The team at Studio Gild help a new client—and former employee—make bold moves as they moved from a condo to their first house.

Kristen Ekeland, one of the principal designers at Chicago’s Studio Gild, knew her client long before this project. “The client used to be an intern/project coordinator/jack-of-all- trades at Studio Gild,” Kristen shares. With her husband and kids, she had moved from a condo into this house in the Southport Corridor. “They wanted a little edge—but still comfortable for young kids—and to have a mix of high and low,” the designer says. Though it was the homeowners’ first investment in furnishings and art, and their first time working with a design firm, they knew it was the only way to achieve their design goals. 

“Studio Gild exposed me to the world of design and treated me like a part of the team from day one,” the client explains. “I knew Studio Gild understood how to work with clients, and there was absolutely no way I could have done this by myself—it was a total gut!” With two young daughters and a third child on the way, they wanted their home to be a comfortable retreat from the urban setting beyond, which meant adding warmth and accessibility.

“The house was early-2000s glitz with crystal, mirrors, shiny marble, heavy wood details, a cool gray palette, and lots of iron work,” Kristen says, also citing scale as one of the big issues. “The fireplace mantels were too tall and not human scale, and the wainscoting and trim package was excessive. We needed to peel back much of the traditional ornamentation to make a home that aligned with the clients’ contemporary taste.”

What was meant to be a six- month renovation turned into a year. “When the project began and we dug deeper into the details of the home, it became apparent that the house would better support the lifestyle of our client if we made some bolder moves to the existing floor plan,” Kristen shares. Luckily, it came down to trust. “The homeowner knew Studio Gild’s aesthetic and how we worked and had seen more behind the scenes than any friend, relative, or partner of the firm. That made the relationship really unique,” Kristen explains.

For furnishings, Studio Gild turned to natural colors and organic furniture shapes, which resulted in a lot of kid-friendly rounded corners in the home. They also utilized plaster to give texture and depth and added accent walls to create dramatic moments. They got the edge they craved, with a dose of comfort. “We were in awe of how everything we had seen on paper and in presentations for months had transformed so beautifully into real life,” the homeowner says.