How to Decorate with Banana Leaf Prints


original image via

Now that summer’s in full swing, I’m all about prints when it comes to upcoming design projects and my own wardrobe. And nothing conveys the laid back vibe of summer as perfectly as a tropical banana palm leaf print!

You saw it pop up everywhere last summer - from iPhone cases to espadrilles – and this bold print is back and more chic than ever. The iconic print comes in two main patterns that have inspired the evolution of the print over the years. The first is the classic Martinique, with a variety of green tones and larger, full leaf print that was made popular when it was first installed in the Beverly Hills Hotel. The second famous pattern, the Brazilliance is also gorgeous option, with more monochromatic green hues and smaller floral accents that make it ideal for wallpaper, home accents and dresses alike.  Either way, you can’t go wrong with a palm leaf pattern fabric or wallpaper!

I know that I  will never tire of this tropical style in the home or my wardrobe, so I rounded up a few products and decor inspirations I adore to showcase my favorite ways to style this gorgeous print!


From top to bottom:

Mixed prints inspiration // Wallpaper // Pillow // Tray 

Dress {similar} // Clutch // Shoes // Skirt

From living room decor to chic accessories, banana leaf prints always make for an iconic and memorable look. When styling it in your own home, always make sure to mix the print with other bright colors (hot pinks, corals and reds are a favorite combination of mine!) or other bold prints to keep the look bold and daring.

Happen to have any banana leaf prints in your home or closet? I’d love to hear about your favorites!

Chicago Flea Market This Weekend!

If you haven’t heard, our interior design firm keeps growing and we’re moving to a larger office in a few weeks.  Rather than hoarding all the great stuff that we’ve collected over the years, we’re having a flea market and moving sale on Friday & Saturday – June 26 & 27 at our office.  There will be tons of great deals to be had – some fabrics originally $300/yd for $10/yd.  This white chinoiserie credenza shown below.  Lamps. Artwork. Chandeliers. Accessories. Frames. Pillows. Chairs.  Art & coffee table books. Sconces. Ice buckets. High end and low end – you name it.  Truly too much to list it all.  But its all gotta go in 2 days!

Designer Flea Market and Moving Sale

Friday night will be more of a low-key party vibe.  Music, drinks, mingling, etc, though you can certainly shop and purchase things that night.  Saturday is down to business for the serious shoppers.  Hope to see you there!


Interior Inspirations: Creating a Beautiful Walk-In Closet


What woman doesn’t dream of a chic walk-in closet filled to the brim with Louis Vuitton, Prada and Chanel?

Any stylish woman will tell you that one of her favorite parts of her home is her dressing room – filled with gorgeous dresses and beautiful designer bags. Not only is your closet a darling space for your favorite accessories, but it also can be one of the most beautiful and fashionable rooms in your home. I recently worked on the above dressing room for a client in Lincoln Park, and it quickly became one of my favorite rooms in the house. I love how sleek and traditional the all white custom built-in cabinetry looks paired with metal accents and soft violet colored walls. The custom dressing table added even more extra detailing to the space, and made for the perfect place to rest stylish coffee table books, fresh cut tulips, and my clients gorgeous jewelry collection. Who wouldn’t want to wake up every morning to that beautiful dressing room view? Not to mention her shoe collection? Swoon!



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Whether you have a tiny space, or a grandiose walk-in, here are a few of my favorite design tricks that will transform your closet into a room you’ll love.

Color code: My favorite rooms are those bursting with color, and similarly your closet should follow suit. Organize your closet by color to make the space even more elegant, and pieces easier to find.

Create custom cabinets: There’s nothing more appealing than an organized dressing room, so add custom cabinets to make everything easy to find. I love pairing more sophisticated white cabinetry with bright colored wallpapers, funky rugs and a gorgeous vintage chair to give the room a little edge.

Add bold wallpaper: Bold color, pretty patterns, what’s not to love? Like your clothes, your closet should be anything but boring, so give the space new life with a funky and glamorous wallpaper pattern.

Make your lights ultra glam: To make any space big or small luxurious, just add a vintage light fixture! I love a sparkly chandelier or funky brass sputnik fixture. They say ‘this room matters!’

What walk-in closet spaces are you inspired by? Don’t forget to swing by my Pinterest boards for even more design inspiration!

I Love Vintage: Maison Jansen



I love all things Parisian:  The effortless chic style, inspiring culture, and the always-stunning interiors.

