Thine home is thy castle. Or in this case, thy massive modern art gallery with pool and golf course views.
Modern sometimes gets a bad rap for being not the friendliest of styles. But this Wheaton house is warm modern. Gracious and grandkid-friendly modern. The kind of modern that beckons you in and leaves you in absolutely no hurry to scoot anytime soon.
At a time of life when most couples are downsizing to a condo-type setup, this couple bucked that trend big-time with a sprawling Modern Eclectic on a massive lot backing up to the storied Chicago Golf Club. Empty nesters by definition, they realized their nest was rarely actually empty – often overflowing with visiting kids and grandkids – and wanted something big enough to comfortably house the whole crew or portions thereof. So ample square footage was at the top of the list.
Also on the list: a statement-making minimalist interior with open wall space for their extensive art collection. Outdoor pool and elaborate, multi-tiered wowza of a deck off the back. Gawk-worthy landscaping. And gobs of windows for admiring all the trees with their limbs spread wide around the new nest.
The home’s slightly farmhouse-ish exterior pulls a bit of a head-fake, giving way to a wiiiiiiide-open, exquisitely uncluttered interior. Pretty much the antithesis of that faux Tuscan thing that was all the rage, say mid-90s or so, with the scrolling, ornate ironwork and saturated, sunset-y palette. No 14-inch crown molding and 4-piece casings here. We went with a reductionist approach – like the Whole 30 of design – taking all those extra elements off the table until we were down to just the framing – then thoughtfully considering what to add back in to create warmth and visual interest. We kept those touches minimal, knowing there’d be a slew of art pieces to add later. The homeowners had amassed quite the collection, eclectic in style and wildly varying in scale, all impatiently hanging out in storage, eagerly anticipating their big debut once the home was complete. We placed all the pieces, including a smattering of decorative ceramic wall hanging jacks, but called in experts to install the pricier works. Each eclectic piece made the space feel so gallery-esque, it seems there should be a curator talk or headsets for an audio tour.
The word modern can be polarizing. For some, it conjures up word-friends like cold. Austere. And soulless. And to that we say nope. Negatory. And most definitely not. All those words oft associated with modern are not at all the descriptors that come into play here. This modern beauty is none of those things. Minimalist, yes. But also purposefully warm, enveloping you in its light-filled openness, inviting you to note and appreciate the fireplaces, art pieces and woodsy golf course views. (Duly noted and appreciated.)
When we reviewed the drawings, we were happy to see windows evvvvv-er-y-where. The nature-y setting demanded it. With a lot this fab, you want to keep the walls out of the way as much as possible, and maximizing the see-out sitch was definitely the way to go. It probably seemed like we were getting waaaay ahead of ourselves by talking window treatments at the framing stage, but because the home was all glass, glass, glass and we wanted to keep the minimalist look, we knew automated roller shades were the right and only answer for the what-to-put-on-the-windows question. That way, they could control the amount of light (and give themselves some privacy from curious passersby, of which there would be many) – all at the touch of a button. Since that decision impacts the wiring/low voltage situation behind the walls, we needed a custom-order plan in place sooner vs later.
One of our biggest challenges was figuring out how to scale the cavernous main living space with its way-the-heck-up-there 22(!)-foot ceilings. We wanted to cozy-up the vibe and appropriately scale the furniture so that you wouldn’t feel all “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” sitting in there. We started with the fireplace. The family has a vacation home in Aspen, and they looooove their big fireplace there, so that became the focal for the living space here as well. We tracked down a non-combustible (and PS: great-looking) cement board that comes in large panels for cladding the fireplace with a sleek textured concrete look. We brought in white oak wood strips between the panels to warm up the cool undertones of the cement board. And to keep the ceiling feeling simple and non-rustic-y, we installed pairs of narrow 1x10s, also in white oak, with a spacer and metal strapping to connect them.
Far be it from us to rely entirely on lighting to accomplish our “warm this place up” mission, but truth be told, it was a critical component. We went a little fixture-happy, selecting an oversized chandelier by the fireplace and ohhhh, about 35 pendants for the living area that we’d custom-ordered in a variety of longer lengths to work with the ceiling height. THEN the lightastrophe struck. Not really. But kinda.
We’d ordered all the fixtures in June of 2019, which should have been more than ample time, because JUNE OF 2019(!). But – fast forward to December. They still. Hadn’t. Shipped. [Palms out in a “c’monnnnn people” gesture.] THEN, Chinese New Year, when everything shuts down for the lantern/dragon parades, fireworks and other festivities. THENNNN – other (not at all festive) virus-related complexities hit, which shut down everything even more. Bottom line, we needed to do some fixture rethinking and work some delivery wizardry to get them to the site ASAP, as the move-in was slated for early Feb. Allllll those different fixtures that we had so perfectly working together, hanging at different heights, had to be reconsidered and re-sourced. So re-source we did – and in a happy twist of fate and fixture-love – we ended up liking the new ones even more. SIDE NOTE: We’ve had to do a lot of twisting and turning and re-navigating this past year with all the holdups (the time kind, not the bank kind), but we don’t have one of those “no” buttons, so…we make a way and get ‘er done.
We’ll follow up with deets on the kitchen/butler pantry, master suite, hearth room, basement and outdoor entertaining spaces – but don’t wait for that. Get in touch tout suite. If last year’s semi-confinement has you on a massive decluttering kick and thoroughly digging this minimalist vibe – or if you’ve declared art-collecting your latest hobby and need a clean, open space for your newly acquired displayables, we should most definitely chat.
And..if you didn’t happen to see it, this project was featured in the Luxe Magazine May/June issue, with a fab, multi-page spread. You can also admire it on Insta using #ascAspenVsWheaton and o’course our website.