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Designer Show House in Ravenswood: How You Can Get These Looks at Home

By Patty Wetli | September 10, 2014 9:16am
 Ravenswood will host Chicago's first designer show house, and there are lots of trends to try at home.
Interior Design Trends: Try This at Home
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RAVENSWOOD — Wallpaper is back.

Now called "wall covering" in a bid to make us forget the havoc these printed rolls wreaked in the '70s and '80s, it's one of the hottest trends on display at Chicago's first-ever designer show house, which opens to the public Friday.

Spearheaded by interior designer Grace Sielaff, the show house, at 4035 N. Hermitage Ave., features the handiwork of eight different designers, all of whom tackled a separate room working under the common theme of "boutique hotel."

Patty Wetli says you might save yourself some cash, and a design you hate, by checking out the design house:

"When you come to a show house, there's supposed to be a 'wow' factor," said Sielaff, owner of M. Grace Designs. "It's all about each designer's creativity."

 In the guest bathroom, one of the hottest trends in design: wall covering. It's not your grandmother's wallpaper. This textured pattern is made out of commercial vinyl.
In the guest bathroom, one of the hottest trends in design: wall covering. It's not your grandmother's wallpaper. This textured pattern is made out of commercial vinyl.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

The mission of the show house is two-fold, she said.

One, proceeds from ticket sales — $25 if bought in advance, $35 at the door — will benefit Gracious House, a non-profit organization devoted to raising awareness of child abuse, poverty and neglect.

"No. 2 is to recognize the trade," she said, by spotlighting the talents of professional, licensed interior designers.

"We're showing the things we can do and what we're capable of," said Loren Reid Seaman, who designed a suite of guest rooms in the show house.

Though there's a significant amount of over-the-top custom design on display — Donna Hall had a pair of Lucite end tables created for the master bedroom based on a Michael Kors cuff bracelet — the average person will also walk away with plenty of DIY tips.

During a preview of the show house, DNAinfo.com picked the designers' brains for trends and secrets of the trade.

Cover Up Those Walls

There is an entire book — "Interior Desecrations" — devoted to the hideous wallpapers, shag carpets and plaid upholstery of the 1970s. Wallpaper has been rehabilitating its image ever since and is only now poised to mount a comeback.

"When I say wall covering, the picture has changed," said Seaman, owner of LRS Interiors. "It's updated, it's been transformed."

For the guest bathroom on the second floor, Seaman chose a textured commercial vinyl with a black nickel patina that, on first blush, resembled tin.

"It's washable and scrubbable. It'll take a beating," he said. "Good design is also about function."

Lauri Venema of Leading Edge Interior Design similarly used a linen wall covering in the master bathroom.

"There are effects you can get you'd never get with paint," she said.

The charcoal paper she selected was imprinted with a silver-tinged pattern that reflected light, brightening up the entire room.

"It made a huge difference," she said.

A trick shared by Venema: Wrap a room's outlets in the same paper as the walls to create a seamless look.

The Rule of Three

Writers and comedians know all about the "rule of three" — the principle that things that come in threes are naturally funnier, more effective and more interesting (see what I did there) when it comes to conveying information.

A similar rule applies to design, according to Donna Hall, principal designer with Savvy Interior Design.

"If I have a pop of color, I try to do it in three places," she advised.

Hall chose fuchsia as an accent color for the master bedroom, found in a focus-pulling $45,000 piece of artwork (on loan), a coverlet and a bit of graffiti sprayed on a framed print.

The dramatic, edgier design elements, which might not work elsewhere in the house, made sense in the context of the master bedroom, said Hall, who described her style as Old Hollywood/modern glam with a hint of James Bond.

Guests are seldom invited into a person's master bedroom, so it can be more expressive of personal tastes, she said.

"There's no need for it to flow into other rooms," said Hall.

Venema has noticed that the master bedroom and bath has become increasingly important among clients who have teenagers in the house.

"Parents of teens are getting kicked out of their living space, so they're making the bedroom and master bath their sanctuary," she said.

Livable Luxury

Mary Susan Bicicchi's idea for the dining room was to create a modern-day "Downton Abbey"-esque setting, but the designer also recognizes that most modern families don't have a downstairs staff to clean up after their messes.

The dining chairs are upholstered in faux leather, for example.

"It looks luxurious, but it's faux maintenance," she said.

The dining table, which could easily be mistaken for stone, is actually back-painted glass.

"You can't stain it," said Bicicchi, owner of Interiors by Mary Susan.

In the living room, Michelle Rohrer-Lauer went for playful sophistication.

It's not that parents of, say, young children shouldn't buy anything nice — just choose forgiving, durable fabrics, perhaps in a pattern to better disguise mishaps, she said.

"You don't need to be afraid to have a glass of red wine," said Rohrer-Lauer, owner of Michelle's Interiors.

Know When to Say When

Though hiring an interior designer may feel like a perk reserved for the rich and famous, Seaman said he and most of his colleagues work within a wide range of budgets. He'll even take on a simple color consultation just to get his foot in the door with a prospective client.

The proliferation of design programming on television, including HGTV, has also given rise to the notion that designing requires very little practice or skill.

"People underestimate what a true qualified designer's opinion is. I prevent mistakes from happening," he said.

"I'm here to help — I can tell you where to save and where not to skimp," said Seaman, offering faucets and sofas as examples of items people shouldn't buy on the cheap.

Designers also have access to services and merchandise the average person could only dream of, he said.

To better reflect the myriad problems he's asked to solve, Seaman is thinking of adding "design concierge" to his array of titles.

"We know a lot of people," he said.

A gala preview reception of the show house is scheduled for 6:30-9:30 p.m. Sept. 11. Tickets are $100; the cost includes small plates, cocktails and mingling with designers.

The show house will then be open to the general public Sept. 12-30. Hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursdays. The designers will be on hand to talk about their work and answer questions on Saturdays and 5-8 p.m. on Thursdays.

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