Whenever I visit Pairs, I’m inspired by the impeccable combination of modern, sophisticated luxury with the perfect mix of classic antiques and vintage pieces. One of my favorite Parisian based designers was Maison Jansen (house of Jansen), founded by Jean-Henri Jansen, who’s work was prominent around the globe in the late 1880’s. Known for his traditional pieces, with influences from his travels in Japan and Turkey, Jansen was best known for his interior design work, as well as the unique furniture his company, House of Jansen, custom-made. His most iconic pieces are primarily in the Louis XIV, Louis XVI, Directoire, and Empire styles, which he used in his interior design projects around the world.  What’s I find most impressive about Jansen was that he is considered to have founded the first global design company, with his work spanning continents from North America to the Middle East.  He did it with design and style that was so forward-thinking and counter-cultural.  Think of the late 1800s – it was victorian era but his pieces are streamlined and bring in hints of Asia with pagoda shapes and patterns, some whimsy with unique metal finishes and shapes, and modern lines as a point of contrast.  They must have really been different then when design was much more in-line with the period, but now they work so well into designs that weave new with vintage.  Plus, can you ever go wrong with black and gold gilding?  I suppose you can, but these furniture pieces are perfection.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces of Jansen’s work, including that gorgeously simple bar cart – perfect for serving cocktails at your next party!




There are so many aspects of Jansen’s work that I admire – his attention to detail, the impeccable quality of his one-of-a-kind commissions, and his incredibly modern work that he created over a hundred years ago. Even today, there’s something  truly special and modern about his pieces – and I continue to draw inspiration from his work when working on projects for my own clients. Who wouldn’t want any of these gorgeous gilded pieces to grace their living room? I think we all need one (or two!) to add to our home decor.

Color Love: Neutral Hues In Interior Design

It’s no surprise that I’m a lover of colorfully chic spaces, but there are times…special projects where it calls for a mix of neutral colors. While bold rooms are easy to wow, sometimes the textures and subtleties of neutrals truly brings together a space. And believe me, neutrals can be anything but boring.  There’s an art in balancing soft textures and tones with more earthy woods and metals that bring together a perfect room.

When working on the interior design for a French Tudor style home, the client wanted more natural, earthy colors. Being inspired by the beauty of rich leathers, fresh cut wood, and organic textures – I pulled together neutral pieces that perfectly played off one another. There’s a sense of calm while walking into this living room, and the colors interplay to become a refreshing and relaxing space to read the morning paper, or to unwind after a long day. For this project we did a comprehensive remodel – replacing all the windows to install these gorgeous steel paned beauties.  They created a sense of play between indoors and outdoors – we brought in more natural elements from the outside world within the space to make it cohesive and seamless – adding chopped wood as a decor element, a stunning wooden coffee table, and fresh cut flowers to bring airiness to the space.

The final result? The space is fresh, airy, natural and still bold in it’s own beautiful way. Who wouldn’t want to sip their morning coffee on that inviting couch?  Check out some of the inspirations on my boards on Pinterest that match the color story and design aesthetic of this darling bedroom I designed (top image below). And don’t forget to pin it yourself!


Style Inspiration: The Best Baby Gifts (fit for the Royal Baby)


We all have those perfectly chic friends who are the best gift givers, but what baby gift can we give that friend who has everything?  When no typical baby gift will do, I always go for a luxe gift that will delight even the most stylish moms-to-be, from cashmere blankets to one of a kind baby moccasins. Here are a few of the best baby shower gifts – my personal favorites – that will always wow your pickiest of girlfriends, and be a gift they’ll cherish for years to come!

1.  I adore the look of a  classic, vintage inspired  stroller for a little one, and Pram Strollers have always been a favorite of mine. I had a navy one as a child – I wish my parents had saved it! If you’re looking for a memorable gift that will last for many babies to come, or a big gift that several friends can buy together, definitely consider a chic Pram stroller for the mother to be.

2. This beautiful sterling silver Tiffany Bow cup is a stunning baby keepsake that will stay in the family for generations to come. It’s perfect for your preppy classic style friends – if her engagement ring is from Tiffany’s, you know this will be a hit.  This fancy little cup would become a cherished heirloom for generations to come.

3.  As if a crisp white dress wasn’t summer enough, this gorgeous little white dress with shining gold embroidery makes this dress perfect for a summer baby. Paired with coordinating bloomers, it’s the perfect shower or “just because” gift for the new mother in your life.

