MICHAEL FITZSIMMONS DECORATIVE ARTS
Over 30 years specializing in the Arts & Crafts field
Completed Projects
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HOW WE WORK - frequently asked questions We now offer GARDEN DESIGN SERVICESClick here to read more and to see some pictures of a recent garden in Oak Park. More projects

Following are some pictures from some of our recent interior projects.  We bring almost 30 years of specialization and experience in the Arts & Crafts style to our work in space planning, renovation, restoration and new construction.  We have a full team of contractors, tradesmen, craftsmen and artisans, and can tackle virtually any size and type job.  Please feel free to contact us if you would like to discuss a project of your own, or to find out how we can work with you to achieve the results you envision.  If you would like to see a dramatic example of how paint color can affect the feeling of a room, click here.

To see more photos of any of these projects, and more of our work, please click here.

Above are two views of a truly remarkable project I worked on last year.  Originally a gentleman's dairy farm, the structure was built entirely out of local native stone, and backs up to a thousand-plus acre state forest.  It consists of 5 bedrooms and baths, a fully-outfitted gourmet kitchen, huge great room with fireplace, billiard room, 2 large home offices, an in-ground pool, landscaped garden, stream with stone bridge, and original stone carriage house with workshop.  Located in New York state, it is 45 minutes by car to mid-town Manhattan.  It is truly an estate paradise, and I had a wonderful time working with my clients on it to turn it into an oasis in the country.
On the left is a view of the framing creating the generous entry hall and the larger of the two home offices located in the main barn.  The proportions of the spaces were so large that the challenge was not how to fit everything, but how to keep it from feeling overpowering.  The picture on the right shows the finished space, with quarter-sawn oak paneling and trim, a radiant heat slate floor, and subtle leaded glass transom windows.  I wanted to have the details subtly reflect the original purpose of the buildings, but I was careful to keep everything looking elegant and finished as well.  My client met with his investors in this space, so it had to be impressive, but understated.
On the left is a view of the staircase that leads up to the main barn space, now a fantastic great room with a library loft and gourmet kitchen.  I wanted the stair to be grand enough to anchor the space, but no so majestic that it would make my client's investors feel cheated if they were not invited up.  Putting it off to one side, as opposed to directly opposite the front door, accomplished this nicely, I think.  The balusters were custom-turned, and are copies of one we found in the carriage house.  It had the right look and scale, and is really a subtle but effective detail that adds a true period feeling.  The picture on the right is a view of a cozy inglenook space that "appeared" on the other side of the staircase.  It is just outside their daughter's bedroom, so she uses it as a sitting room with her friends.  It is also in between the two offices, so my clients sit there as well at the beginning and end of their days and unwind.
On the left is a view of the great room space undergoing structural repairs.  Many of the original trusses had to be replaced, which offered an opportunity to incorporate lighting and electrical systems.  As much of the original stonework was left exposed as possible, to retain the rugged character of the building.  Each boulder was meticulously cleaned, however.  On the right is the finished space.  It is grand without being overwhelming, and each area, kitchen, dining and sitting, is nicely scaled to feel comfortable and accommodating.
Here are two views of the kitchen.  The cabinetry was done by Crown Point.  The library loft above the main working space keeps it from feeling dwarfed, and makes it a comfortable, cozy space to cook in.  The farmhouse sink is hand-wrought copper, and the hood over the range is copper and iron, both by Joe Mross.  Having completed this wonderful home, my clients are now moving on to the next project, and have put the estate on the market.  If you have an interest in this unique property, please contact me and I will put you in touch with them.
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On the left is the before shot of a sweet little condo I just finished in downtown Chicago for some clients from Wisconsin.  They are avid opera and symphony fans, and wanted a place of their own to stay when they came to the city, which they do often.  The one-bedroom unit is in a converted commercial office building, with a view from the balcony of the Civic Opera House, a block away!  Perfectly located, but dismally decorated, if you could even say that. 
On the right is the same view now.  My clients wanted an Arts & Crafts style for the apartment, but I felt strongly that the result had to reflect the character of the building, which was classical, and the nature of the space itself, which was clean and modern.  I did not want what we all came to refer to as "Arts & Crafts Disneyland."  I made the detailing of the woodwork, fireplace surround, bookcases, kitchen cabinetry and raised ceiling beams clean, bold and simple to subtly underscore the character of the surroundings.
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This is the horrid little fireplace surround the previous owner, or possibly the developer, had "installed."  I put that word in quotes, because this strange construction was not even attached securely to anything.  The whole unit pulled away from the wall at the slightest tug.
I left the firebox in place, but rebuilt everything else.  I installed a high hearth, which functions as a seating perch for parties, and widened the surround to be more graceful and proportional to the rest of the space.  The challenge with this was to provide enough tile area around the opening to make it look good, but keep the mantle from getting too high.  I solved that problem with the dramatically-curved apron under the mantle.  I also purposefully did not connect the bookcases to the surround, as this would have made the whole composition simply too imposing for what is really a small space.  The leaded glass windows were something that the clients asked to have incorporated at our first meeting.  I think they thought that I didn't hear them, or perhaps want to accommodate their request, but I saw them hanging above the bookcases from the start, and I think they were surprised and pleased that they were such a major part of the design.

