Two years ago, while fantasy house shopping, I drove by a palatial 1920s Tudor in Lake Forest, IL. I’m ever curious about the legendary luxe of North Shore living in Chicagoland, so I had to investigate this estate. Wasn’t I surprised to find out that it was the home of 80s pop movie icon John Hughes and his wife Nancy. Yes, the John Hughes of ‘Pretty in Pink,’ ‘Sixteen Candles,’ ‘Breakfast Club,’ and countless other films that were so influential in the young-adult experience of me and my contemporaries.
Fast forward to 2015. The estate had been donated by Hughes’ widow to Northwestern Lakeshore Hospital and would become the 2015 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens. Nearly 30 designers were hand-picked to transform 11,000 square feet and 27 rooms into a spectacular space to be open to the public and later sold with proceeds benefitting the hospital and the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.
A return of 1960s décor to interior design was evident throughout the home while the entire space had an overall feeling of adherence to the authenticity of the architecture. All of the designers – from Alessandra Branca and Mikel Welch to Michael del Piero, Randy Heller, Joey Leicht and Amy Courage – helped turn the space into an inspiring marriage of past and present.
Aside from the jaw dropping beauty I saw in each room, one trend was a near constant in every space: texture. I did not pass through a room without some sort of ‘reach out and touch me’ element. From the entrance hall with its upholstered walls in a welcoming pineapple pattern to the raised Purbeck stone and hanging ‘live green chandelier’ in the attached garden room.
The deep shag rug in the teen retreat felt like it was four inches deep. Chairs were fitted with fine wool fabric. Several window treatments boasted layers of texture from top to bottom, side to side. I thought nothing would top the fringed walls and fur throw in the ladies reprieve until I came to the last stop on the tour. Hundreds of linen bound books graced the shelves in the living space of the man cave. The finale was a ‘his’ to the ‘hers’ of the ladies reprieve: The man cave bar and bath.
Designed by Joey Leicht of Chicago, this room was striking with its cigar metaphors ranging from velvety smoky-patterned chairs to rich, dark artwork. The genuine cork wallpaper by York Wallcoverings (courtesy of Area International, Chicago) resembled the rough wrapping of a fine cigar while adding warmth and comfort to the space.
A look above revealed a ceiling covered in a mesmerizing patchwork of layered color mimicking the mineral grains of onyx, petrified wood and the earth’s strata of sedimentary rock. According to Mr. Leicht, this ceiling elicited oohs and aahs from visitors: What is that? Is it tile? Is it paint? The answer: wallpaper. The Onyx wallpaper by York Wallcoverings (courtesy of Area International, Chicago) was the star of the show in the bar area. Even the bathroom spoke to the cigar metaphor via a densely patterned wallpaper that mimicked the intricate designs found on rings at the end of a fine cigar.
At the end of the day, I was star struck having walked the halls of such a prominent personality in filmmaking. I highly recommend checking it out… the house is open to the public through May 17, 2015. And, it’s all for a good cause!