4. One of my favorite baby gifts to give (and receive) was a Mother’s One Line A Day journal. It’s the perfect keepsake and way to remember special, little things from each day that you may forget otherwise (and those little things tend to always be my favorite.) I write in mine almost every day and love re-reading old entries from when my daughter was a baby (she’s now a toddler).

5. Dior is always a good idea, which means baby Dior is the perfect baby gift for your ultra posh friend. This beautiful muted tone jacket is wool and cashmere so it will be super warm and cozy during Chicago’s always changing seasons.

6. These little french booties are so adorable, and perfect for a little boy or girl. They’re made with the softest leather and no-slip flexible soles, making them the perfect shoe for any occasion.

7. This adorable Tiffany Bow Brush is another perfect heirloom piece to impress any mother to be. I love the iconic Tiffany bow detailing and the fact that you can get it monogrammed for an even more personal touch.

8. In celebration of the royal baby,  this adorable Dolce union jack blanket is the perfect chic gift to get and give. The blanket is incredibly soft and in a design fit for any little prince or princess (british or otherwise.)

Home Inspiration: Sofia Coppola’s NYC Apartment


“My apartment is pretty calm and restrained. I like a clean white backdrop set off by masses and masses of pink peonies.” -Sofia Coppola

I couldn’t agree more with Sofia Coppola’s favorite flower choice, though I’m more of a more is more type gal for interior design.  But since I’ve always been an admirer of Sofia Coppola, when her NYC apartment came on the market I had to share the photos. Not only is she an inspiring entrepreneur (Sofia champagne, anyone?), she’s an incredible director (Marie Antoinette was visually stunning and had great musical contrast), but she’s also just got such a cool easy-going minimalist style that sets her apart from many of today’s young celebs. I love seeing a celebrity home that is laid-back…not trying so hard to be cool with trendy/tacky design cliches – this home just feels as casual & cool as Sofia.  Recently I designed a French Tudor style home for a client, and used a near monochromatic color palette, much like Sofia’s.  I would have loved to help her with this apartment – keeping it clean and simple but I think it could use just a bit more edginess in some of the furniture shapes and perhaps a few more vintage pieces.

Sofia’s apartment has a great color palette – it is muted color simplicity with the perfect mix of dusty blue, earthy and white tones. It feels like a relaxing retreat in the midst of the busy, bustling city. The uncluttered backdrop of her walls keep the main focus in the room on her unique pieces of art & photography, including pieces by Elizabeth Peyton, Helmut Newton (one of my personal favorites), William Klein and many more.

Take a peek from Sofia Coppola’s NYC Apartment listing below…


images via

So, now the question remains – when can we move in?

Style Icons: Grace Coddington


The epitome of style and grace, Grace Coddington expertly fits her name to a T. She’s truly a one of a kind fashionista, from her signature flame-colored hair to her love of unconventional beauty.  But what I love most about her is her vision for creating a sense of mood and fantasy in the photoshoots she directs.  It’s like being transported into another world or another time but yet somehow it feels relevant to today.

While Grace has been a dynamic force in the fashion industry for quite some time (Vogue’s creative director for 27 years), she became a reluctant celebrity when the acclaimed 2009 documentary, The September Issue was released. I loved seeing the behind-the-scenes as Grace tirelessly works with famous photographers, designer and models to see her incredible creativity and stylish vision come to life. As a creative myself, it’s always fascinating watching others work their magic and turn the everyday into the extraordinary.  Don’t tell Anna Wintour, but I think Grace is the real visionary for Vogue.

Even as I look at images that are 10 years old they still feel fresh and interesting.  Her 2003 Alice in Wonderland shoot with the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz comes to mind. Grace enlisted the help of a few of her favorite designers to model including Tom Ford as the White Rabbit, Marc Jacobs as the Caterpillar, John Galliano as the Red Queen and many more. The result was a bold editorial shoot that has captured my imagination for years – its got whimsy, a sense of fantasy, bold colors, and wild  patterns!  It served as a point of inspiration for my design at the dream home in the merchandise mart.


If you’re looking to find out more of Grace’s world (believe me, you do!) check out her bestselling memoir, Grace: A Memoir, highlighting her early modeling career in England to her fashion career with Vogue. It’s such an interesting read, and you’ll love peeking behind the scenes to read about some of the Vogues most memorable shoots. Her fierce passion is inspiring.  Add it to your “must read” list for the summer!



