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Home, Away

Lake Geneva. Los Angeles. Anchorage. Harbor Springs. Locals let us tour their luxe snowbird escapes and summer getaways.

The breakfast table’s midcentury chairs mesh well with the industrial steel and wood table.

Photo by Cynthia Lynn

"Work hard, play hard;" the motto of many a stoic Chicagoan. But certain seasons require a plane ticket to play out-of-doors, so we visit five vacation destinations owned by area residents—all turned from house to second home by our fave interiors pros: Project Interiors, Eva Quateman, Nicholas Moriarty, Sarah Whit and Tom Stringer.

Location: Lake Geneva, Wis.
Property Type: Adirondack lodge
Interior Design: Project Interiors

Nancy Reagan. The Wrigleys. Hugh Hefner. The Lake Geneva, Wis., roster of famous residents is obviously impressive—its reputation as a wealthy Chicagoans’ playground is still intact today—but now the area is undergoing a growth spurt, as new developments like the southside location of Project Interiors’ latest reno are taking the place of dilapidated estates that fell into disrepair.

To say that Project has a certain aesthetic is fair, but fans of their dramatic, edgy, theatrical flair may not know that they also have versatility in spades. Exhibit A: The Adirondack meets American craftsman-style single-family home they revamped for a fun-loving family of four that calls Western Springs home. “This is the party pad,” designer Aimee Wertepny explains as the tour progresses from the front entry into the mudroom, where a huge, graffiti-inspired sign reading “Let’s Get This Party Started” is scrawled onto the wall. Karen, the homeowner wife and mother of two middle school children, envisioned a vacation retreat where they could host huge slumber parties with friends and family, and catch up on some much-deserved R&R. Luckily, the 6,800-square-foot space allows for ample crash pads—two master suites, two bedrooms with connecting baths, two playrooms that convert to bedrooms and an entire built-out basement with guest suite and massive, plush couches that could easily double as slumber stations come bedtime.

Designer Lauren Warnock took the lead on the interiors; her approach was less cabin kitsch and more fresh, refined and infused with Project’s brand of sexy: ebony cowhide throw rugs, carved tribal side tables, metallic lighting and moody paint colors (teal walls in the girl’s room, a turquoise high-gloss lacquer custom desk in the master and black ceilings in the living room). The look is tweaked in each room to be true to the family member, although always light and airy—it is a lakehouse after all! Playful fish and insect artworks from Natural Curiosities and Zoe Bios dot the house, which nod to a theme but don’t act as decor overkill—a line that Project’s ladies have always walked with aplomb.


Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Property Type: Spanish colonial duplex
Interior Design: Eva Quateman 

Were in the world is Eva Quateman? She’s busy earning those bonus airline miles, that’s where. The international interior designer’s latest took her to La-La Land, where Anita Nagler and Bob Moyer, a couple of Chicago-based clients, recently purchased a 1920s Caliterranean Spanish Revival duplex in Hancock Park by architect Wallace Neff as a winter getaway. Known for her ability to tap into multiple personalities, Quateman was surprised when Nagler—a longtime friend—broke news of the West Coast impulse purchase. “They actually had a whole different kind of place in mind originally—an Old Hollywood apartment built in the ’20s or ’30s,” Quateman explains. “But then they found this and the wife said, ‘Oh, I like it!’” After a solid attempt to decorate the space herself, Nagler called for reinforcements, and Eva flew out right away.

Nagler wanted to shop local, as in “walking distance” local—which is hard in L.A. But the duo hit the pavement and made progress, stumbling upon an antiques shop where they purchased some 1950s wingback chairs, a fabric shop where they sourced most of the textiles and meeting another store owner who custom made a sofa. “It was fun,” says Quateman. “We had a little adventure.”

Describing the final aesthetic as “midcentury with a splash of Spanish and Mediterranean,” Quateman took to the internet to fill in the rest of the holes, sourcing from One King’s Lane and Crate & Barrel. Luckily, Nagler had ample art and accessories due to an empty-nest downsizing decision. “She was going from one 10,000-square-foot house in Lincoln Park to a 4,000-square-foot condo in downtown Chicago and the 3,200-square-foot duplex in L.A., so we mixed in the old with the new but kept it minimal.” The vibe is a bit bohemian chic; the funkiest of their homes by far. A mandarin orange midcentury chair sits in the library; multicolor Eames chairs flank the breakfast nook; and vibrant art works abound. “That’s the thing with second homes,” says Quateman. “It shouldn’t be so serious. You should have a little fun.”


Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Property Type: Modern cabin
Interior Design: Nicholas Moriarty

"This project is more about what’s happening outside the windows than what’s happening inside them,” explains interior designer Nicholas Moriarty of the contemporary home just outside Anchorage, Alaska, for which he outfitted the interiors. The owner, a successful media personality in Chicago, hired Z Architects to design and build the shell, which houses a two-bedroom abode on land that abuts the Chugach National Forest (he placed part of the purchased property in a nature conservancy as well). “The house is completely insulated by nature, and there are unobstructed views of the mountains,” Moriarty says. “We wanted to bring that nature inside.”

To that end, Moriarty selected a color for the concrete floors that echoes the natural stone that is prevalent in the area. Radiant floor heating and wool rugs provide warmth and texture. “We liked the juxtaposition of the concrete floors next to these heavily braided wool rugs,” Moriarty says, pointing out that they have the texture of a warm sweater. Pine moldings and custom white oak kitchen cabinetry also pay homage to the hue of the wood species common to the home’s locale on the edge of an old growth forest.

Taking advantage of the setting, Moriarty decided against window treatments and designed a neutral palette to emphasize the view. “We wanted this house to be an open and airy jewel box,” says Moriarty, noting that his favorite spot is the loft area on the third level, which is surrounded by glass. “When you have the doors open, you can hear the sound of rushing water,” Moriarty explains. “It should feel cold and austere, but it’s warm and inviting. It’s literally the best treehouse in the world.”


Location: Lake Geneva, Wis.
Property Type: Ranch
Interior Design: Sarah Whit Interior Design

Interior designer Sarah Vaile of Sarah Whit Interior Design just unveiled a new nautical themed project for a pair of Lake Geneva, Wis., homeowners and boat enthusiasts. Vaile transformed the ranch-style home into, more or less, a traditionally elegant yet stationary yacht-like sanctuary for clients Kelly and Leigh Otzen, complete with antique brass marine lighting, natural rope-upholstered chairs and life-at-sea-inspired decor.

The clients envisioned an extremely livable house; between a dog, a child and a lake, there was no room for the “Oh, don’t sit on that sofa,” says Vaile. The main open-plan space on the ground level has a focal point in the high-gloss mahogany veneer staircase reminiscent of a classic 1940s pointer skiff. Working with John Matustik of Matustik Builders, Vaile and team brought the lake to shore with half-height beadboard paneling that lines the walls. To keep things light and fresh, the pitched cathedral ceilings were painted in a pure white color, which begins where the rich Benjamin Moore Hale Navy hue on the walls ends. Swivel chairs by Michael Berman for CAI Designs in a horizontal navy and white stripe by Ralph Lauren for Kravet fabric, crisp white wainscoting and kitchen cabinetry, and the billowing, sail-like linen drapes continue the trend. Elsewhere, a single slab tree table custom-made from Thailand adds texture, and a Kelly green chest of drawers with brass details in the entryway diversifies the palette and keeps things playful. “It was a really cool way to develop a unique approach to a one-level home,” Vaile says. “We had a lot of fun with the contrast of colors and creating that youthful element for the homeowner. It’s on this beautiful lake in Wisconsin, so it’s a whimsical take on the culture—which is all about boats!”


Location: Harbor Springs, Mich.
Property Type: Fieldstone cottage
Interior Design: Tom Stringer

"This property was designed as an entertainment folly,” explains local interior designer Tom Stringer of the stunning fieldstone cottage that he decked out for a multicoastal couple on a wooded lakefront lot near Harbor Springs, Mich. Inspired by the “mushroom” or “hobbit” homes designed by Earl Young in the 1930s, “at first glance, it looks like it could be one of those cottages that has always been there, but it’s also very contemporary,” he explains.

Minneapolis-based architect Katherine Hillbrand masterminded the shell and initial floor plan, Doug Hoerr of Hoerr/Schaudt designed the landscape, and Stringer and team took over on the inside. Taking cues from the exterior cladding, he continued the fieldstone onto the floors in the front and back foyers and the cedar onto the interior walls. Local bluestone was also used to create a built-in bench that flanks the fireplace. “This home has a real indoor-outdoor flow,” explains Stringer, noting that a wall of doors along the front of the house has been designed to pocket back into the structure to create an open-air pavilion.

Although the owners originally envisioned a simple outhouse to use while camping on the property, their imagination ran away from them, and they decided to build an entire home. “We call it the mushroom house,” says the wife, “because it just mushroomed into a bigger project than we ever expected!” But still, Stringer admires their restraint when it comes to the “just enough” square footage. “What makes this place special is that it isn’t just another big house,” Stringer explains. “It welcomes you, but it doesn’t let you stay forever.”