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The expansive great room accommodates not only a family that includes four children and two pets but also 30 cousins and, Eck jokes, “about 150 friends who are here constantly.” The kitchen was modeled after elegant and functional tapas bars she had seen in Madrid. See more photos in the gallery below.
When Kay Eck says she and her husband love their neighborhood in Wheaton, she isn’t kidding: They have lived in three houses on the same block. In their current home, designed for them by architect Kim Haig, they’ve finally found what they were looking for—an airy modern layout combined with a Cape Cod–style exterior that plays well with the surrounding century-old residences. The large old-fashioned front porch has become a gathering spot for the neighborhood, while the granite-rubble base and some creative shingling on the façade establish the house as a decidedly modern classic.
Eck decorated the interior herself, with a bit of assistance from a high-school friend who had recently graduated from Harrington College of Design. “She helped me with things I didn’t feel confident doing myself, like choosing paint colors, especially the neutrals,” Eck says. “I tend to gravitate toward bold colors.”
In keeping with the stone finishes she had selected for both the interior and the exterior, Eck focused on a palette of blues and greens throughout the house, accented with pops of yellow, red, and orange and balanced by a backdrop of neutrals. She designed the library, for instance, around a curved bottle-green velvet sofa she fell in love with at a Merchandise Mart sample sale. Aiming for a look that would be sophisticated yet fun, she “just started throwing pieces together,” she says, adding a barrel chair with deep blue cushions, a gold-and-white slipper chair, and a lively rug in tones of cream, brown, and black. “I love color, and I think a lot of things go together that other people wouldn’t,” she explains.
Dramatically patterned rugs are a hallmark of Eck’s design sensibility. Hide is a go-to material, used in the rug in the office and on an oversize ottoman in the great room, where the furnishings were chosen not just for their contemporary lines but also for their durability and affordability. With four kids, a dog, and a cat, along with a large extended family and a wide circle of friends, this hospitable host wanted to be able to entertain without worry.
“I needed something rugged that I could replace without having a heart attack,” Eck says.
Photograph: Eric Hausman
Styling: Susan Victoria