Oftentimes when I’m interviewed a question will be ‘who would you most want to collaborate with on a design’ – almost always my answer is Grace Coddington.  I’d love to partner with her to create a vision and then pair my interior design with her fashion & photography knowledge to create something with as much fiery red personality as her hair.

Room Inspiration: A Nursery Fit For Princess Charlotte


There’s something lovely about a delicate sweet little girl’s nursery. Soft pastels, fabric canopies, vintage inspired touches and a feminine chandelier make a room that’s both chic and sophisticated but somehow charmingly sweet. In celebration of the new princess Charlotte’s birth, here are a few luxurious baby nurseries that would be fit for a princess. nursery inspiration

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When designing in more muted palettes, adding layers of texture and pattern is critical to retain a sophisticated design.  These all look like they would be a relaxing and peaceful space for Kate and Princess Charlotte. I love old fashioned and vintage-inspired cribs either in white or bleached oak – they make a beautiful centerpiece in the room. Vintage wallpaper prints, touches of color, puddled curtains and canopies, and a few pops of soft colors (that turquoise velvet couch is just gorgeous, isn’t it?) give the space extra depth. And what nursery would be complete without a few quirky toys and stuffed animals.  Together, the pretty pink accents, charming touches and muted tones make for a room any little princes would adore.

I could easily see the princess Charlotte growing up in any of these beautiful nurseries – couldn’t you?

Style Icon: Iris Apfel




Whenever I think of funky, bold style, Iris Apfel immediately comes to mind. At 94 years old, Iris is the embodiment of the “more is more” philosophy. What I love about her is that she’s not afraid to play with mixed-prints, bold colors and luxurious textures – whether she’s dressing herself or decorating her Manhattan apartment.


Iris breaks all the fashion “rules”: There’s no pattern, color, or trend that doesn’t go together! Whether she’s at the Met Gala or home on the weekend, Iris seems to always be dressed up and ready to put on a show, and that’s one of the many reasons I love her impeccable and quirky style. I love her unapologetic attitude on fashion too. She was famously quoted saying, “If you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else”, and I don’t think any other quote could capture her quirky style more perfectly.



Not only is she a fashion muse and icon,  but also a designer in her own right having worked on White House restoration projects for 9 presidents in her lifetime. Which seems odd to me given that, her home is a bold and playful environment, far from the stiff designs of the white house, but her involvement there was in recreating historic textiles.  I adore the way she uses pieces and inspiration from around the world to create a homey but elegant space. The details of those Moroccan throw pillows, the poppy red English chair, and gorgeous Dutch paintings all work together to create a lively room with lots of personality.

Her love of vintage decor and mix of colors reminds me of a Lincoln Park single family home I worked on. Both spaces blend antique pieces with bright, bold colors all the while infusing inspiration from cross-continental travel.

Iris-Apel-Style-At-HomeI know, like Iris, that I will always be inspired by the intersection of the world of fashion and design – and I hope to be just as stylish as she is when I’m 94!  Is anyone else as obsessed with Iris Apfel as I am?

I Love Vintage: Karl Springer


(Original Image via)

Karl Springer was one of the greatest furniture designers of the 20th century. He always found a way to perfectly blend elegance and quirk – never safe, always interesting.  So of course his pieces often become a centerpiece in my own designs.  Most known for his use of exotic materials – shagreen, goatskin, lacquer – his work pops, both in terms of color and shape in almost any room.

Originally born in Berlin, Springer came to New York to pursue his passion of becoming a bookbinder in 1957. His first job in the city was working at Lord & Taylor, and he began to use his bookbinding skills to create objects made out of leathers and skins. After years of practice and several jobs at high-end retailers, he became more experienced and branched off to create his own line of furniture pieces, light fixtures and Venetian-glass objects.  Eventually, his work spanned the globe, and he had active showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Munich and even Chicago. His attention to detail and unparalled craftsmanship made him well respected in the design community, and his work has always been coveted by designers and collectors.

As a lover of all things 70’s chic, I adore how Springer’s designs use a few of my favorite textures and materials: lucite, metals, goatskin parchment and gorgeous wood veneers.  I’ve snagged a few gorgeous Springer pieces that made the perfect accent for my clients.  You can’t help but be drawn to his pieces the moment you enter a room – they’re always eye-catching.