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On the left is the view into the kitchen as it was the day we all went to see the unit.  The cabinets are the cheapest grade big-box stores carry, and the appliances were extremely low end.  The layout was awkward in places, but the placement of the sink, refrigerator and island were not bad.  To keep costs down, I left the plumbing and major electrical where they were, but took out everything else.  The photo on the right shows the finished kitchen.  Since it was completely open to the living room, I wanted the finish to be as high as the Hile furniture we used.  The appliances needed to be as unobtrusive as possible as well, so I chose integrated panel models for the refrigerator and dishwasher.  The cabinet above the wall oven holds the microwave, and the island now has a new, very sleek induction cooktop.  My clients love to eat out at the many wonderful restaurants in the city, so requested only the most minimal of eating areas, which was lucky, since there really is not enough space for a dining table in the apartment and I did not want to have stools at the island completely open and visible to the living room.  In the warmer months they will eat outside on the balcony. In order to create a greater sense of enclosure, and to screen off the hallway ceiling and light fixture somewhat, I added a soffit at the entrance to the living room on the right.  (more pictures to come!)

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These are some before and after shots of a beautiful vintage apartment in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago that we are just putting the finishing touches on.  My clients, a well-educated, well-traveled and intellectually curious couple, wanted an interior that was welcoming and reflected their personalities.  The picture on the left is the living room the day I came to see it.  There are some interesting pieces of furniture here, but with no "base line" of consistency, it just looked like an accumulated collection of miss-matched things.  The shot on the right shows the finished space.  Where we could, we reupholstered existing pieces, like the daybed in the foreground.  The two matching loveseats, identically upholstered, and the matching lamp tables and lamps, now give the other pieces something to show off against.  Adding some table lamps to a space that already had can lights in the ceiling gives increased flexibility for different levels and moods of lighting.  Repetition of the gorgeous peachy-apricot color brings a visual unity to the space and the objects in it.
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On the left is another shot of the living room, offering a better view of the interesting and eclectic art collection they have.  It was a lot of fun to reintegrate their collection into the spaces once the furnishing was done.  The picture on the right is a view into the finished library space.  It is a small, cozy room, separated by original french doors from the main living room, and opens onto the master bedroom.  It is a wonderful space to relax in and ready quietly or watch television before bed.
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On the left is the library before work was done.  The overall feeling is a little chilly, an impression not helped by the white painted fireplace face and light upholstery.  The view on the right shows the room now.  The trim, as in the rest of the apartment, was repainted from stark white to a soft taupe-y tan color.  We tiled over the existing fireplace face with soft blue-glazed tiles, and reupholstered a sofa from the living room, and the existing ottoman, with a wonderful William Morris fabric that complements the tiles beautifully.  The same silk curtain fabric used in the living room is used here as well, only now it is the complement to the blues and greens, giving a sparkle, albeit a subtle one, to the small space.  The oppressive and overpowering mirror above the fireplace is gone now, replaced with an interesting painting from the couple's travels.  A lot of people think, erroneously, that a big mirror over a fireplace will make a small room seem larger - the opposite is actually the truth, as these two photos show.  If your room is small, make it a virtue, not something that you are ineffectually trying to fight.
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On the left is the entryhall as I first saw it.  Although a large space as entries go, it had no feeling of warmth or welcome.  The wall in the background is opposite the door, so it was the first thing a visitor would see upon entering the apartment.  The picture on the right is the way the space looks now.  I chose a fantastic grasscloth in a warm, rusty orange-red color with a little brown woven in here and there to both warm up the space visually, and darken it down, so as to play up the nice natural light that came in from the east-facing windows in the living room.  I like entries on the darkish side, frankly, because I feel this causes the guest to pause and begin to relax.  The lighting is kept on the low side as well, and now there is a nice pair of vintage lamps from the 40's I believe, a table and a colorful oil painting to catch your eye when you enter.  An 18th century chest of drawers on the left holds hats, gloves, keys, the mail and all the other stuff that you find by the front door.  The dark red rug on the floor is an antique, part of my clients' collection that has been assembled on their travels.  Again, the color of the woodwork has been softened from the stark white it used to be.
