Fringe, leather and Lucite in one room, let alone on a single chair, might be too much for some people. But not for Sally Grimes or the design firm she hired to remake her uber-traditional home into a chicer, cooler version of its former self.
A castle-like stone exterior with metal details and ornate lighting — grand circular driveway included—befits the charming suburb of Hinsdale, Ill., 20 miles west of Chicago. However, Grimes, a Tyson Foods executive, yearned for a new breath of life for the spec home she and her husband Steven Grimes, CEO of Retail Properties of America, and their two teenage children occupied for seven years.
“So we took the traditional bones and updated the look to reflect the cool and chic family that’s living there,” said Lauren Warnock, senior designer of Chicago’s PROjECT Interiors. “We wanted something that was flooded with light and had glossy dark moments and pops of saturated color.”
That meant imbuing the 8,000-square-foot home with a cavalcade of texture, found objects from the couple’s travels and the firm’s signature rip-shred-tear aesthetic as decreed by founder and principal Aimee Wertepny. “Call us rule breakers, but we live for unkept edges, frayed and tattered anything, fringed anything, torn leather pillows,” Wertepny said. “Glam mixed with a little grit — that’s our sweet spot.”
Take for instance, the head chairs of the dining room table. Suede fringe reminiscent of a classic biker jacket, albeit in white, drips from the arms while metal studs dot a thin black leather trim. Lucite legs support the rock ‘n’ roll vibe of the custom design by Warnock. “We wanted something edgy and original,” she said. “The chairs look like they’re floating.”
Edgy and original, or what Sally Grimes called a “modern authenticity,” informed other design decisions, too.
Custom, wall-mounted Lucite bars draped with jewel-tone saris that belonged to Grimes’ late mother and beaded necklaces made by Ashanti in Ghana hardly look out of place in the dining room among an eclectic mix of art, including two original pieces bought in India by the Grimeses.
Having worked with the design team on a previous residence and trusting of the pair’s instincts honed over 20 years of friendship, Sally Grimes was nonetheless surprised when she saw her mother’s saris incorporated into the wall installation. “It’s like she’s with me every time I walk through our main foyer, and the first time I saw it, I was so incredibly touched,” she said. For the requisite pop of color, dining chairs by Roche Bobois are upholstered in emerald green velvet and evoke the sex appeal of a smoky, late-night lounge.
In homage to tradition, the stone fireplace in the family room was left untouched. Warnock opted to keep the room symmetrical by installing two sofas and pairing them with RH marble slab tables. Artwork from the clients’ own art collection — including pieces by local artist Cleveland Dean—as well as their own Zulu baskets and meditation bowl from India personalize the space. For a dose of the unexpected, a pendant lamp from Petite Friture and a Paoloa Rizzatto for Flos wall lamp assert themselves like bold but well-behaved guests at a dinner party, noticeable but not formidable.
Creating rooms for casual entertaining was crucial for Sally Grimes. “We love to have friends over,” she said, “and we wanted comfortable, interesting, bold rooms to entertain in.” A wet bar in the library, cloaked in a swath of black — “the dark, sexy, moody room among a home of light airiness,” as Warnock described it — beckons for an after-dinner drink. Mix a cocktail and sink into a faux fur-lined chair. The music lounge entices with a player piano and walls graffitied with hand-painted metallic loops by Chicago artist Amanda Morrison of Color Blind Design Creative.
Sally Grimes wanted to preserve the existing kitchen, but finishes were updated. A warm gray all but erases traces of the ornate detailing of the cabinets. Moroccan tiles in a custom size from Ann Sacks now line the backsplash while a newly installed cantilevered island with Carrara countertops maximizes space.
Daughter Isabel and son Noah buckle down and do homework there, from the pretty perch of chrome and leather-strapped stools courtesy of RH. In the breakfast nook, Serpentine chairs from Ligne Roset literally ooze with texture. “They’re the perfect marriage of fun, puffy fabric and a sleek metal frame,” Warnock said. “They play double duty with indoor/outdoor fabric that handles spills and sun-drenched mornings.”
Contrast and texture a little cheeky humor reign in the guest bedroom. A smooth, black channel-quilted leather headboard anchors the bed where it bristles with lines of sequins from a Moroccan wedding blanket. For an original vanity table, the Grimeses purchased a custom design created by PROjECT Interiors from a vintage door. It was donated to a social service agency’s auction that benefits the homeless and marginalized in Chicago.
Also important is levity. Scrawled on the bedroom mirror to the designers’ peripatetic clients: “Welcome to the jungle.”
Rock lyrics not withstanding, “For a family that travels a lot, it was perfect,” Warnock said. “They get it.”