“I had my eye on this tiny mid-century modern home for years,” Illinois designer Laura Chappetto Flynn says. “I just didn’t want anyone to tear it down, which happens all too often around here. When I saw the owner, 92-year-old Gertrude, putting the FOR SALE sign in the yard with her realtor, I knew the time had come. 10 minutes later, I was in the house and Gertrude was giving me a tour of the home that she and her late husband Charles had built and lived in for 65 years!”
The 1,200 square-foot home is about 30 minutes southwest of Chicago and featured a lot of original details, including an original Eames rocking chair. “It was like a time capsule,” Laura recalls. “The only problem was the way people used to live 65 years ago and the way we live now are a bit different.” The kitchen was closed off, with minimal cabinets and counter space and would require a total gut renovation.
With every design decision, Laura let Gertrude weigh in. “This was Gertrude’s home and vision and I wanted her to be a part of the process,” she says. “I told her that I was going to name the house Trudy to honor her to which she said, ‘Oh Honey, Trudy was a couple of lifetimes ago.’ How can you not love her?!” Gertrude hesitated with some of the design decisions—like the dark cabinets—but was enthusiastic about others. “I told her I’d like to open the kitchen, to which she said that’s what she wanted to do but the builder in the ‘50s said it couldn’t be done! Luckily there have been advancements in that department and the wall came down. After the construction was complete, I sent Gert a photo book so she could see the finished project. I received a handwritten letter with a glowing review and her stamp of approval which was so touching.”
Though the redesign is now complete, and Gert has moved with her daughter to New York, she made sure to leave a little something behind for the home’s new chapter. “I am also so lucky that Gert left me one of her stunning original mid-century chairs which I had reupholstered with a more modern fabric,” Laura smiles. “It now proudly sits next to the fireplace as a physical representation of that balance.”