Photographs Courtesy of Gina Bazer

To come back from the Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens (open through May 19) gushing over the elegance, the luxury, and the sophistication of the rooms is to be expected. After all, the designers selected for this gig are no slouches in the elevated taste department—and to be sure this year’s transformation of a David Adler manse offered plenty of posh moments.

But to me, what stood out most were the playful ones.

Joseph Szymnczak draped a big Persian rug on the table in his exuberant House of Medici-esque dining room, Julia Buckingham Edelmann lacquered a serious-looking bust in an irreverent citrine in her party room (right), Summer Thornton created a colorful, sexy second-floor landing by mixing flora and fauna patterns that echoed the gorgeous garden views out the windows (left), and Paul Rufus brought the hallways alive with a lively mish-mash of artwork and family photos hanging on walls painted (courtesy of Farrow & Ball) with charming trompe l’oeil panels and moldings.

Looks like whimsical might be the new elegant.