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Designer Kathryn Scodro kept the original Zuber mural wallpaper in the dining room but freshened the room’s other components.


Reinventing a Classic

By Zlata Kozul Naumovski

Photography by Werner Straube


A young family freshens up a nearly 100-year-old Lake Forest home with bold strokes of color while keeping its inherent charm.

Fainting rooms and dumbwaiters are not typical amenities in most houses today, but the homeowners of a 6,000-square-foot Lake Forest manse couldn’t part with these anachronisms when they undertook a renovation of their home. Built in 1924 by Russell S. Wolcott, the yellow shingle farmhouse was featured in John Hughes’ 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street and was chosen partly for its strong resemblance to the home in the original 1947 film. And though previous residents updated the house, the contemporary family of five who live there now reinvented it once again with some ideas of their own.

“We wanted to maintain as much of the history of the house as we could,” the wife says. “No one needs a fainting room anymore, but I didn’t want to get rid of it if I didn’t have to.” Her question to interior designer Kathryn Scodro of Kim Scodro Interiors was “How can we give the house a face-lift—brightening it and making it more useful for a family with three kids—while preserving as much charm as possible?”

Easy. Add zebra-print wallpaper and other contemporary accents, upholster the furniture in kid-friendly fabrics and retain the home’s inherent character where it makes sense. “We kept furniture in classic shapes and took chances when it came to color,” says Scodro, who knew the home, since she had been a childhood friend of the previous owners. “It’s a historic landmark. The family is young and fun, and we still wanted the home to have an air of classicism but make it very livable where the kids can touch everything.”

In the butler’s pantry, Scodro saved the original cabinets but livened up the space with an outdoorsy green paint and a mirrored backsplash.

Hence, zebras leap in a blue colorway in the little vestibule that leads to the powder room, where—in Victorian times—it would have traditionally held a fainting couch. “Having worked with these clients on another home, we had a good sense of what the homeowners wanted,” Scodro says. “The Scalamandre wallpaper popped into our minds. It turned out to be a good choice. They said yes right away.”

The kitchen, too, has some surprises. Though cabinets are classic white, Ann Sacks blue-and-white mosaic tiles dominate one wall. Roman shades in a Schumacher toile complement the tile, while a butcher block on the island tempers the patterns. “You see a lot of white kitchens, but they took some risks to make this house their own,” the designer says. The breakfast nook is virtually indestructible with a built-in banquette upholstered in a wipeable vinyl and dining chair seats in a Perennials outdoor fabric. Above, a Ralph Lauren for Circa Lighting light fixture conjures images of a Parisian bistro. “I’m not afraid to let the kids have friends over and just letting them run around,” the wife says.

Nearby, the aptly named winter den is wrapped in wood paneling original to the house and beckons all with its fireplace. Scodro covered the ceiling in a textured grass cloth to make it even cozier, playing up the clubby vibe courtesy of the Ralph Lauren cocktail table and tray. A blue animal-print rug grounds the room, while a generous-size tufted sectional, treated with stain guard, easily accommodates a gaggle of children.

The mirror is antique Louis Philippe. “The vignette is very traditional, but the wallpaper gives it a fresh, fun element,” Scodro says.

The homeowners opted to keep the traditional handblocked wallpaper in the dining room, but Scodro toned the wallpaper down by keeping the trim and drapery panels neutral. Green velvet fabric on the dining chairs picks up color from the landscape scenery.

Scodro took the opposite tack in the butler’s pantry, and emblazoned the original cabinetry with a shock of color. “We picked up the bright bold green from the dining room mural and carried it into the butler’s pantry,” she says. She added an antique mirrored backsplash and refurbished the cremone bolt. A pendant light with brass accents picks up hardware’s metal.

While they took care to preserve original features where possible, no one lamented the loss of an old-school doorbell in the living room that once called for the butler. “It didn’t work anymore,” Scodro says. However, the homeowner was quite content to keep the dumbwaiter. “We use it for laundry.”