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These are shots of a basement family / media room that I have just finished.  The clients are a young couple with a baby girl and another child soon to arrive, and wanted to make this large space function for a variety of uses.  The picture on the left is the before view, just as I saw it on my first visit.  The space lacks warmth, and there really is no sense of what its purpose is.  There was a small kitchenette on the left, which was intruding into the space and cutting off the flow.  The picture on the right shows the finished room as it is now.  In the main seating area, a spacious sofa, upholstered in a wonderful coppery chenille, is flanked by a pair of lamp tables with a matching pair of lamps, MFDA exclusives.  The upholstered armchairs are in shades of soft green, and the rug, Tulip & Lily Harvest, is rich and luxurious in shades of scarlet, gold, dull green, brown and purples.  There is a game table and chairs in the alcove, with a custom leaded glass chandelier and brass sconces providing, along with the recessed cans, three levels and sources of light.  The ceiling height is around 6'10", but the paneling, at just under 60", makes the room seem taller, and larger as well.  It is now the warm, cozy, comfortable and inviting space that they had hoped to achieve. 
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On the other side of the space, an "L" shaped area had no real purpose or function assigned to it.  I thought it would make a wonderful playroom for their daughter and new baby.  I kept the same paneling as in the grown-ups area, but painted it a more child-friendly green.  Under the window, I widened the dado cap molding to become a little toy shelf, on which sits a very charming collection of stuffed animals.  By painting the doors the same color as the wainscoting, the room feels anchored.  The table and chairs are from Pottery Barn, but are exactly the type of thing you see in period photographs of children's rooms.  The rug in the foreground is a prototype for one of a group of rugs I am creating based on illustrations by Margaret Iannelli, who, along with her husband Alphonso, had a design studio in the Arts & Crafts period in Park Ridge, Illinois.  In addition to producing thousands of illustrations for various children's books and magazines, it appears Margaret was responsible for the design of the sculptural sprites for Frank Lloyd Wright's Midway Gardens, and Alphonso sculpted them.
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This is the little kitchenette that we had to take out, and the extent of the provision for the tv. On the right is a shot of the cabinetry that I designed to hold the electronic equipment, the DVDs, video tapes and so on, as well as the sink and refrigerator!  The sink is hidden behind the cabinet door on the far left, and the refrigerator is located in the lower cabinet right next to it.  There is a microwave hookup in the upper cabinet on the far right.  I did not want any of this to show, because I wanted the whole space to read like a library or den, not a kitchen.  The tv had to be moved slightly, and we ran all the wiring through a tube in the wall, so nothing shows.
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This is a little nook at the bottom of the stairs, and is the first thing you see as you come down.  I actually love the bright, striking color they chose, but it was not right for the period of the house or the overall concept we were developing.  The photo on the right shows the re-done result.  A generous built-in bench, with a soft cushion and big pillows, sends the message "comfortable resting place" immediately.  My thought here was that when my clients were entertaining friends or family (they both have big ones), there would be four areas for separate activities: the game area at the far end, with seating for 4, the television area, which can accommodate 7 to 9, this little seating group, which can seat 6 with the leaves on the table out, and then the "playroom" space, which is to the right of this area.  The bench is configured so that anyone sitting there can easily see the television and the kids playing.  My clients purchased the painting above the paneling on their honeymoon.  I believe it is of Scotland, or maybe Ireland, but in any case is perfect in the space.  The wall sconces are dull, unlacquered brass with off-white fabric shades, perfect for the vintage feeling we were hoping to achieve.  The space looks elegant but welcoming, grown-up but inviting, beautiful but not off-putting, which is just what I had wanted to do for them. 
