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Breathing Room

By Tate Gunnerson

Photography by Dustin Halleck


A leisurely renovation gives a Winnetka family plenty of time to make decisions about their new abode.

In a big family, leg room is the ultimate amenity, and that’s what finally convinced Gerald Maatman and Erin Bourke to purchase a large stone-clad house in Winnetka. The sprawling six-bedroom dwelling has more than enough space for the couple’s blended family and all of their friends to congregate. Another plus: The house is located on a forested lot with ample room for the in-ground swimming pool that they envisioned. “The structure was great, but everything was too formal—superornate and not quite our style,” Bourke says.

To personalize the home, the couple hired interior designer Lj Savarie, architect Angelo Biondi and general contractor John Weiss. Over the course of four years (and counting), the team transformed the house room by room. “This house just needed a face-lift,” Savarie says. “They wanted it to feel comfortable, approachable and fresh.”

The kitchen cabinets and walls are painted in Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter to give the traditional space a modern feel. Hudson Valley bell-jar pendants highlight the island’s unique shape. Stools by Hickory Chair are covered in performance fabric by Kravet.

Neutral walls, off-white moldings and a light rug with a traditional pattern, for example, lighten up the formerly dark and stuffy formal living room. In the center of the room, a pair of plush sofas and lounge chairs covered in a celadon green fabric create a cozy spot to gather in front of the fireplace. There is no TV, yet it’s still a favorite spot for the entire family. “When I see their kids lounging in the living room with their feet up on the sofa, it makes me happy,” Savarie says.

French doors lead out to a serene sunroom overlooking the pond and nearby golf course. A blue-and-white-striped rug juxtaposes the dark slate floor and coordinates with the patterned cushions on the wicker furniture. Tailored floor-to-ceiling draperies, a dark grasscloth-covered cocktail table and a glazed ceramic garden bench add to the chorus of textures. “I don’t like things to be too loud, but layering is interesting and more lived-in,” Savarie says.

The library is another favorite spot for the family. “It’s turned into a room that we all use in different ways,” Maatman explains. “The kids fell in love with it, and it became study central.” Double leather-covered doors with brass nailhead trim and monogrammed doorknobs mark its entrance. Inside, brass library lights illuminate the floor-to-ceiling bookcases, which have been painted to match the light gray walls. A quartet of chairs surround a round cocktail table in front of the fireplace, and there’s also a walnut game table in the bay window.

The pool furniture continues the home’s casual yet stylish vibe.

If the library is occupied, the bedrooms are also welcome refuges. The master suite, for one, has been completely revamped. Although the bed and settee have traditional shapes, a tailored bench at the foot of the bed and Lucite accents modernize the look. Savarie also worked closely with the children, particularly the daughters, to design their rooms, which have been decked out with graphic wallcoverings, custom millwork, and new furnishings and lighting. “I think it’ll be hard for them to go to dorm rooms after living here,” Savarie says with a smile.

Now nearly done, the house is a big hit with the entire family and their friends. In the summer, the children can often be found splashing in the new in-ground swimming pool out back. By the time winter arrives, Savarie hopes to be finished redesigning the lower level, which includes a well-equipped gym and home theater. “I like it when my house is the central location,” Bourke explains. “Lj transformed it in a way that made it more livable and attractive,” Maatman adds. “We had a bird’s-eye view, so there were no surprises, but it turned out even better than she said it was going to be.”  

Main Image: A black-and-white sketch by artist Jennifer Beacon of Gerald Maatman’s alma mater, Washington and Lee, adds a personal touch above the fireplace in the library. The chairs are from Highland House, and the chandelier is from The Urban Electric Co.