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