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These are two views of a magical room for a little girl we just are finishing here in Oak Park.  The house has strong English Arts & Crafts overtones, so William Morris patterns seemed a natural choice.  The wallpaper, Brer Rabbit, is particularly suited to a child's room, with its naively-rendered bunnies, very similar in feeling to the decorations done on Dedham plates of this period.  The four poster bed, a family antique, is covered in Morris's Artichoke brocade, while the window shades are Leicester.  The toy chest at the foot of the bed was collaged by the girl's mother using antique illustrations from children's literature.  While not chosen for their color, the Ugli dolls on the bed coordinate beautifully!  The picture on the right shows a small table and chairs, perfect for tea parties, in front of Morris's Acanthus in a tone-on-tone pewter blue.  Behind is the daughter's dressing room with custom-made cabinetry instead of dressers.  It also doubles as a theater stage for performances.  While there is no pink per se in this space, the overall feeling is of a delicate, decorative and beautiful room, clearly created for a girl.  I kept the many patterns from clashing by making sure they were all of different scales, a technique Morris himself used when creating his interiors in the 1880's.
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These are two views of the living room of a Frank Lloyd Wright house here in Oak Park that I have been working on for several years.  There was no furniture designed for the house, so we had some freedom in terms of what pieces we used.  The settle and morris chairs are by Hile Studio, and the other pieces were custom-designed for the house.  One of the most important instructions that the clients gave me at the start was that the house would be comfortable and liveable for their family and friends.  There could be nothing too precious or museum-like that would make people feel uncomfortable.  I chose fabrics that had a richness both in terms of their color as well as their textures.  Velvets, wovens and subtle patterns predominate, which was a characteristic of the Prairie School interiors.
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The picture on the left is a view into the breakfast room off of the new kitchen.  The table and chairs are custom designs, and subtly play up the Japanese flavor of the architecture.  The recessed ceiling fixture above was designed after the leaded glass, and casts a beautiful glow in the evenings over the whole space.  The photo on the right is of the veranda, and space in the back of the house that looks over the garden.  Wright originally intended this room to be an open porch, we believe, so the walls and woodwork were treated to match the exterior.  It is now enclosed with leaded glass windows, and is a wonderful place to sit and have a quiet conversation, read a book, or unwind at the end of the day.  I chose wicker furniture, but upholstered it in "indoor" fabrics, which creates a pleasant tension.  The furniture is all custom-designed and made of cypress, a gorgeous, albeit soft, wood.
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Here are two views of the master bedroom of the Frank Lloyd Wright house.  While the basic foot print of the room did not change, virtually every surface was touched in some way.  The walls are treated in a special application of sand and tinted paint that perfectly replicates the old sand-coat plaster found in homes of the period.  The pair of chairs, the lamp table, night stands and bed were all custom-designed, since there was no furniture by Wright specified for the house.  The chandelier is period, but I am not sure who designed it.  It is perfect in the room nonetheless, and in fact the colors of the walls were chosen to harmonize with it.  The wall behind the bed has built-in cabinetry behind it, which allowed us to keep the room itself relatively open and uncluttered.  At night, it is a magical, peaceful space. 
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     This is a basement that we recently finished.  The concept, an English pub, was generated by the hammered brass fireplace hood, and combined nicely with the fact that the husband brews his own beer.  The family has three children, two boys and a girl, and so the space had to function both as an entertaining space for the adults and as a game and family room for the kids.  Nothing could be too precious or delicate.  In order to create the required head room, the floor had to be dug down a foot or so, which allowed for the installation of radiant heating under the slate tiles.  An antique corner pub bench was located at an antique store, and the entire bar was built around it.
     On the right is a view from behind the bar towards the flat screen tv and theater area.  As you can see from the games, drum set, guitar hero equipment, and bookcase full of DVDs, this room is thoroughly enjoyed by the family.  This is how it should be.  Good design results are ones that create spaces that can be used and enjoyed, not just looked at.

