Chicago-based interior designer Alexandra Kaehler lives with her husband and children just a few blocks from her parents in Winnetka, a tight-knit suburb on the North Shore of Chicago. When one of Kaehler’s sisters moved back to the Windy City from San Francisco just before Covid lockdown in March 2020, Kaehler secretly hoped that same sister would one day trade her Lincoln Park townhome for a place closer to family.
Her wish came true after Kaehler’s sister—along with her sister’s husband and two dogs—celebrated a new pregnancy amid stay-at-home orders. Soon, they started searching for their forever home in the suburbs and found a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity close to Kaehler and their parents.
“She loves old homes with quirky nooks and spaces,” Kaehler says of her sister. “This house had all of that and was beautifully restored by the previous owner. It needed minimal work aside from aesthetic upgrades, and my sister was not interested in taking on a construction project. The size, layout, and location were perfect. I told her she’d never find a house like this again. It fit the bill so well.”
Kaehler’s sister closed on the 6,800-square-foot home—which boasts six bedrooms and five-and-a-half baths—in August 2020, and they quickly hit the ground running.
“She has a well-trained eye and a really defined aesthetic,” says Kaehler. “She wanted something English-inspired but with a more saturated color palette than you typically see in English interiors. We took inspiration from those muddier hues and made them livelier, plus integrated plenty of chintz, pattern and color.”
The client’s biggest request? No white walls. Instead, Kaehler installed everything from Pierre Frey and de Gournay wallpapers to terracotta and moody green paints. She then layered in classic textiles from heritage brands like Schumacher and Soane Britain, vintage finds from Chairish and 1stdibs, and an abundance of meaningful artwork, including a piece by their sister Carly Berlin Studio.
“My sister has a fantasy of this being where her children are raised, where they return to from college and where they eventually come back with their own kids,” Kaehler says. “That’s much different from me—I’m always looking for the next project. But when you don’t have to think about resale in any way, you can have more fun.”
That included installing 90 yards of Soane Britain fabric in the primary bedroom, on everything from the bed and walls to the upholstery and window treatments. Or pairing a romantic Erdem for de Gournay wall covering with velvet chairs in the dining room. Or hanging Lee Jofa Althea-upholstered drapery in the nursey in an homage to the sisters’ grandmother.
“We are a family of homebodies and all place so much value on our homes,” says Kaehler. “Seeing how happy my sister is in this house has been incredibly special. Every corner has so much warmth and spirit and looks just like her. We had so much fun together, and I feel honored to have created this nest for my sister and her family.”
Tour the entire home below.
The client told Kaehler she wanted a playful stripe in the entry and hallways, so Kaehler installed a Farrow & Ball iteration, then layered in a scalloped jute rug, a vintage cane settee from Chairish upholstered in a Schumacher fabric, and an early 19th-century mirror. “It’s one of my all-time favorites,” says Kaehler of the mirror. The chest, she says, belonged to their grandparents and the lantern is a replica of one that hangs in the home of their dad. “My sister wanted each piece to have soul and history,” says Kaehler. The black-and-white artwork with painted overlay motifs is by Artie Vanderpool and “speaks so much to my sister’s aesthetic,” adds the designer. “It’s fun but rooted in traditional décor.”
In the formal living room, Kaehler juxtaposed classic with playful. Think contemporary black-and-white gradient art by Carly Berlin Studio set above a skirted wicker table. Or whimsical Caroline Boykin ceramic flower art in an antique gold frame set above a green tufted sofa with fringe. “The art is the cherry on top,” says Kaehler. “My sister’s art is really fun and makes the space feel like her.” Kaehler reupholstered an antique settee in chintz, and the palette set the tone for the Benjamin Moore Mesa Peach-painted room. The designer replaced the original wood mantel with a white carved stone version. Their mom gifted Kaehler’s sister the Holly Hunt coffee table.
“This is where everyone ends up spending time,” says Kaehler. “It gets amazing light and is so cozy.” Kaehler upholstered the room’s sectional in a green floral fabric by Jasper that matches the soft-green shade on the walls and coordinates with the custom-made ottoman. “We went for it with the green color,” she says. Kaehler also hung her sister’s collection of miniature artworks. “I envision her adding to it,” says Kaehler. “They give interest and depth to the space.”
Kaehler wanted the kitchen to be white, but her sister insisted on a muddy cabinetry color instead, paired with a light blue grasscloth vinyl wallcovering. “It’s unlike any other kitchen that I’ve done and turned out so well,” says Kaehler. The wood floors were crafted from a tree in the backyard, and the lantern is custom-made by Charles Edwards with polished nickel and antique brass to tie in the other fixtures in the space. The barstools are upholstered in durable Pindler faux leather. “We wanted it to feel custom and not all spec,” says Kaehler.
The dining room sits in the center of the house, so Kaehler wanted it to have a wow-worthy moment. She installed handpainted Erdem for de Gournay wallpaper, then painted the preexisting moldings to match the blue background of the paper. “There’s no wallpaper more beautiful than that one,” says Kaehler. “I love that it has a traditional chinoiserie feel with really saturated colors, like royal blue, red, and yellow.” The dining table used to be Kaehler’s own and is now surrounded by Chaddock Home chairs upholstered in Perennials velvet with a light-blue piping. The chandelier is a “perfectly crooked and wonky” French antique from 1stdibs. “We also used a natural fiber rug that is a nice answer to the saturated color,” explains Kaehler. “It brings texture and feels sophisticated.”
“This bedroom is incredible to be in,” says Kaehler. “It feels like being in a garden. We embraced the English way of decorating—that is, to choose a pattern and use it on everything. We fell in love with this Soane Britain fabric and used it everywhere. You really just have to commit.” The designer added moments of seafoam gray—like on the throw and lampshades—to balance the abundance of pattern, and also installed creamy nightstands by Bungalow Classic. “The Soane pattern felt organic and like one you’d feel comfortable staring at in large doses,” says Kaehler. “The white bedding breaks it up, and the quiet geometric pattern on the rug is a nice answer to the flowers everywhere else.”
Growing up, Kaehler and her sister fell in love with the Lee Jofa Althea upholstery in the home of their grandparents. Kaehler has a sofa upholstered in Althea in her own home, and her sister wanted a take on the fabric, too, so Kaehler used Althea on the nursery’s drapery. “The valences add a sweetness to the window treatments,” says Kaehler. The wallpaper is Quadrille Arbre de Matisse in a custom color, and the bunny photograph is by Sharon Montrose. “My sister calls her daughter ‘Bunny’ as a nickname,” explains Kaehler.
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