Not many people would tell Julia Buckingham she wasn’t ready for a challenge. The former antiques dealer and very in-demand interior designer had been working for years on multiple projects that showcased her trademarked term, Modernique, and Buckingham thought she had enough material for a book. “Three years ago, I met the woman who eventually became my agent, but at that point, she said, ‘You’re not ready,’” explains Buckingham, who kept designing and working with partners, like Global Views, a home accessories brand. Those collaborations put Buckingham in the rarefied company of designers like Barbara Barry and Dwell Studio. “Then [the agent] called and said, ‘You’re ready.’”
That vote of confidence and lots of hard work (five photo shoots in six weeks) led to the just-published Modernique ($40, Abrams). Like the homes she designs, Modernique shows how Buckingham mixes her style of old and new for maximum chic. “I weave together a lot of components in most projects,” she says. “It’s blending the old with the new to reveal beauty and delight in unexpected pairings.”
One of our favorite homes in the book is, naturally, the one she designed for Sarah and Kerry Wood in Winnetka. Buckingham’s beautiful design for the home was first glimpsed in the NS September 2015 issue when Sarah graced the Women of Style cover, and we wrote a feature about the great work she and Kerry are doing with the Wood Family Foundation, and the family’s move to Winnetka. With Modernique, we can now show off more of the house and its details.
“We came in when the home was about 50 percent complete,” says Buckingham about the residence built by Heritage Luxury Builders. “So we got to come in and make all the finish decisions with Sarah and Kerry and then work on the design.” The result is this warm and inviting home that was the first one shot for the book. The most lived-in room in the house, the family room, perfectly showcases Buckingham’s style. The custom-designed sectional is big enough for the whole family to pile on, but its masculine lines and details, like the nailhead trim, keep it looking tailored and sleek. Several of the accent pieces in the room, like the African Berber beads, add history and interest.
In the kitchen, the mix of old and new continues. “I’ve been curating antique cutting boards for many years now,” says Buckingham. “The kitchen wall was the ideal location to marry the old weathered cutting boards with the clean lines of the new kitchen.”
For a pop of fun, the bubble chandelier in the dining room juxtaposes nicely with the antique mirror, which was bought in Europe and has a patina that Buckingham loves. The master suite continues many of the warm blues and grays found in the rest of the house, making it a grown-up sanctuary with high ceilings and plenty of natural light.
“My favorite part of the process was the big reveal,” says Sarah. “Sort of like a show on HGTV. You leave your house for a few days while Julia and her team put it all together and arrange everything perfectly. Only then do you get to see the finished results.” Sarah says that on the day she and Kerry walked through the house for the first time, “every room was another wonderful surprise.” One personal example Sarah gives is her family photos. “Julia knows how important our family is to us, and she incorporated our photos into the rooms beautifully.”
“It’s all about building on relationships,” Buckingham says with a big smile. “It’s local vendors who’ve worked with me for years, dealers who find these gorgeous vintage pieces and clients who, once you get to know them, just become part of your life.” Modernique book signing with Julia Buckingham (with special guest Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus, also on hand) April 19, 1-3pm, Neiman Marcus Northbrook Court
Julia Buckingham photo by Synergistic Studios