     This is the exterior of a large and gracious house in a western suburb on a beautiful corner lot.  The owners felt that both the exterior and the interior could use some attention.  On the outside, the home's color scheme was a little drab, and did not really reflect the character of the architecture - Arts & Crafts with a faint Italianate feeling.  
     On the right is the exterior after a fresh color scheme and some additional landscaping was added.  The porch columns and terrace walls were stripped to reveal the original glazed bricks, and the garden wall was painted to harmonize with the soft, warm white color of the bricks.  The trim and window casements were painted the same greenish-gray color, something like the pietra serena found in Florentine Renaissance architecture, which served to simplify and unify the elements on the facade.  Below are some pictures of the interior.
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On the left is the view of the entry hall before.  My client had made a good start with the use of William Morris's Golden Lily wallpaper, but the space, a large and central one, lacked the essential feeling of welcome that all entries should have.  The table in the center, an obvious choice, actually served to hinder the flow among the other rooms, and created a visual barrier that subconsciously said "stop."  The picture on the right is the way the room looks now.  On the original plans, we discovered that there was a fireplace intended for the corner where the big pier mirror was.  When we looked behind the mirror, we discovered that the masonry was there, but it had never been opened.  I used all the original woodwork from the mirror to create a mantle and fireplace surround, and we installed a ventless box.  Two wing chairs, a nice table and a pretty lamp create a wonderful spot to sit during a party.  The feeling now is definitely one of warmth and welcome.
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The photo on the left shows a room that my clients had not really used to full advantage.  One of the problems, as you can see through the windows, was that the house next door was very close.  No one liked being in the room because it felt so exposed.  I suggested a billiard room, which you can see on the right.  We added a picture rail, used a Morris paper below, and added sconces and a ceiling fixture that was more in keeping with the large scale of the room.  To solve the next-door-neighbor problem, we had some leaded glass panels made, based on those at Morris's Red House, and mounted them directly to the existing Pella frames.  They look so natural and authentic, it is hard now to believe that they weren't always there.  Click here for a better view.
These are some views of the sunroom off the billiard room.  On the left is how it looked before.  Despite the wonderful natural light, the room felt cold, and the style was decidedly Country French, which did not go with the architecture of the house at all.  The walls and trim were painted stark white (my least favorite color), and the lamps were too small to do much to warm things up.  The picture in the middle shows the same view afterwards.  I painted the walls and the brick piers the same color as the exterior stucco, and the trim the same wonderful green as the trim outside.  A wicker loveseat and matching sofa, along with a generously-sized ottoman, are covered in Morris fabrics.  The wooden slat blinds are the wide ones, just like in the period.  After we installed this room, the husband called a few days later to tell me how much he enjoys this space now, which before he never entered.  I like it so much I put another photo of it on the far right.
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On the left is a view of one end of the living room before.  While there is a nice, original fireplace and mantle, the space feels curiously unfinished, and lacking any anchoring weight.  The flanking loveseats are the right idea, but the white slipcovers are too stark.  The photo on the right shows my solution - built-in bookcases that also cover the radiators now complete the picture, and give a feeling of solidity and purpose to the area.  A custom pair of Lutyens-inspired chairs replace the sofas in the proper scale.  I changed the wall color just slightly to a warmer, happier shade of tan.
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On the left is the other end of the living room before.  Again, the idea is a good one, and the furniture layout is logical and functional.  I tend to leave existing furniture layouts the same, unless there is something terribly wrong or non-functional about them.  In this case, they were the right kinds of pieces, just the wrong details.   We got a pair of sofas on sale at Macy's, and built the rest of the pieces around them.  The table in the corner is an MFDA exclusive copy of a design by CFA Voysey, one of my favorite Arts & Crafts architects.  The brass lamp continues this feeling.  The white woodwork was stripped and stained, revealing quartersawn white oak surrounds.  The plaid wing chairs ended up recovered in the entry hall above.  The family used this space a lot, so it had to be comfortable and functional.  I am happy to report that they still do.
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     On the left is the before shot of a room in a charity showhouse for the Infant Welfare Society of Oak Park and River Forest.  The house is owned by a developer who basically ran out of ideas for completion, and so turned to local designers and the IWS to help him finish the project.  His thought was to make it a "sports bar", but I chose English Arts & Crafts pub instead.  As you can see from the glass block windows, the room is below grade, and the ceilings are 7'10", just barely up to code.  
     The photo on the right shows the same room finished.  By installing paneling to a height of just over 5', the ceiling paradoxically looks higher.  Painting the walls and ceiling the same color helps to further this illusion.  I wanted a kind of "William Morris meets Ralph Lauren" feeling, so the furniture is tufted and comfortable, with lots of leather, velvet and deep, rich colors.  There are three "levels" of lighting: wall and ceiling fixtures, floor lamps and table lamps, which can be turned off and on independently, allowing a great deal of flexibility.  The overall lighting level is low, since it is below ground, but this is appropriate to the style of the room.  The various fixture provide pools of warm, inviting light.  The rug, from the GuildCraft Collection of designs by CFA Voysey, provided the inspiration for the entire color scheme.
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     This is a view towards the bar area.  The cabinets, prefab, had already been installed, unfortunately, but the rest of the decisions and details were still pending.  I did not want the room to simply be an off-putting "man cave", so I kept the bar to its necessary minimum, without sacrificing the considerable impact of a real, functioning bar in a domestic interior.  I felt strongly that the space had to function as a family-friendly environment, so women and children needed to feel comfortable in it and be provided for as well.  This meant seating for conversation, reading, relaxing, playing games, watching television and so forth.  If the room had been bigger, I might have included a pool table.
     On the left is the same view completed.  We tiled the back wall with a rich, rusty orange field tile with a small decorative triptych under the television, which serves to draw your eye towards the far wall and gives a nice punch of color.  The antique leather chesterfield sofa is English, and the patina on the leather lends a very nice vintage feeling to the room.  Most of the wood furniture is antique, while the upholstered pieces are all new, but very much in the style.  The wicker chandelier is one we have made for us exclusively, and is a copy of a rare Gustav Stickley design.  The overall feeling is rich, enveloping, relaxing, subdued and clubby, but not overly masculine.  The head carpenter brought his 76 year old mother through and she told him this was her favorite room.

