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The Forever Home

For designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke, happiness is a home that lasts forever.

An elegant pool house addition with a black trellis backdrop allows for breezes during warm summer months, and is equipped with a bath and changing room.

Formerly a shady terrace between two parts of the home’s footprint, the so-called “lattice room” was inspired by Pachke’s desire to bring some of the outdoors in.

Rare is the interior designer who wants to live in his or her current home forever, foregoing the fantasy of buying an empty lot and designing one from scratch. But a forever home is the dream of designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke of Shelley Johnstone Design and ShellKare Designs apparel, whose decades of outfitting interiors in the Chicagoland area just barely outnumber the years she’s resided at her Lake Forest home. Built in the 1950s, the original house on tiny, private Ridge Lane was modest in size, but sat on a generous acre of land—plenty of room to grow. And as Paschke’s family dynamic has shifted over the decades, so has the home: When she remarried five years ago, her family grew from three to seven, and it became drastically clear that a major expansion was necessary.

Paschke worked side by side with architect Austin DePree of Northworks, a Chicago-based firm regarded for both its handsome commercial interiors (Tortoise Club, Ada Street) and its residential projects spread nationwide. “It’s rare to work with a client who wants to stay in their home forever, when they’re not basing their design decisions on resale value,” DePree says. “It was refreshing.”

Walk through the elegantly decorated residence, and it’s virtually impossible to tell where the original home ends and the 2,000-square-foot addition begins. This is owed to subtle details: crown molding lining nearly every ceiling, a through-line of Greek key patterns in both accessories and permanent fixtures, consistent hardware in every room of the house. “People don’t realize why they like certain things,” Paschke says. “It’s the details—and that extends to the basics, like molding and doorways.”

Most of the home’s doorways are exaggeratedly thick—nearly a foot in many instances—creating walls substantial enough for built-in shelving, or storage areas hidden behind mirrored cabinetry, another recurring detail. Consistency in the architecture lends to consistency in the design, Paschke says: “I can take a chair from any room in the house and move it to another room, and it will still make sense.”

But that doesn’t mean that each room looks the same. They are each unique, and they’re all used. That’s a design rule Paschke adopted while studying at London’s Inchbald School of Design, and in practice living in England for a spell thereafter (one of her first jobs was with the century-old Percy Bass brand of interior design and accessories). “I learned in England, where the homes and buildings are much older and there is not as much space, to really use every room,” Paschke says. “I grew up in a modern home, and part of me loved that, but that doesn’t suit this home. I like sitting down, making tea.” Indeed on our visit, a tea tray was ready and waiting in her formal living room. The British culture extends to materials: Paschke finished the new addition’s bathrooms in classic marble, white tile and traditional fixtures; and quieter rooms, like the library, are covered in wood paneling. “I was taught to have an appreciation for these things—to have an interest in using the same materials for years,” Paschke says, adding that it translates to longevity: the less trendy the aesthetic, the less need to update every decade.

European influences are apparent everywhere. The heavy brass hardware on her front door, for instance, was purchased eons ago at a Paris flea market, stowed away ever since. “I hit antique markets on my travels,” Paschke says. “If I see something, I know I’m eventually going to use it somewhere.” To replicate her favorite European-style door, she added an extra border of molding to the mahogany before painting it a rich, black lacquer.

Paschke worked the color black into numerous spaces without weighing down their airiness. Preexisting details like the former foyer’s black-and-white tiled floors are complemented by a solid black railing down to the finished basement, and wall-to-wall black cabinetry in the clean, light-filled kitchen. As the hub of the new addition, the kitchen is accessible from multiple directions, but still feels like its own room. It’s deceptively minimalist: Look closely and you’ll spot a flat-screen television and black speakers worked into the cabinetry, made of hickory to add subtle texture. “We like things tailored,” Paschke says of the kitchen’s bespoke
details, “but not fussy.”

The final addition is in the backyard: Paschke’s pavilionlike pool house, put in place for practicality, with a bathroom, changing rooms and outdoor shower. Mariani Landscape was the landscape architect. “What we love so much about vacations is that carefree tradition of sitting outside and eating our meals by the pool every day,” Paschke says, “so we thought, why can’t we do that at home?” The handsome building features a shaded patio for dining and lollygagging, and seaside-inspired finishing details, like shell and starfish door knockers. “We love it,” Paschke says. “We use it every day.”

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