DESIGN SCHOOL: Summer Thornton Design

There’s no better time than the first day of SUMMER to share my interview with Chicago designer Summer Thornton. I’m really thrilled to have Summer on the blog! She was the first designer I ever really “followed,” long before I even new what an Instagram account was. I am continually mesmerized by her creative use of color and pattern, high and low finds and fearless use of the fifth wall.

Looking a Summer’s portfolio back in 2013/14 was one of things that really spurred me to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a designer too. Highly recognized by many media outlets as a rising star, Summer is a Traditional Home “New Trad”, was named Chicago’s Best Transitional Designer by Modern Luxury. She firmly believes that each client’s home should be a reflection of their personal style – their soul, passions, and quirks should be found on the walls and in the furniture throughout the home – so no two projects should ever look alike.

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All photography courtesy of Summer Thornton Design

DESIGN SCHOOL Q + A with Chicago Designer Summer Thornton:

The most difficult aspect of my job: Juggling

My secret styling trick: Flowers Everywhere

If I could design anyone’s home it’d be: The Queen’s Estates

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When I’m uninspired, I turn to: Pinterest or I take a trip somewhere exotic.

In my college dorm room, you’d find: A purple iMac (whoa that feels dated).

The one design that makes me cringe now: I stand behind my choices even if I wouldn’t repeat them.

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You can spot this in all of my projects: A fresh take, a bold stance, contrast, and oftentimes color and pattern galore.

My favorite person to follow on Instagram: @andrealevoff aka ‘the dope ass mom’ – a personal friend and client who helps me know I’m not a terrible parent.

CBD Summer_Thornton_Lincoln_Park_Remodel_Master_Bath_TubMy all-time favorite clients are: Fearless, trusting, comfortable with who they are.

If my style were defined as a piece of furniture, it’d be: Honestly I don’t know – I like to mix styles & eras so I’m not sure I could be just 1…my furniture piece would also probably change depending on the location of the project. For example it might be a riotously patterned day bed for a lake house, but a city project could be a gorgeous vintage chandelier.

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The brand you’ll find in all of my projects: I use too many – literally we sourced from over 2,000 vendors last year so no two projects ever have the same thing. Sometimes I get on a wave where I’m using a few vendors for a while but then switch to someone else – I always want to mix it up and choose things I haven’t used before.

My least favorite part of the design process: Reselecting after an antique or original piece is damaged in shipping.

The source you’d be surprised to know I use: I’ll shop anywhere…from dusty flea markets to high end stores I visit them all & I don’t discriminate – if they have something cool I’ll buy it.

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I always encourage clients to get rid of: Everything beige, especially beige sectionals!

The future of interior design will most certainly include: Ways to integrate & hide technology.

The best advice I’ve ever received about maintaining a work/life balance: Learn to say no to things you don’t love doing.

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I always tell clients that if you invest in one thing, it should be: The bones of the house – great moldings, architectural details, etc – they are the foundation upon which a great design is built

The project I’m most proud of is: We have several in the works right now that should be quite spectacular. I’m always more interested in the next one than the last one.

The pattern that I’ll never tire of is: Anything Pierre Frey


My favorite up-and-coming designer: We’ve got several stand-out people on our staff who have amazing potential.

How has being from the Midwest inspired your design style? I think people from the midwest have a certain approachability in their work – I don’t choose things based on their brand name, but instead just look for beautiful things that will create a spectacular overall room…whether they’re a bargain or an investment piece doesn’t matter to me, they all work together to yield the final look.

Thanks so much to the Summer Thornton team for making this interview possible! You can follow Summer Thornton HERE. Stay tuned for another Design School next month and check out more interviews in our inspiring ARCHIVES.

XOXO – CLAIRE


Color Therapy: Decorating with Yellow!

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Decorating with Yellow:

Chances are you have a specific opinion on yellow, you like it or you don’t. There are so many different shades and they all can evoke different feelings in a space. You’ve got the golden yellow of the 1970’s, the buttery yellow big in the 1990’s, the fashion color chartreuse, punchy lemon, the list could go on. In this Color Therapy post, we’ve pulled together some of the best uses of true yellow in interiors and pinpoint what makes it so successful. Decorating with yellow can be (seriously) FUN and chic!