This is a beautiful conservatory that the previous owners had put on a wonderful late 19th century house.  Since neither of my clients had any ability with plants, it had become a store room where the children sometimes did homework and what few plants were there waited to die.  The photo on the right is the same space now.  Since it is off the large kitchen, it is a perfect family room and homework area.  It also serves as an overflow party space.  It has become one of the most used rooms in the house, not the least because it has a wonderful view of the large backyard.  By the way, all the plants you see are artificial, and are healthy and thriving to this day.

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This is the loft-like living and dining area in a high-end condo building in Oak Park.  The space, created out of a much, much larger room, is long and narrow.  The furniture placement serves to accentuate this fact, rather than disguise it, and while the building as a whole has some wonderful period architectural detailing, my clients' space did not.  On the right is the same view afterwards.  I wanted to make their apartment seem special, and like it was an original, intimate suite of rooms in the larger building.  We added columns and beams, copied from elsewhere in the building, and re-oriented the furniture so that it would create areas with specific functions within the space.  Turning furniture groups perpendicular to the main flow of the space paradoxically makes the room seem larger.
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This is the existing fireplace and surround when my clients moved in.  Not the most horrible, but certainly nothing special, nor did it reflect the character and personality of the original building.
The picture on the right shows the same view after.  The concept and detailing were based on an original fireplace from elsewhere in the building.  I felt strongly that my clients' apartment should not look like a left-over scrap of a once-grander space, as these conversions can often seem, but rather like it always was this way.  The bright, multi-colored checkerboard pattern on the face echoes the original source of inspiration, and the painting above, by the wife's mother, was a stunning complement, found long after the tiles had been installed.  Flanking bookcases help to define both the space and the function of this area.  The husband is a well-known and respected architect, and I was fairly intimidated at first, but the collaboration was extremely successful and satisfying for all.