Top image: 24k gold leaf Onassis chairs // 1.  Plum goatskin and steel rotating side table //  2.  Emerald green goatskin table // 3. Pouf ottoman  // 4. Gueridon table // 5. Faux tortoise mirror // 6. Goat skin Onassis chair

I’ve used Karl Springer’s inspiring pieces in the past, including this gorgeous goatskin coffee table for the Palmolive building interior design project. It helped take the design and give it a bit more edge since the architecture and many other pieces were more traditional.



If you happen to snag a piece of Springer’s work, it’s sure to become one of your favorites. Which classic Springer piece would you love to add to your home?

Color Love: Bold Color in Interior Design

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of bold and quirky color combinations. I love the emotional connection and feeling color evokes when walking into a room, and creating wow-worthy color combinations that make an interior elegant, but never boring. I often find inspiration from the world around me – whether it be the colors of flowers I spy while walking through Chicago, or from my travel, or the world of fashion photography. Translating those colors into palettes for my clients is one of my favorite parts of the design process, and I love using inspirational images to come up with mood boards for my designs.

When working on the interior design for a single-family home in Lincoln Park, I loved using a mix of bright and bold colors in the family’s master bedroom.  This client was so much fun – she wanted everything to be daring and bold.  So that’s what we did…juxtaposing a gorgeous kelly green and white striped wall with velvet coral chairs and a glaucous powder blue chaise, giving the room plenty of pops of color while keeping the palette cohesive and fresh.

The result?  It’s playful, quirky, colorful, yet still luxurious.  I just simply don’t believe that luxury can only be attained in muted palettes – an interior can be chic & glamorous even with the bold use of color.  Check out some of the inspirations on my boards on Pinterest that match the color story and design aesthetic of this darling bedroom I designed (top image below).  And don’t forget to pin it yourself!

Orange-Green and Blue-graphic

Is it just me or does that coral clad flapper looks like she’s telling her puppy -“lets go home and recline on the chaise!”  And isn’t that color palette absolutely divine? I am obsessed with coral right now – it can range in hue but no matter the shade each seems to be the perfect mix of orange, pink and red.

What do you think – can luxury only be achieved in muted tones or do you believe in colorful glamour?

4 Coffee Table Books for Design Lovers

I’ve always had a penchant for beautiful, glossy coffee table books. Each page is full of colorful inspiration, and I often find myself flipping through a few of my favorites before diving into a new design project. It provides a glimpse into the world through the eyes of other creative thinkers whether they’re fashion designers, photographers, artists, or interior designers. Here are 4 of the books that are at the top of my list when it coms to inspiration.


1) Tory Burch : In Color – Tory has always been a style icon of mine, and I am completely smitten with her use of color and bold, playful patterns. I recently picked up her newest design book and absolutely fell in love with her incredible behind-the-scenes photos of her life and adventures around the world. From her personal photos of life growing up in Pennsylvania, to the incredible trips that have transformed her style, this book is a must have for anyone who finds creativity in the world around them and loves a little boho-chic living and the occasional preppy pattern. As an avid traveler myself, I can relate to Tory’s love of adventure and obsession with living a colorful life.



2) Romantic Irish Homes – Designer Robert O’Byrne is one of my all-time favorite interior designers, and I love this book featuring impeccable romantic, lived in homes. His gorgeous designs and photos depict well lived in spaces, with the perfect mix of color, texture, and rustic elegance. Every home in it has petina and character – they’re perfectly imperfect, you might say.  I love rooms filled with old, beautiful books, and Robert showcases a few libraries and living rooms worth lusting over. If you’re a fan of lived-in elegance, this book will be a new go-to.



3) ABC DSC  – British designer David Collins is great at creating luxurious modern interiors. I love how they transform me to another time and place – for example – turning an everyday bar into a grandiose ballroom. A simple dining room becomes a glamorous Russian train-esque space – with rich woods and deep cobalt blue velvet details.



4) Ann Getty Interior Style:  Ann Getty is a Go Big or Go Home designer, and I love that about her. Her over the top glamour combines great textures and materials to create inspiring public spaces. I love her “more is more” aesthetic.  It reminds me of this incredible project I worked on recently in Lincoln Park. I adore her fresh, bright and simplified color palettes that she adds to so many of her design projects, as well as her attention to detail.



What are your favorite coffee table books to draw inspiration from?