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Home of designer Jorge Vazquez designed by Amaro Sanchez de Moya.

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High Point Market Spring 2018: Tres Chic Cocktail Tables

It’s my last post in the High Point Market series! I participated in a wonderful sponsored blogger trip to High Point, North Carolina this April to tour the 2x yearly furnishing show. If you missed those prior posts, you can read my INSIDER TIPS and COLOR TRENDS posts to catch up. In this last post, I thought it would be fun to focus on one item — a cocktail table, also known as a coffee table or ottoman. 

As a designer, almost every project requires several coffee tables and in the past I’ve really struggled to find unique options for my clients. I was impressed with the variety of materials, shapes and styles I saw in cocktail tables at market, so I’ve rounded up my best finds to share with you. A good cocktail table (or ottoman) needs to be functional and beautiful! It’s a great piece to make a statement with as it’s often front and center in the floor plan of a room.

Here are a few designer tips on choosing the right coffee table for your space:

  • Always measure your sofa seat height and make sure table is not taller than your seat. This can be a challenge with more modern sofas, which tend to have seat heights of 14″ high. A typical seat height is more like 18-20″ high.
  • Circular styles tend to work well when you have a sofa with a chaise, ample room between seating or a set of four chairs placed in the round.
  • Large ottomans or square cocktail tables (40″ x 40″) or bigger are great for bridging space if you have a larger seating area or a bay window that’s elongating the room/seating area.
  • Rectangles and ovals tend to be the most versatile and easy to use!
  • Don’t be afraid to make a custom piece, a simple rectangular ottoman is not very expensive to have fabricated by a local upholsterer and yields beautiful results in the perfect size for your layout.

Custom ottoman by Centered by Design.

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The No Makeup Home Tour

I will be the first to admit that I’m a perfectionist and that my Instagram feed is curated and planned. The photos you see on my blog and feed are not daily life my friends! My interior design photo shoots are ALWAYS partially staged. I want to create beautiful and livable interiors, but “photo shoot” days are often aspirational. Not many of us have fresh flowers in the house all the time, or perfectly ironed tea towels. Professional photography makes any room look 50% better alone.

I am also the first to admit that I LIVE for and love the photo shoot days. Seeing the interiors I design or style come to life is so much FUN! But perfectly styled rooms don’t last long in the real world, and with my first baby nearing 4 months old (even with all my organizing) there is still stuff ALL over my house!

When Kyla from House of Hipsters told me she was getting some blogger pals together for a No Makeup Home Tour, I jumped at the chance to participate. I love when people on social media try to keep it real. The idea behind these tours is to strip away some of that Instagram lifestyle perfection and give you a real look at our homes.

So full disclosure…I took our “real” non photo shoot photos after cleaning the house (cause I don’t want you to see my dust bunnies!) and on my iphone, because I want you to see the difference between a staged/professional photo and just daily life. I will also add that we are both sort of neat freaks in general (meaning I do not like clutter, period) and with a baby who is not yet crawling, we have not had to baby proof, although that is coming very shortly I think!

I thought it would be fun to pair a photo shoot photo, along side my daily life photo. Here’s a little look into our REAL daily life. Don’t miss the other awesome bloggers participating in this No Makeup Home Tour, everyone is linked at the end of the post. Some of my very favorite bloggers are showing you their dirty laundry too. Just remember, no one’s home is perfect. At the end of the post, you’ll see our never before shown on the internet (ha!) first floor bathroom. This is the one room left in the house to renovate (our backyard needs help too) and we will likely wait another year to tackle both the bathroom and yard – because even designers get tired of renovating their own house! : )

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Exhibit A: Bedroom Nightstand

Photo Shoot Day: Nothing on nightstand except fresh flowers, outlet hidden by books and lamp cord is in the drawer. We do have a hole drilled into top of nightstand to help with cord management.

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Photo shoot day

Daily Life: Cord management has gone by the wayside! Baby monitor, computer, hot pad, lamp, cell phone – too many cords! #nomoreflowers

Daily life – cords attack!