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This is a view of the living room in a typical Oak Park home.  The clients, a young, well-educated professional couple and their young son, love to read.  The husband collects 20th century first editions, and the whole family uses this room on a daily basis.  The problem was that the first thing you saw when you entered the house was the tv, flanked by small bookcases - not the message anyone wanted to send guests.  We moved the tv under the stairs on a custom-built cabinet that stores the components and all their DVDs, and created a proper focal point that tells a story about who they are and what they value - an impressive bookcase that can how hold all the first edition collection, and more.  The walls were painted a soft, golden yellow, and the trim, added at some later time, was simplified.  We kept their existing sofa, but had it recovered and re-styled a little to make it more in keeping with the period and history of the room and the other pieces we added.  The morris chairs are bow-arms by Hile Studio, and the little table in between is a copy of a Limbert piece that we have made for us.
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This is the entry area in the same house.  I'm not sure how it was originally configured, but the existing problem was that there was no sense of arrival, not to mention a clear function for this area.  The bookcase only served to confuse the issue.
By adding paneling in oak, based on the detailing of the staircase, and staining it to match the existing woodwork, we created an entry space that was both a part of and apart from the main living space, and looks as if it were original to the house.  The added window bench stores boots and provides a place to stop, if only for a moment.  The custom dresser holds gloves, scarves, hats and other outerwear.  Hooks have since been installed for coats on the rails of the paneling to the left of the window.  A rug, proportional to the space, helps to delineate the "room."
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This is another view of the living room, showing the beautiful Prairie-style staircase that was probably added a few years after the house, a modified Victorian, was completed.  The stair dominates the space, both visually and actually, because the rest of the elements are sparse and small in scale.  All you want to do in this room is go upstairs.  There is a consistent density to the room now, and the furniture layout permits multiple types of activities, from watching tv or movies to reading or conversation.  With the various elements now in balance, the staircase does not seem to overwhelm the room as it once did.  The walls are not as stark as they were either, but have been painted a rich, buttery yellow.
This is a view of a large living room in a wonderful house in Oak Park.  The family has three children, all with diverse and multiple interests, and the challenge was to create a space that could be used by all, not just the children.



This is a view of the same room afterwards.  A matching loveseat and sofa were used, upholstered in the same fabric, to anchor the fireplace area, in the middle of the room, which helped to define the "grown-up" space.  The piano at the far end creates a music room.  The house overall had a slightly English feeling to it, and it was originally a 19th century farmhouse that had been added to in the early 20th century, so William Morris fabrics and carpets seemed to be the perfect basis on which to build a decorative scheme.
This is the other end of the room.  A wonderful window bench enclosed the space, with the windows giving a nice view of the neighborhood in front and a little watergarden in back.  Enjoyment of this nice feature  was prohibited by the clutter and confusion of toys and plants.
A game table now anchors the space, and clutter is kept to a minimum.  It is still used by the whole family, but for chess, backgammon and other board games that the whole family can enjoy together.  In addition to furniture placement, the rugs help to define the three spaces - music room, living room and game room.

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A third floor library / family room - before. While the space, up under the roof, was conceptually appealing and engaging, there was just nothing going on style-wise.

The same view - after.  There are five distinct areas: bookcase, work table, computer desk, comfortable reading / relaxing, and an in-progress gallery display for showing and storing historical memorabilia.  It is a magical space.

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The same library, opposite the bookcase - before.  The problems here were to unify the three windows, rethink the too-large window seat, and create an area that would be enjoyable to be in. The area after, with a comfortable seating grouping, stereo components and additional bookcase storage.  Paradoxically, by making the window seat smaller, it becomes a more attractive place to sit.
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A living room in a large, gracious house in a park-like setting - before.  The colors, furniture, fabrics and detailing did nothing to reinforce the architectural style of the house.

The same room after.  The architecture of the house called for an English, William Morris approach, which suited both the clients' tastes and family history.  Those with a keen eye for detail will recognize the shameless borrowing we did from Standen, a Phillip Webb / William Morris collaboration in England.
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The original built-in bookcases in the midst of restoration.