Style Icon: Tory Burch



Tory Burch is a modern style icon.  But not only for her fashion – she’s built a killer business, has the most amazing houses, supports women entrepreneurs, and of course she looks great while doing it all!  Each season I’m excited to see the ads her brand creates.  They have this way of setting just the mood she was after – sometimes dreamy, other times more preppy or boho.  I love using a mood to set the tone for a design so oftentimes will build a room around a mood, a place in time, a photograph, or an outfit – those will serve as the inspiration and jumping off point for a design.  I often look to Tory’s ads or fashions for inspiration, and adore her ability to mix vibrant colors and patterns in unexpected ways.

Tory-Buch-Office-ChicAn entrepreneurial woman’s office is her castle, and Tory’s Manhattan home office is incredibly (and expectedly) chic.  Beyond her status as a fashion icon, I also see her (most importantly in my world) as an interiors icon. Each of her stores, offices, and homes are the perfect mix of classic style with a bohemian bent. I love the way she deploys bold color in an ever so chic way & how she mixes patterns with abandon not only in clothes but in upholstery.  In her office I love the mixed shades of blues as well as her attention to the tiniest details – the perfect place setting, a trim detail on a pillow or sofa, a pop of cobalt china on the wall.  Those details are what make the design.


Similarly to her interior design aesthetic, her iconic pieces are timeless & classic but still bold.  Depending on the season and collection they vary but always maintain a chic feel with a dash of boho-whimsy.  Most people gravitate towards her preppy patterns, but I’m personally a fan of some of the edgier pieces in her collections.  A hint of 70’s, a moody dark lace, a bold contrast stripe or an asymmetrical skirt.

Tory Burch in front of Patterned Wall and Window

But what I love most of all about Tory…that she does it all while looking so effortless!

What Tory Burch pieces or spaces are you inspired by?

Artist Profile: Tim Anderson – Chicago

For many years my husband and I have been really interested in, and have begun collecting painted portraits.  We’re starting a small collection which are lining our entryway and stairwell.  Most of the portraits are vintage and antique portraits, but we’re starting to mix in some new/contemporary works as well.

A friend of ours who also is our very talented website designer, Kyle from Knoed recently posted on facebook a request for friends to share their favorite Chicago fine artists.  It made us think about all the artists we’ve used for our interior design projects, and while some were Chicago-based, many were from other parts of the country.  But one of the artists suggested was Tim Anderson, whose work we’ve admired for a while, and is of course focused on portraits.  They’re somewhat abstract but not completely removed from reality.  And there’s great range – some are more ‘real’, while others push more abstract.  Below we’ve included a few of our favorites.

We think they’re just beautiful. Hope you enjoy them as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll have one of his works hanging in our hallway before too long…

Tim Anderson - Chicago Artist - Portrait #8

Tim Anderson - Chicago Artist - Vulcan Portrait

Chicago Portrait Artist Tim Anderson - Paloma

Tim Anderson - Chicago Portrait Artist - Prometheus

Tim Anderson - Chicago Portrait Painter

Chicago Artist - Tim Anderson Portraiture

Oh, and you can buy his work from Thomas Masters Gallery in Chicago

Who are some of your favorite living artists? 

Anyone from Chicago?

The smell of great interior design…

We’ve all had those times when we walked into a friend’s home and immediately notice a distinctly pleasant aroma.  Sometimes its fresh flowers, sometimes its baking cookies, and sometimes its a delicious candle.  In the winter, it just has that warm and enticing aroma that you’ll envy for your own home, and it somehow makes any space feel that much more inviting and comforting.  So I’m oftentimes looking for great looking, aesthetically pleasing ways to incorporate the sense of smell into my designs.  I burn candles in my home all winter long, and when I fall in love with a scent, I’ll take it in any form I can get.

Right now I’ve been really loving musk & amber smells.  I know that sounds unappealing, but trust me, when its 5 degrees outside this warm, rich aroma makes you feel cozy.  Think of a great aged wine or an 18-year scotch…it smells like neither (thankfully) but it feels historic, aged, and deep.  My husband is wearing Kiehl’s Musk eau de toilette for cologne, and I’m buying bath soaps, lotions, and candles that have the smell whenever I see them.

Merz Apothecary

Merz Apothecary - Established 1875

This past fall I took a trip to Merz Apothecary here in Chicago – they have locations in the Palmer House Hilton as well as on Lincoln.  It’s just what you would imagine of an old fashioned, established in 1875 apothecary shop – tin ceiling, wood pharmacy bookcase walls covered in every scent imaginable, old fashioned shaving kids with straight razors & brushes with bone handles, and more.