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DESIGN SCHOOL: Lynn K. Leonidas

I first came across Lynn K. Leonidas through Sunset Magazine. Lynn’s firm was hired for a complete gut renovation for the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Irene Edwards. The pictures of the WILLOW RESIDENCE really caught my eye! Lynn seems to gravitate towards adventurous design choices and unique details, many of which I really responded to. I love her tile and wallpaper choices, which always feel purposeful and inspired.

Then I heard Lynn on LuAnn Nigara’s A Well-Designed Business Podcast. I loved learning more about Lynn’s time in the industry and all the different jobs she had worked, and skills she gathered before opening her own firm. It was a very different journey than my own, and I love how so many various paths lead people into opening their design business.

I wanted to invite Lynn onto Design School, as I know there are many newly opened businesses and aspiring designers wondering how young people launch their fledgling design companies. I hope you glean a little insight into the process with Lynn’s interview. I also invite you to listen to Lynn’s story and my story on LuAnn’s podcast, as we both delve deeply into our skill sets and what motivates us to continue to build our design businesses.

Enjoy! And thanks to Lynn for sharing her insights with us!

DESIGN SCHOOL: with Lynn K. Leonidas

Interiors by Lynn K. Leonidas (lynnkleonidas.com) with project partner Andrea Faucett (andreafaucett.com). Photography by Aubrie Pick (aubriepick.com)

The most difficult aspect of my job:

Running a small enterprise can be demanding, and even lonely, as much as it is equally fulfilling and creative. It is a finely choreographed dance of maintaining a happy and engaged studio team, structured work schedule, client expectations, keeping our contractors responsive, and having some flexibility to drop it all and put out various small fires here and there. Not to mention making time to stay inspired and connected – with the industry, socially, politically. It is never boring!

My secret styling trick:

Art on the walls can be one of the hardest finds to source since taste is so subjective, but it really makes or breaks a room and should be considered from the beginning. We regard an investment in art as an indicator for a client’s willingness to invest in the surrounding furnishings, so this first test lets us know about the project we are getting into.

My childhood bedroom would have this:

I always longed for a canopy bed! I also think every kids bedroom should have wallpaper, for fun.

Interiors by Lynn K. Leonidas (lynnkleonidas.com) with project partner Andrea Faucett (andreafaucett.com). Photography by Aubrie Pick (aubriepick.com)

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Powder Room Makeover with Ferguson Showrooms

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I’m so excited to be revealing our Powder Room Makeover Challenge with Ferguson Showrooms today. This little room has gone from forgotten to unforgettable! The plans for this makeover took place over the last several months, while both myself and the homeowner had babies! I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with both of us for pulling this off with flying colors, and we owe a lot of thanks to our friends at Ferguson for making the shopping and sourcing process so seamless. Ferguson also has made it super easy for you to shop this post, VISIT HERE, for links to all the resources we used in this powder room makeover. 

The before photos of the powder room are below. Before the room had an oddly placed overhead light and was not making good use of the high ceiling. It just felt sad and dated. There was so much potential, which is one of the main reasons I chose this as the winning space for the makeover. Nice tall ceilings, detailed moldings and a hardwood floor were a great foundation for the room. I knew with a beautiful wallpaper, plumbing fixtures, lighting and stand out mirror the space would be GORGEOUS! 

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Color Trends at High Point Market 2018

One of my favorite parts of visiting High Point Market is looking for color trends 2018 or validating what seems to be trending in the current marketplace. Varying shades of green and blush have been in the market for a few years, but these colors really seem to be holding strong in many of the showrooms. I personally gravitate towards both these colors because they can often act as a neutral or play well with neutrals in a design scheme.

While RED and PURPLE have both been given nods as big colors for 2018, I really did not see them as much on the showroom floor. I’ll be interested to see if red and purple begin to appear in upholstery in the next few seasons. They were huge in the fashion world, but I think a red outfit is easier to commit to then a red sofa!