The same view after.  The space itself is a cozy inglenook at the end of the much larger living room.  The overmantle is new, based on ones from Standen.  The original surround had some historical significance, so we had to retain it, but figure out a way to incorporate it into the new vision.  By the way, these are the same armchairs seen in the first picture, just with new fabric and trim.
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On the left is the living room in a wonderful new-construction country house in Galena,  a wonderful rural area of Northwest Illinois.  The family is very interested in Nature and outdoor pursuits, and the art and decoration is themed around this concept.  We used a mixture of antiques and reproductions, along with some contemporary upholstered pieces, to keep the mood casual and comfortable.  The picture on the right shows the lower-level family room in the same house.  The requirements were that the furniture be comfortable and low-maintenance, but still reflect the owners' interest in Arts & Crafts.  We mixed antique and reproduction pieces with soft, upholstered furniture.
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This is the master bedroom in the country house.  The goal was to achieve a light, airy feeling, like sleeping in the clouds. A small writing desk, an antique by Gustav Stickley, is paired with a mid-century blond-wood armchair, keeping things from getting too serious.
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This is a view of an unsympathetic addition on a charming little bungalow.  There was no way to fix it, so we had to tear it down and rebuild something that we wanted to appear as if it had been a part of the original house.
This is the space, all new construction, that resulted.  Paint with sand additive was used on the walls and ceilings to give it a soft, beautiful visual texture.  The room includes a dining room, above, and a family room overlooking the garden.
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While we were refreshing the rest of the house, some old paneling was pulled down, revealing the original chimney breast, and the remains of built-in bookcases.
After careful research, we were able to determine the exact look of the fireplace, mantle and bookcases, and replicated them.  The living room, formerly little-used, is now one of the warmest and most popular rooms in the house.
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This is the living room in a Tudor-revival house.  Despite the ample windows, the room was cold and dark feeling.  The previous owners had attempted to deal with this by painting the walls a pale yellow and everything else, including the limestone fireplace, stark white.  It did not work - in fact, the results were just the opposite.  The room felt colder and just sort of grey and depressing. Counter-intuitively, it sometimes is better to go darker in order to make a space feel brighter.  We kept the woodwork white, but softened a bit.  The big difference is the wall color - a rich, warm, lush terra cotta, with plenty of complementary colors.  The result, as you can see, sparkles, and the light that does come in seems brighter by contrast.
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This is a basement space midway through construction.  The clients wanted a family room, bar and home theater in what was a typical, and messy basement.  We relocated all the pipes to the perimeters, and sandblasted the beams and posts.

This is the same view afterwards.  The concept was to create a vaguely-Arthurian feeling, without drifting over either into kitsch or a too-serious and self-conscious result.  The floor, in 6 distinct medieval patterns drawn from illuminated manuscript pages, is cork tile.  The leaded glass windows near the bar are from an old church, and are backlit.

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This is the living room of a beautiful house on a bluff overlooking the Fox River in Wisconsin.  It was built in the Usonian style by a follower of Frank Lloyd Wright, and consequently has a great deal of architectural integrity and interest.  The existing furniture did not support the style of the house.

Using the impending wedding of their daughter as a catalyst, the clients commissioned all new furniture from us.  The pieces were designed in a Usonian language, but based on Prairie period pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The results are much more in keeping with the architecture of the house.  The upholstery colors are clear, high-value jewel tones, much like Wright himself used in this period.
The flash on my camera was not working the day I shot this, so this is a horrible photograph, but it does show the wonderful fireplace done in roman brick and the high limestone hearth.  The clients did not utilize this area much, primarily because the seating was so inadequate for comfortable relaxation.

 This is the same view afterwards, with the simplified Robie house sofa and chair in the foreground, and modified Kauffman lounge chairs in the background.  Flat cushions were made for the hearth, which provide additional seating for parties, as does the upholstered hassock.  To the left is a partial view of the dining table and chairs we designed for the house.  The two main seating areas of the living room now provide flexibility depending on mood, season or time of day.

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This is the senior pastor's office of the 1st Congregational Church of Western Springs, a late Prairie-style complex by George Grant Elmslie.  As part of a systems-updating campaign, the congregation decided to restore the sanctuary and the education building to their original condition.



This is the office after completion.  In order to accommodate sprinklers and new HV/AC ducts, the ceilings in this building had to be dropped, but it afforded us a chance to do some better lighting, and improve the proportions of these spaces.  The walls were painted with sand-additive paint, giving them the appearance of the old sand-coat plaster.  An Elmslie-designed stencil, used as well in the sanctuary, was painted just below the picture rail.  The room has a much quieter, calmer feel to it now, appropriate to its use as a place of counseling, prayer and guidance.
To see more photos of any of these projects, and more of our work, please click here.

 

There is a nice article on our work in the current issue of Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival.  Click here to see scans of it.  

NEW "QUICK FIX" SERVICE: Do you just need some window treatments, or help with colors or furniture arrangement?  Does your interior lack a little focus?  Ask us about our "Quick Fix" service if you aren't contemplating a major project, but just need a little extra help to get things finished.  Also, we are now offering Home Staging Services for realtors, developers and home owners.  A staged home sells on average 35% faster and for 25% more than a non-staged one.  Please feel free to contact us if you feel we can help sell your home or condo.

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