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House Dressing

A couple of fashionistas bring luxury back to La Porte, Indiana

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Mark Heister designed the mirrored dining table, whose components can be divided into smaller tables or combined for large dinner parties. Lucite Louis XV– style chairs add a modern touch in an otherwise classic room.
Mark Heister designed the mirrored dining table, whose components can be divided into smaller tables or combined for large dinner parties. Lucite Louis XV– style chairs add a modern touch in an otherwise classic room. Photo Gallery »
 

Mark and Linda Heister, the husband-and-wife team behind Mark Heister Designs, have been dressing Chicago socialites for 33 years. So it’s hardly surprising that they compare renovating their stately red brick home in La Porte, Indiana, to dressing a client.

“It was like fixing up a beautiful old gal who had been neglected,” says Mark of buying and renovating the 7,000-square-foot Georgian mansion at a time when many of their peers are downsizing. “We always seem to swim in the opposite direction of the current.”

The backyard pool is visible from the front entry, framed by French doors.
The backyard pool is visible from the front entry, framed by French doors. Photo Gallery »

But if the couple zigs when everybody else zags, it’s because the house, built in 1923, represents the culmination of their dream to live a Gatsby kind of life, complete with elegant parties and Jazz Age glamour.

While the couple’s Andrew Rebori–designed co-op in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood fit the bill stylistically, they were eager to find a more formal setting to display their belongings. “We’ve collected things for entertaining and for living a certain way for years, and we wanted a place where we could use the stuff,” says Linda. “It doesn’t make sense unless you have the right venue.”

Fortunately, while past owners had remodeled parts of the La Porte house over the years, they had saved and stored many original details, from doorknobs to kitchen cabinets. Their foresight came in handy when the Heisters gutted the dated, 1960s-era kitchen, a project that included eliminating the dropped ceiling and reopening blocked windows. Mark added a cork floor, designed dramatic stainless steel countertops, and reconfigured and painted the kitchen’s original cabinets.

“I didn’t want it brand-spanking-new and slick,” Mark says. “That would be like giving a person too many face-lifts.”

With the largest house-related projects complete, the Heisters spend weekends scouring the area’s antique stores for perfect accessories. And just as a smart wardrobe consists of pieces to be mixed and matched, the Heisters’ palette sticks mostly to classic neutrals, black, and white, a decision that allows them to move things easily from one room to another.

“It’s incredible how much fun it is to play musical furniture,” Linda says. “We like playing house.”

 

Details

Pool, front entrance, exterior, bar, and backyard
Photo Gallery »
 

Far left The Heisters replaced a kidney-shaped pool in the backyard with a rectangular one. Clockwise from left An oversized urn, painted black, makes a bold statement near the front door. The façade of the Georgian-style house, built in 1923, is invitingly unostentatious. To ensure easy maintenance in the backyard, the lawn was replaced with pebbles and flagstones; long-established evergreens contribute to privacy while recently added plants, including hydrangeas, roses, and boxwood, create a lush retreat. An assortment of artwork (including framed Dorothy Parker quotes, hand-lettered and illustrated by Mark) hangs behind a bar in the grand foyer.

 

Photography: Nathan Kirkman

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