An 80s revival interior combines key American and English style
“This is a once in a lifetime design,” says Mark Lavender of M Lavender Interiors. The owners of this lovely Georgian house in Chicago, one of the most beautiful houses in the world, built in 1924, were keen to hire a designer who the wife could collaborate with and understand her desire to create some moments of her childhood from the 80s.
Mark’s goal was to create an 80s redux with elements of American Ralph Lauren design mixed with the best of English country style. He continues: “We brought in the best of the 80s: country-style cooking, clubby Scottish library, chintz and lots of burgundy and green. The updates are in the details. Many carpentry details and moldings have been installed. Archways and casement windows were added to bring romance and drama. There are storybook qualities throughout: carved wooden arches imported from England adorn the archways, nooks and crannies carefully designed for cozy and comfortable living. Plaid was the top choice for fabrics and wallpaper, with chintz as security. When in doubt we went “weird”, patrons have an extensive collection of contemporary art and a wacky sense of humor. Our design completely captures their spirit and personality – warm, inviting and a bit eclectic.
The team and the client worked closely together to realize his vision for this home. “We wanted to create an environment that was warm, colorful and, above all, with a layered look, as if the design had been crafted over time to evoke classic memories of childhood, family vacations and events,” explains Mark. “This was a deeply personal project for both of us, and we wanted to create a unique interior that reflected the client’s personality and provided an excellent backdrop for their vast collection of modern art.”
The exterior has also been renovated. “The original exterior featured dark red/brown masonry with a conventional shingle-style roof,” says Mark. “We wanted to create a monochromatic look for the exterior of the house, so we painted the masonry, trim and shutters the same creamy white color. We replaced the existing roof with a new cedar shingle roof.
“We completely revamped the kitchen,” says Mark. The original space was very small and dark. Kitchen ideas therefore included adding a window above the stove and creating a new opening in the adjoining breakfast room to bring light into the space. “We were convinced that natural light had its place in a kitchen,” says Mark. Mirrors were added to the backsplash to let new light bounce under the wall cabinets, creating the illusion of a larger space.
To bring an overall 80s vibe to the room, a country style kitchen was chosen which features reimagined honey stained cabinets with a light pewter wash and nickel plated hardware. A verde marble countertop was installed and modernized with a faded edge. “The client had fond childhood memories of the green counters she used to see at Marshall Fields in Chicago and insisted they were in her new home,” says Mark. With the French range, the classic tile pattern of the reclaimed tiles adds to the richness of the design.
Another touch of the 80s is the kitchen pot rack hanging above the island.
The breakfast room features a beautiful custom mural that was created specifically for the space to create a light and airy feel. “We wanted to create an al fresco look to the room and that was achieved with the painted walls,” says Mark. “Our team had to measure the space multiple times and make assumptions for areas that were still under construction at the time to create this one-of-a-kind mural. We then added hearts in a circular pattern, a tribute to the Woods restaurant on Mackinac Island, Michigan. The curtains in this room were brought in by the customer from her old dining room. They were originally too short, so we added panels in the same fabric in the color black and created a zigzag seam in a light blue fabric to tie into adjacent wall colors for a dramatic finish.
The living room
The living room is the main center of the house and is used every day with a sitting area next to the fireplace and a library at the opposite end of the room. “We created a design that serves three functions for the family,” says Mark.
Living room ideas include the introduction of a burgundy coat, Persian and plaid rugs and bookcases to set the mood of a Ralph Lauren bookcase, as well as antler decor, with a backdrop of white cleaning up the palette and mid-century accents.
Home office ideas include carpentry (including a bar) and a large table, which serves as a sideboard and dining table when the family is entertaining.
Vertical tartan check stripes from Lochcarron in Scotland were used to make a statement on the velvet curtains.
The bookcase table transforms to receive. Dining room ideas include injecting an 80s flair with striking cabbage.
One of Mark’s favorite rooms is the veranda. “I love the lightness of the space and the use of different textures in similar colorways to create drama.” From the textured wallpaper on the ceiling to the high gloss finish on the trim, it’s a great and interesting space,” says Mark. “We opted for light and cheerful colors with shades of green and yellow. These shades have been punctuated with more vibrant colors consistent with the rest of the house.
“For the playroom, we kept the primary color palette and accented the room with shades of green. The pine paneled ceiling with the Strawberry Red paint color brought back fond memories of summer camp,” says Mark.
“The client wanted to bring to this space the same dynamism that we had created in the rest of the house. We wanted to make the room playful and classic,” says Mark. Bedroom ideas include zebra wallpaper, softened with a pink ceiling color and an area rug. The light plaid window treatment brings the yellow and pink colorways and softens it with a gray background, while a yellow rocker injects a retro touch.
Bathroom ideas include creating a dramatic scheme with contrast. “We used a very dark and moody dark green paint which created tension with the light and sunny clover patterned wallcovering,” says Mark.
Interior design/ Interiors M Lavender
Photographs/ Janet Mesic/ Mackie Photography