A Family Home with Personality and Style
For a fashionable family with a baby on the way, a 130-year-old home in Chicago needed to a chic makeover, and fast.
It typically takes about 10 weeks to get a sofa custom made. Order a dining table from a design showroom and two months is the standard turnaround time. So when designer SuzAnn Kletzien’s new clients asked her to completely design and furnish their new five-bedroom home in just over nine weeks, she knew she would have to approach the project a little differently. The time clock was an unforgiving one: Kletzien signed on at the end of January, 2015, her client, Lexis Serot, was due to give birth to her third child at the end of April—and Serot and her husband already had a pair of 16-month-old twin girls on their hands. Plus, the family wanted to be moved in with a week or two to spare. “Our options were instantly limited because we had to do the bulk of our shopping at places with in-stock items,” recalls Kletzien. “No matter how much we loved a piece, if it took 10 weeks, it was out of the question.”
But it’s often the home run projects that are born of a curveball. And to Kletzien, the pairing of a hard-and-fast deadline with clients who had an edgy, high-style sensibility was exhilarating. “The house was in rough shape. The previous owners had let it go downhill, and it needed a complete cosmetic overhaul,” says Kletzien. The plan? Kids’ rooms got priority, and were designed and ordered by mid-February. Next came the fun stuff: furnishings and wallpaper. Surprisingly, the big decisions, such as the hue of the refinished floors (a gray-toned brown) and whether or not the countertops in the kitchen could be salvaged (no), came near the end. “We didn’t pull the trigger on the slabs for the kitchen till mid-March,” says the designer. But the key was rapid-fire communication between designer and clients—it was all about getting the clients room-by-room mock-ups and letting them weigh in. Thankfully, all involved were open-minded and amenable to sudden changes in plans. Case in point, the original directive involved designing two nurseries—one for the new baby and one for the twins to share—but once the Serots saw the two options Kletzien presented for the twins room, they decided to use them both and give each girl her own space.
“They loved both designs, so we just went with it,” says Kletzien. All three nurseries, like the rest of the house, are designed with kids in mind, but are sophisticated spaces any adult would love to lounge in (save the petite barred beds). The twins’ rooms feature a tufted chaise, mirrored dresser, graphic wallpapers and chandeliers strung with crystals. The new baby’s room is more gentleman’s study than infant escape—dark navy walls are foil to an abstract Osborne and Little wallpaper backing the crib, while a modern tartan covers the windows. Instead of a tinkling mobile, the babe can stare up at a shiny, gold geometric pendant from Anthropologie.
Of course the master bedroom is just as cool, if only slightly more grown up. The Serots asked for a room with the luxe, timeless feel of Jay Gatsby’s suite as portrayed in the 2013 Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby. Kletzien translated these requests into a cool gray annex with charcoal floor-to-ceiling drapes, shimmering satin sheets, and a Quantum chandelier from Currey and Company over the bed, dripping with dozens of hand-blown glass balls.
“Lexis is just enamored with chandeliers,” says Kletzien, who loved selecting jaw-dropping light fixtures for the couple. “But because of the open layout of the home, it was a little bit of a challenge. She wanted chandeliers in every room, which had to be different enough to set the tone for each space but also coincide with each other because from almost anywhere you stood you could see three at one time.” The kitchen and family room had a strong visual connection, so both rooms were painted predominantly white and installed with matching wall sconces. The chandelier in the family room is the simplest of the bunch—a slender black, wrought-iron candelabra—while the fixture over the kitchen table is aptly named the Bling chandelier. The living room goes for glam, too, with a four-tiered crystal behemoth, and ties back to the adjacent entryway, which is lit by dozens of cut-glass prisms hanging from Restoration Hardware’s Fringe chandelier.
No room better tells the story of this house than the dramatic entryway. It sums up the couple’s confident, era-hopping aesthetic, as well as the notion that a family home doesn’t have to go light on glamour. “The one aspect of the design that Lexis was set on from the beginning was a black-and-white-marble checkerboard floor,” says Kletzien, who admits the rest of the room didn’t come as easy. “ We went through a lot of revisions with this room. Initially she wanted a light bright entryway. I had this Ellie Cashman floral wallpaper that I loved, and it came in both a black and white color way. I had the black version on-hand because I had just done my dining room in it. I showed it to her with the idea she would opt for white, but she fell for the black immediately.”
Revisions and entryway mood swings aside, the designer and clients stuck to their tight timeline, and as April came Kletzien was placing her final furniture orders. Restoration Hardware, Jayson Home and Garden, Land of Nod, Pottery Barn Kids, and Organic Looms were among her choice vendors, all ones that could get furniture delivered before deadline, now just two weeks away. “By the time they moved in, 85 percent of the furniture was there. But they had everything they needed—those last pieces were just the final touches,” says Kletzien proudly. Baby number three was equally prompt: Jonas Serot was born in early May, and arrived to a spectacular new home, oblivious, as all babies are, to the hard and fast work that went into welcoming him.