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Royal Familyby Diana Tychsen | Interiors Chicago magazine | July 9, 2012
Inside the walls of a seemingly quiet Country European style home in Highland Park, a flourishing family of five is stirring things up. Lara Prince, her husband Avi Lewittes and their three children are recent transplants from New York City—not to mention quite the creative bunch. The eldest child, Daniella, 15, is a budding fashion designer; son Eitan, 13, is both a musician and a producer; and youngest daughter Orly, 10, is an all-around arts and crafts enthusiast. And Prince is equal parts responsible for helping raise the roost and for redecorating the entire interior space of the 9,000-square-foot, six-bedroom, six-and-two-half-bath home. She and Lewittes looked for no more than two days before deciding on nesting up north, a decision encouraged by the close proximity to the lake and the surrounding lush landscape.
“The architecture was interesting—it wasn’t your typical builder’s house,” Prince explains. “They built the house with bricks from the ’30s, and they added these old cobblestones and all the arches throughout the house. And what I really loved was the footprint—it’s like a rectangle with wings.” She wanted a place where her children could be safe, spread out (a new commodity for the former urbanites!) and pursue their individual artistic passions. But the inside didn’t reflect her edginess, so a redecoration was immediately ordered. “It was in perfect move-in condition,” Prince says of the home, “it was just very ‘vanilla’ in terms of the interiors.” No one in the family panicked, however—they had an in-house designer under their own roof.
Before turning to interiors, Prince’s career was headed in a very different direction. “After graduating from college, I worked for a bank, and was going to move to Japan with the company. Then I suddenly decided to switch to the fashion industry because I wanted to be near creative people, to get that creative vibe back.” Not until Prince was married with a child on the way did she decide to dive headlong into the artistic pool, returning to school to get a degree in interior design and helping a friend start her own residential practice. After a few years, her knowledge of the field was extensive enough to take on some of her own clients, trusting her instincts with each project that came her way. “I don’t have preconceived notions about anything. So when I approach a job, I just have to get to know my client, and have to see the space. And then it just comes to me, I just have a feeling about it.”
The feeling that the pre-remodel “vanilla” version of her home gave her appears threefold to anyone lucky enough to get a house tour: Color (and more color)! Texture! And bold graphic prints! The color is subtle at times, and over-the-top at others, which gives an adventurous ‘what’s around the next corner?’ vibe for visitors. The master bedroom, for instance, features a substantial swirl-pattern rug—custom designed by Prince—of sage green, teal blue and chocolate brown. “I do a lot of custom rugs,” she says. “Rugs to me are one opportunity to really make your mark.” The foyer, in addition to the vibrant gold metallic Jimmie Martin sideboard that Prince brought over from London, is punctuated by an exquisite painting on the wall of a young girl’s face in brilliant shades of red on a sky blue background by Toronto artist Shelley Adler (a friend of the designer).
The textural effects are obvious in every room, starting with the matte gray chalkboard walls in the kitchen that the kids can use to sketch or write messages to each another. Prince wanted a particular color for the paint, and stumbled upon a small company while in NYC prepping for the move. “I like to do the research, I always like to discover these little companies,” she says. “Hudson Paint made this particular color called ‘So Stone’—you can’t get regular chalkboard paint in gray.” The edgy light fixture in the dining room, made of strips of horn, is from Ochre, a perfect example of Prince’s deliberate contrast of rough and smooth throughout the home (take the sleek Saarinen end tables in the living room against the distressed surface of the charred finish Tobin table from BDDW in the dining room).
How does she pull it off so perfectly?
“I just buy what I like,” Prince says matter-of-factly. “I have a library of stuff, and I just pull from the library. For my house, I literally sat down with a giant suitcase of stuff for a few hours and I banged it all out.”
Other highlights fall under the category of prints and patterns, which make surprise appearances in random areas of the home (such as the powder room, where the wallpaper is made out of folded newspaper pages that are strung together).
“That’s called Newsworthy,” Prince explains. “It’s Lori Weitzner of Weitzner Limited, a small company that draws from traditional papers but makes their designs very edgy.” She managed to talk her eldest daughter into the “wall of faces” created by Fornasetti ‘Tema’ Collection from Cole & Son wallpapers, and the dramatic Grand Thistle wallpaper from Timorous Beasties serves as the dining room backdrop for dinner parties.
More important than the obvious “wow” factor of the layering of prints, pops of color and unique custom furnishings, Prince yearned to create a space that fosters creativity and encourages innovative thinking in her children—things that she may have had to suppress when she was a child.
“I went to a very competitive prep school with all the ‘brainiacs,’” she explains, “and everybody was going off to law school and medical school and engineering. Ever since I was a little kid, all I wanted to do is something creative, and I really liked re-decorating my room all the time. But it was almost considered a waste to do something ‘artsy.’”
If her daringly different home design is any indication, Prince’s ability to make a statement is more than just “artsy,” and she is more than just an interior designer with something new to say—she’s a bona fide artist in her own right.