Merz Apothecary Interior Design

Merz Apothecary - Old Fashioned Grooming Products

And that’s where I first discovered Boticario de Havana, one of my favorite candle and scent makers – they’re both aesthetically pleasing (beautiful bottles) and smell amazing.  And of course I love their bath oil, lotions, etc too because they are in gorgeous bottles (so they look great in a bathroom), and they leave me smelling like my favorite scents all day long.

Boticario de Havana


This winter we received a great gift package from Archipalego that included some of my favorite scents.  Our whole office was celebrating!!  We loved the variety of products they had – Boticario de Havana as well as others – so you can get any scent that you’re searching for. Check em out at

And of course now I’m curious – what’s your favorite scent?

Or do you have a particular scent that you like in your home?



Buenos Aires Flea Market

As many of you know, I love to travel.  And when I travel, I oftentimes visit the flea markets of the cities I’m visiting.  Whether it’s Paris or Palm Beach, visiting the flea markets is always a fun way to see the history and culture of a city.  I’ve been to the flea markets in Russia, France, Argentina and several throughout the U.S.  This March I took a trip to Buenos Aires Argentina to visit one of the world’s largest flea markets as well as to enjoy some great food, local wine, and a unique blend of French and Italian inspired architecture.  But beyond the expected steaks and tango, I found a culture with passion for art and history and an eye for aesthetics that surprised and delighted me.

What I found surprising on my trip though was the contrast of old world formality contrasted with streamlined modernity –  rococo vs. graffiti, french settees vs. mid-century modern, taxidermy vs. industrial sleekness.  The contrast was quite amazing, and it is a similar sense of contrast that I often bring to the interior design projects at Summer Thornton Design where we blend new with old, antique with modern, and so on.   Of course as Buenos Aires was originally settled it had an influx of beautiful antiques from France and Italy, and we loved seeing those pieces at the flea markets.  Check out some of the antiques and photos that we took on our trip below…

Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Graffiti Art Painted House in Buenos Aires

Graffiti Art Painted House in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Flea Market covered shops

Buenos Aires Flea Market

Furniture at the Buenos Aires Flea Market

Furniture at the Buenos Aires Flea Market

Buenos Aires old world architecture contrasted with contemporary graffiti

Buenos Aires old world architecture contrasted with contemporary graffiti


Summer Thornton’s Condo – SOLD in Lincoln Park

Update – Condo Is SOLD…

Not quite a true interior design ‘inspiration’ post, but thought we would let everyone know that I’m listing my condo for sale.  It’s definitely a bittersweet moment.  Josh and I have loved living there, but alas, it is time for a move to get a bit more space.  Sad to leave it, but hoping that someone will buy it who can enjoy it as much as we did.  It’s been such a fun place to live, and we’ve enjoyed seeing it published in so many blogs and magazines (House Beautiful, CS Interiors, Tribune Magazine, Apartment Therapy, and so many more).

If you’re curious, here are some of the things we’ve done to the place since we originally bought it back in 2007:

  • Renovated the Kitchen – custom cabinetry, high-end appliances (Bertazzoni range, F&P fridge, Bosch, etc), marble countertop and shelves, mirrored backsplash, Brass and gold fixtures
  • Installed new electrical and lighting in kitchen
  • Added built-in bookshelves in Living Room
  • Added in-unit washer and dryer (full size)
  • Renovated the bathroom – new custom vanity, herringbone ceramic wall tiles, new marble mosaic floor, polished nickel fixtures, updated plumbing to all new copper (both in-unit as well as risers from the basement)
  • Restored molding and trim to original condition
  • Installed new closed-combustion furnace system
  • And of course we decorated it…we’d even sell it furnished for the right price ;O)

Lincoln Park Condo of Summer Thornton

Summer Thornton's Kitchen with Black Glossy Cabinets

  • More photos can be seen on our site here.
  • And of course the full real estate listing can be found here.

Can’t wait for someone else to enjoy this place as much as we have.  And the best news is, once we sell it we’ll have another project to share with you as I’ll be taking on a new home design.  So with that, if you’re in the market for a condo in lincoln park, or you know someone who is, feel free to pass it along…

Artist Profile: Irving Penn – Photographer

Feminine, chic, glamorous, and intimate.  I’ve been loving photographs of Irving Penn’s for a long time, but recently I’ve been loving the depth and intimacy of his images.  I ran across a quote of Penn’s which speaks to the power of his images:

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is one they would like to show the world. …Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.”

