Luxury Begets Function
Luxury and quality aren’t the only factors that will influence designers this year, as evidenced at the DreamHome showcase at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. Enhanced functionality and comfort play an increasing role in high-end design.
Each year, DreamHome features rooms created by talented and trend-setting Chicago designers who are nominated by members of the Merchandise Mart’s showrooms; the Mart itself is a major hub for the nation’s high-end retail and wholesale design houses.
This year’s DreamHome emphasized versatility, and almost every room was designed to accommodate a variety of different occasions.
Jillian O’Neill, based in suburban Illinois and whose work has been highlighted in the prestigious Lake Forest (Ill.) Showhouse and Gardens, designed the foyer. Since it is the first space one experiences when they enter a home, O’Neill emphasizes that the foyer must be beautiful and inviting, yet functional.
O’Neill’s design was inspired by an attention-grabbing black, beige, gold and red silk rug by Tai Ping/Edward Fields that reminded her of an Armani print dress.
A silver and navy screen complements the dark luxe look. Multifunctional screens add style and privacy, and they’re making a comeback in homes today, says Jill Maremont, O’Neill’s publicist.
“We’ve seen a resurgence in today’s homes, with screens being beautiful decorative elements,” Maremont says. In small spaces, such a screen could be used to block off an adjoining kitchen or to hide a cluttered office.
Robyn Shapiro, who runs an eponymous design studio, designed the DreamHome study. Shapiro’s work has been featured in Chicago magazine and Utah Style and Design. She says that the room is called a study instead of an office to reflect the changing nature of work-at-home arrangements. With the advent of smart phones, laptops and tablets, people can tuck their “offices” away in a bag. Therefore, Shapiro saw a dwindling need for an actual office space, with an increasing need for a creative retreat where people could block out the noise of today’s technology-driven world.
Shapiro’s “dream” study is accented with natural and organic materials, including a bottle of sand she collected from a trip to the Sahara Desert. She adds a touch of personal style with a pinboard of postcards she’s collected.
Brandy Cohen, senior designer at Plain and Fancy by Dandamudi’s Inc., designed the home’s kitchen to include a small dining table for casual dining. While the DreamHome does have a formal dining room, Cohen saw the need for an informal gathering space in the busiest room in the house.
The remainder of the kitchen embraces the trend of minimalism, where recessed paneling looks like a pantry but actually opens to reveal a full refrigerator and freezer.
Richard Abrahamson of RJA Designs in Geneva, Ill., specializes in using art and antiques in his interior designs. He designed the DreamHome living room to be more lived-in than what he remembered from childhood.
“Growing up in my house… everything was covered in that plastic and you weren’t allowed to do anything,” Abrahamson says. “I think a lot of people want to be able to come home and put their feet up, but they still want beauty.”
While designing, Abrahamson envisioned a middle-aged couple with kids and a dog, who like to travel and come home to a cozy environment.
He mixed styles to include the new and the old, starting with a grey-brown walnut fireplace surrounded by leather trim. He also used a natural color palette of beige and grey as a cozy backdrop to the room, then accented it with old recycled picture frames and modern art he painted himself.