Blush is morphing away from the sweet “millennial pink” (Pantone Color of the Year 2016) and into richer tones of peach, taupe and brown. I wrote post all about the Evolution of Blush a few weeks ago if you want to learn more. Here you can see some of my favorite BLUSH items spotted at High Point Market 2018. You’ll notice blush being paired with whites, creams, taupes, browns and plums. Blush pairs well with warm tones. 

Century Furniture has one of my favorite blush fabrics. This saturated and ribbed velvet was gorgeous! I love how it was used on the settee only as the cushions. This is another trend I’ve seen popping up in upholstery. First it was done with more bohemian styles, draping a contrasting fabric on sofa cushions. I love this more polished and luxe version as shown in the bottom picture.

One of my favorite pairs of chairs spotted at Century Furniture showroom.

The coordinating sofa is to die for! Love how the cushion have been upholstered separately from the piece. This is another big trend right now!

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Spring Home Tours Update!

If you’ve been reading the blog for a little while you might remember my HOME TOUR last year. I partnered with a few of my favorite designer friends – BRIA – KELSEY – MEREDITH – BRYNN – & DOREEN and we posted a home tour each week in May 2017. This year, everyone has also been working on new updates to their homes. Here at THE WARWICK RENO renovated our whole second floor including our master bedroom and Willa’s nursery, which was featured by Architectural Digest / Clever.

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Our Chicago bungalow master bedroom.

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Custom floating ends tables in our master.

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Willa’s nursery with Farrow & Ball wallpaper.

I thought it would be fun to share a little bit about everyone’s updates, and link back to last year’s home tours in case you missed them. Here we go, let’s me introduce these talented women:

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Personal Post: New Baby Photo Session

It’s hard to find the right words to convey the amount of love in this post. My tired mom brain doesn’t do eloquent writing at almost 11pm in these rare stolen moments I find to keep this blog going. I’m going to let the beautiful photos speak for me. I think you can see love and joy in my eyes and on Luke’s face. We made a baby and we really like her. Her name is Willa Valentine and she was about 8 weeks old when these photos were taken in a home that we’ve lovingly restored.

Many, many thanks to our good friend, Ania Sodziak of Anna Sodziak Photography, for taking these photos and helping curate the natural style. A mama herself, Ania reminded me how special these photos will be in the future as this is such a fleeting time. Or as my wonderful aunt Leslie says, “This is the longest shortest time.”

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Insider’s Guide to High Point Market

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An Insider’s Guide to High Point Market:

My first visit to High Point Market was quite the trip! I attended a whirlwind two-day tour with ten other design bloggers, and we were so fortunate to have our tour arranged and sponsored by High Point Market Authority and The Design Bloggers Conference.  While it was my first time attending, being with the pros and on a curated tour helped give me a great sense of market. I would love to share some tips, trends and highlights to help you plan your next visit. Also, check back over the next month, as I’ll be sharing two additional posts featuring even more of our showroom sponsors and the design trends I spotted at market!

Tip 1: Pack The Essentials

Bring comfortable shoes, period. There are more than 2,000 showrooms to visit and miles to walk! High Point and the entire market area is very walkable and feels like a quaint little town (of only showrooms!). Also, I recommend bringing your camera to document all the inspiration (print out pictures and create design boards and inspiration boards back at the office) and I love a chic backpack so you can roam hands free.

One of the lovely ladies from DKOR Interiors. Bring a camera and document everything! There is so much inspiration and you can’t take it all in at one time.

The world of Ralph Lauren at EJ Victor.

Trend 1: Performance Fabrics (& Bullion Fringe)!

The above and below photos were taken in one of my very favorite showrooms – EJ VICTOR. This is a do not miss showroom! I love how it’s curated by designer + brand, there are entire rooms dedicated to brands such as Kelly Wearstler (below picture) and Ralph Lauren (above). I spotted some FABULOUS bullion fringe (it’s making a huge comeback) on this ottoman from the new PERENNIALS SOCIAL collection.

The Perennials collection has the cutest tag line, “From Kids to Cocktails” and everything can be made in their performance fabrics so there is nothing to worry about with a white fringed ottoman – yes please!

The world of Kelly Wearstler at EJ Victor.

That fabulous Perennials Social performance fabric ottoman with bullion fringe!

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