Designer Caroline Turner’s client had a very specific request for her home. “I want this house to feel like a vintage New York Hotel meets the Southern charm of Dorothy Draper,” she said in at the very start. Dorothy Draper is known for the iconic Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia, and the juxtaposition of styles would guide every design decision Caroline made in the historic home, located in one of Chicago’s most historical neighborhoods. She tells us more about the project below. 

First, let’s talk about the house itself. Where is it located, and did the neighborhood influence the design? 
The home is a classic 1929 Georgian Colonial in East Highland Park. It is in the historical Morraine neighborhood near the lake and downtown. Each house is unique and different from the next. Not your typical Northshore neighborhood – the houses are on larger lots and sit further apart, however the schools are located right down the street making it feel cozy. There are tons of trees and ravines as well and with the lake breeze – it feels like you could be in the woods of Michigan. We fell in love with the home’s charm – the molding, the high ceilings, and the original vintage architecture that no spec home can replicate. The family who lived there prior had lived there for 40 years, and we were tasked with restoring it back to the home’s vintage roots while still making it feel like a family’s forever home. 

We’d love to know more about the family. What were their goals for their house?
The family is anything but cookie cutter. We wanted to make sure the house would be too. They are a family of 5—including 3 young kids—who love to entertain and are always on the go. Their goals were to find a home that would be comfortable for their family and livable but also a great place to host and entertain friends and extended family as well. They wanted a home that would make for a lot of magical memories which I would say after living there for a little over the year, they have already achieved. It may be a big old house but there is so much warmth. It is situated as a semi-circle where the sunroom and what we turned into the kids’ playroom both sit off a large deck. We had a fun vision of the adults enjoying the vintage bar in the sunroom while the children ran back and from the playroom to the backyard. The home has a lot of different rooms but does not feel choppy. There is a communal and open flow without a floor plan

What were some of the challenges you faced with this project?
They purchased the home in summer of 2020, so the pandemic was in full force. It was during the first wave of shortages, so we really had to get creative. The majority of pieces are vintage and antique that we could purchase on the spot. The upholstery items, however, were worth the wait.

Also, as with any older home, there are always surprises at every turn. Plumbing had to be shifted, bookshelves had to be taken down for fear of mold. There is never a project that doesn’t come with conflict, but we were able to move really quickly past the cards we were dealt. I think a lot of this had to do with the way we all worked together. It was a collaborative experience and also quite the adventure. I do have to say, finding the right home might have been the biggest challenge during the height of the market (particularly on the Northshore). 

How long did the project take, and what did the family say when they saw the finished space?
It was about a year from purchase to move in. The family moved out and was living about 30 minutes away commuting their kids to school. I remember my clients look of sheer joy at the final result, and I remember saying “can you believe this is your home?” She really couldn’t. It was truly a beautiful and extremely unique transformation. The best part according to the client is that after living there for over a year, she still discovers new beauty at every corner. The curves of the home, the grand staircase, the natural light that shines through the windows and reflects off of the vintage French doors in each room…homes are just not made this way anymore. 

Originally published October 3, 2022.