- Irving Penn, 1975

That statement is so true and so insightful about our society.  We all put on our best face, a bit of a facade, but underneath that is something more interesting, beautiful, quirky, and original than the surface would show.  Which is why I love Penn’s images so much – in them we’re able to get to view the subject on a deeper level when they really become interesting.  It’s when you find out something about them that few others know, or you see a moment of weakness that they become real – and its in those intimate moments that you can connect with them.  And now for what may be a big leap – I hope that is what I can do through interior design – create spaces that while beautiful and glamorous are still intimate and are a peek into the quirks and interests of my clients.

Is anyone else a fan of Irvin Penn’s photography?  His ‘corner’ series which is always copied and never duplicated is one of my favorites…how about you?

Irving Penn Photograph "Ballet Society"

Irving Penn Photograph - "Ballet Society"

Irving Penn Corner Photograph "Duchess of Windsor"

Irving Penn Corner Photograph - Duchess of Windsor

Irving Penn Photo - "Igor Stravinsky"

Irving Penn Photo - Igor Stravinsky

Irving Penn Photograph of Salvador Dali

Irving Penn Photograph - Salvador Dali

Irving Penn Photo - Mrs William Rhinelander Stewart

Irving Penn Photo - Mrs William Rhinelander Stewart

I can only imagine a salon wall like the one I did in the Palmolive Building with Irvin Penn’s intimate images next to the more glorified/glamorous images of Slim Aarons.  Whose work do you prefer?  Or do you like them both but in different applications?

For more examples of Irving Penn’s photography, see Retronaut or for a list of Irving Penn’s books see the Irving Penn Foundation

Artist Profile: Slim Aarons – Celebrity Photographer

Slim Aarons lived by the mantra “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.”

And it’s true, he photographed some of the world’s wealthiest celebrities, jet-setters, and royalty, but somehow with a feeling of approachability and closeness.  From his NYTimes obituary it seems as though Slim had become one of them.  He was actually close to these socialites and was able to photograph them freely in situations where other photographers (and the public) were not allowed: their Palm Beach estates, private parties, terrace pools in Greece, and so on.

I came to know Slim Aarons’ photographs this past year as one of my clients purchased some prints of his.  I can’t wait to finish the rooms that his photos will hang in.  They’re modern and moody, sophisticated but not overly stuffy.  I’ve read was that Slim never used a makeup artist or a stylist in any of his photos, and that’s why I think they feel more approachable, more real than many of today’s celebrity photographs.

What do you think – do Slim’s photos feel intimate despite his subject being so glamorous?

Poolside Gossip in Palm Springs by Slim Aarons

"Poolside Gossip" in Palm Springs by Slim Aarons

Slim Aarons "Kaufman House"

Slim Aarons - "Kaufman House"

Slim Aarons - "Pop and Society" feat. Mick Jagger

Slim Aarons - "Pop and Society" feat. Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, and Desmond Guinness

Slim Aarons - Eden Roc Pool @ Hotel Du Cap France

Slim Aarons - Eden Roc Pool @ Hotel Du Cap France

Slim Aarons - Beauty and the Beast feat. Lady Daphne Cameron in Palm Beach, Florida

Slim Aarons - "Beauty and the Beast"

Slim Aarons - "Nice Pool" in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Nice Pool" in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Leisure and Fashion" - Poolside Fashion Show in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Leisure and Fashion" - at a poolside fashion show in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Jean Serpieris" - at Tour La Reine Athens

Slim Aarons - "Jean Serpieris" - at Tour La Reine Athens

Slim Aarons - "Penthouse Pool" - in Athens

Slim Aarons - "Penthouse Pool" - in Athens

Slim Aarons - "Family Chair" - A Flagler heir sitting in HM Flagler's favorite chair in front of Flagler Museum

Slim Aarons - "Family Chair" - An heir sitting in HM Flagler's favorite chair in front of Flagler Museum, Palm Beach

Which is your favorite Slim Aarons photo?

If you’d like to see more, other writers’ thoughts, or even purchase his work, follow the links below:

Or if this put you in the Palm Beach mood – check out my post: Palm Beach Interior Design Style