marija Stephens and their two children, has a more poignant story than most. Marija, an attorney turned interior designer (and writer of a popular design blog, Holding Court), was the creative force behind the 8,000-square-foot white stucco house. She wanted a traditional look with modern functionality—an open-plan first floor, a wall of windows in back, a steam shower in the master bath—and a façade that suited a street lined with graceful historic houses. She leaned toward playful juxtapositions of classic furnishings. The rustic farm table she chose for the gleaming De Giulio kitchen is surprisingly apt. Eye-popping floral wallpaper in her daughter’s bathroom is another bold stroke.
But Marija did not live to see her labor of love completed. She died in a car accident in July 2010, returning home from an antiques-buying expedition to Atlanta. It was a shocking loss for Cory and the children, who were nine and four at the time, and the not-quite-done house magnified Marija’s absence.
“It was important to finish it in a way that she would have liked,” says Cory, a commodities trader, who has since moved his family to Lincoln Park. “Marija was really thoughtful. She wanted everything to have a purpose.” For help, he turned to Julia Edelmann, of Buckingham Interiors + Design, whom his wife had considered a kindred spirit.
“It came naturally to me, what I envisioned in the space,” says Edelmann, who likes to mix traditional pieces with “a more modern bit of whimsy,” much as Marija did, and points out the master suite trimmed with classical moldings but furnished with a modern bed. The chandelier in the daughter’s bedroom was Marija’s choice, but Edelmann says, “I would hang that chandelier in a little girl’s room. It’s a lantern—that’s a little bit risky and different.”
Edelman chose window treatments and paint and added lighting fixtures and floor coverings where needed throughout the house. She finished the daughter’s room and redid the son’s, adding a surfing-themed mural to reflect his interest in the sport. She “filled in,” she says, with touches like an elegant fireplace screen in the family room and luxurious new upholstery on vintage chairs in the dining room.
“I was flattered to be asked to come in and continue making it a home for them,” Edelmann says. “And then there was the fact that all of Marija’s selections were so easy for me to work with. I think we had a similar aesthetic. The whole thing was fulfilling for me and heartwarming.”
Photography: Eric Hausman
Styling: Diane Ewing