Photography: Brett Bulthuis

It’s easy to get stumped when you’re trying to decorate small spaces, utilitarian areas, and those parts of the house that are not rooms in the traditional sense (we’re looking at you, oddly shaped hallway and large second-floor landing). Which is why this past spring’s Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, at a lakefront villa designed by David Adler in 1916, was so inspiring. Thirty-five local interior designers and landscape architects descended on this nook-and-cranny-filled 15,000-square-foot manse and found plenty of surprising ways to approach challenging spaces—and create intriguing vignettes within large, open ones. The highlights of the show follow, along with tips on how you can create similar looks in your home.



Designer: Melissa Edelman, owner of Antiquaire, Highland Park

“The last thing I wanted to do was design a mudroom with white cubbies and beadboard trim,” says Edelman. “I found out that the owner usually enters the house through this room, so I wanted it to feel special.” Her first move was to paint the walls a rich charcoal gray. To inject glamour, she added a glitzy chandelier, a trio of sunburst mirrors, and a curvy antique Italian sofa with a gilded frame. Even the door got the luxe treatment: She painted it black, then finished it with a roughly brushed gold glaze to give it a romantic, distressed quality.

TIP! Edelman had the floor covered in pennies. "You can’t get a material that’s cheaper by the foot and more durable," she says. "Plus it looks cool!"



Designer: Kendelle Cornette

Pining for a less pedestrian powder room? Cornette suggests using graphic wallpaper or fabric on a focal wall. For the Showhouse’s hall bath, she upholstered one wall with a floral fabric from Robert Allen. "A bathroom is full of slick surfaces, so upholstery warms up the space, absorbs sound, and adds visual and physical texture," she explains. Cornette also added life to the ceiling with a playful Farrow & Ball paper. Her dramatic finishing touch was silver nail heads on the crown molding.

TIP! A wallpapered ceiling is the perfect lid for your little jewel box. Here, Cornette used a pale gray ocelot print from
Farrow & Ball. Below are three more of her favorites (for more information, see Buy Guide):

Left to right: Schumacher's Darya Ikat “Even untraditional stripes like this can lengthen or widen a room.” Thibaut's
Etosha Gray
“Animal prints are like perfume —a drop is enough.”; Thibaut's Novia “The metallic gold catches the light, and the pattern reminds me of Louis Vuitton.”



Designer: Barbara Theile,
Susan Fredman Design Group

Who says a small kitchen has to be minimalist? The one Theile created is full of drama—and it works. Taking a cue from the artful display cases often seen at upscale shops, Theile installed enclosed glass shelving and custom cabinets in a satin-black finish for elegant storage in a sexy, intimate, highly functional space. The pièce de résistance? A glamorous backsplash by Alex Turco, made of waterproof resin that has the look of stone but reflects light, creating a magical marbled effect.



Designer: Michael Del Piero

To create an insta-office in a bedroom, Del Piero had elm timbers installed as ledges along one wall. The planks are wide enough to hold books, accessories, and a laptop.


Designer: Summer Thornton

A second-floor landing found a new a sense of purpose as a reading nook. Thornton used a mash-up of bold hues in her fabrics but organized the books by color on dark wood shelves to curb visual chaos.

Designer: Jeannie Balsam

Extra space need never go to waste. In this breakfast room, Balsam repurposed a vintage ladder as an étagère and flanked it with a pair of chairs, creating a cozy seating area.


TIP! Give boring surfaces a kick with creative painting techniques. Decorative painter Paul Rufus created trompe l'oeil
effects in hallways, while Jeannie Balsam worked with artist Dee Benish on a stencil pattern that references shells in a subtly modern way.


NEXT: Buy Guide »



More information about the products in our pages

Mudroom: Designer: Melissa Edelman, Antiquaire, 1900 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, Chandelier, Niermann Weeks, Antiquaire. Paint on door, Gold Glaze, Martha Stewart, Paint on wall, Off Black, Farrow & Ball, Settee, Italian Rococo, Antiquaire. Sink, Clodagh, Powder room: Designer: Kendelle Cornette Interiors, 847-338-5885. Wallpaper samples, Schumacher, Merchandise Mart, and Thibaut, Kitchen: Designer: Barbara Theile, Susan Fredman Design Group, Cabinets, Wood-Mode, Merchandise Mart. Glass cabinets, Lakeside Glass and Mirror, Stove, Sub-Zero and Wolf, Merchandise Mart. Resin backsplash, Alex Turco, Office nook: Designer: Michael Del Piero Good Design, 1914 N. Damen Ave., Elm timber, reclaimed from 18th-century house in Beijing, Pagoda Red, 1714 N. Damen Ave. Reading nook: Designer: Summer Thornton, Fabric on settee, Silk Road in Onyx, Brunschwig & Fils, Coffee table, vintage Baker, Assemblage, Faux-leopard hide rug and Oly Stella shelving in antique gold and dark brown, Jayson Home, 1885 N. Clybourn Ave., Curtain, Les Touches, Brunschwig & Fils, and trim, Greek Key, Clarence House,, made by Dezign Sewing, Breakfast room nook: Designer: Jeannie Balsam, Ottoman, designed by Jeannie Balsam, fabric, Alan Campbell,, made by Joe’s Custom Upholstery, Chairs, Mimi London,, fabric, Robert Allen, Étagère, vintage, The Find, 1918 W. Grand Ave., Floor stencils, Dee Benish, Back hallway: Paul Rufus, 847-830-8468.