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Tate Gunnerson | Photo: Nick Johnson | July 9, 2013
An idiosyncratic filmmaker acts as muse for a historic red brick reno.
“This house wouldn’t appeal to everybody, and I’m OK with that, because I wouldn’t consider myself a normal person,” Andrea Chadderdon says of the four-bedroom home that she shares with her husband and children in Lincoln Park. The couple bought the then fixer-upper after an exhaustive but unsuccessful search for new homes. “We realized pretty quickly that we were going to have to buy something and rehab it to make it our own,” Chadderdon explains.
For help with the project, Chadderdon turned to Summer Thornton of Summer Thornton Design, whose work she had been following on blogs and in magazines. “I liked the irreverent nature of her style, which is really fun and unexpected,” Chadderdon says. According to Thornton, it was clear from the beginning that these clients were unique. “What stood out about Andrea is that she went with what she loved without second guessing it, and didn’t care what anybody else thought,” Thornton says. “We played with her style and pushed it as far as we could.”
When Thornton first toured the turn-of-the-century house, she was surprised that much of the original character had been removed. “The house was one big open space that had been stripped of many of the original details,” Thornton explains. “We worked with the builder on the floor plans, layouts, moldings and other details.” In contrast to many contemporary homes, Thornton eschewed the open layout in favor of smaller rooms that pay homage to the home’s original Victorian architecture. “We added some niches and walls, so that the spaces were more intimate and we would have more wall space,” Thornton explains. “The client really likes the feel of an old house, and we felt like this was more in keeping with that.”
In the kitchen, Thornton carved out enough space for a pantry and designed a built-in walnut hutch, which gave the space an old-fashioned feel and also created more intimate proportions. “We added architectural detail, so the rooms weren’t just boxes,” Thornton says, pointing to a pair of pillars clad in white ceramic subway tile. Between them are the range and a custom steel and antiqued brass range hood, which was designed by Thornton and fabricated by Bladon Conner Design Studio. Above the island, she hung crystal chandeliers that were original to the home.
For the interior design, Chadderdon told Thornton she wanted something that felt like the set pieces in Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. “That film was super weird, different, exciting and a little bit creepy,” Chadderdon says. “My husband and I both have a dark and sarcastic sense of humor, and we wanted pieces in our home with history, personality and humor”—all exuded with bright pops of color combined with Victorian moldings, graphic wall coverings and an eclectic mix of furnishings. The drama starts in the front foyer, which Thornton painted in a salmon pink color that is a near-perfect match for the upholstery on the sofa in the adjacent parlor. “I was so excited that Andrea was open to tons of color,” Thornton says, pointing to the dark teal wall color in the living room and the colorful pastels in an antique Chinese Art Deco rug. “We looked at this room as a sexy kind of lounge space. It looks so great at night.”
As does the dining room—doubling as the library—which Thornton paneled in dark walnut with built-in bookshelves. Illuminating the space are a vintage purple Murano chandelier and sconces with hot pink lampshades. “The colors make the antique furniture feel current,” Thornton explains, pointing to the eclectic mix of chairs surrounding the dining table. The room is a favorite of Chadderdon’s. “It’s so sexy that I kind of want to cat-crawl through it sometimes,” the homeowner says.
Wall coverings also play a big part in the home. For the nursery, Thornton selected a zebra-inspired paper that actually appeared in The Royal Tenenbaums. In the master bathroom, Thornton veered in a more traditional direction with a metallic floral print that Chadderdon describes as “Glama.” To give the traditional pattern a more contemporary feel, Thornton convinced her clients to let her paint the wood floor in a contemporary black, white and green pattern. “I love the tongue-in-cheek contrast between the floor and the metallic floral wallpaper,” Thornton says. “We created an elegant bathroom that doesn’t look like everybody else’s elegant bathroom.” Similarly, Thornton had the walls in the master bedroom painted with Kelly green stripes, which give the floral and black draperies a more modern look. “Many people shy away from patterned draperies, so we were excited that she wanted to go with them,” Thornton says.
According to Chadderdon, the mix of influences, bold colors and intimate rooms is exactly what she had envisioned for her new home. “Day-to-day life can be kind of boring, so it’s nice to be around things that change it up a little bit. Every piece here reflects our personalities in some way,” the homeowner explains. For Thornton, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is more adventurous than some of our other projects, and it’s one that is the closest to my personal aesthetic,” the designer says. “We love it when a client wants us to build a fantasy around what we’re designing.”