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All is Bright in this Illinois Home

Christmas Eve is a feast for the senses at a Lake Forest, Illinois, home

Written and produced by Elaine Markoutsas
  • Werner Straube

    All may not be calm on Christmas Eve in this classical mid-20th-century home in Lake Forest, Illinois. With a family that includes five kids—from preteen to college-age—there’s a lot going on. But the holiday vibe is as low-key as it is picture-perfect: holiday playlist cued up and candles flickering, with fresh tulips, roses, and aromatic greens laced throughout. And it’s happy, boosted by sunshine-orange accents, starting with the clementines woven into the evergreen garland that frames the front door.

    Photography: Werner Straube

    Interior designer: Shelley Johnstone Paschke, Shelley Johnstone Design, 140 E. Ridge Lane, Lake Forest, IL 60045; 847/235-2076,

    Lanterns at front door: original to home.
    Planters: Munder-Skiles,
    Greek key edging (custom design); garage lanterns (custom): Shelley Johnstone Design,  

  • Werner Straube

    Festive Entry

    “Even the type on my Christmas cards is orange,” says interior designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke, who created the warm, welcoming home she shares with husband Brett and their blended family: her sons, Hunter, 20, and Ford, 17, and Brett’s sons, Will, 15, and Luke, 14, and his daughter, Lauren, 12.

    “Fresh flowers and candles are very important to me. That feels like home,” Shelley says. Just no poinsettias, please. Her mom owned a floral shop, and she saw plenty of those when she and her sister were growing up in Madison, Wisconsin.

    In the foyer, swags of greenery and holiday flowers dress up the staircase and an antique console table. 

    Console table by stairs (Regency shelf motif with custom black granite top): vintage.
    Bench: owner’s collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Formal Dining Room

    Simplicity, elegance, and attention to details are the hallmarks of Shelley’s style, and that doesn’t change when she’s decorating for the holidays. “I like to keep it clean and fresh, with beautiful pinecones and greens, apricots and oranges, gold accents.”

    A formally set dining table notwithstanding, that even means going a bit rogue on the food. “We don’t do the big roast,” she says. “We like hors d’oeuvres: shrimp, cashews, fun dips.” Then it’s sandwiches and light fare to save room for homemade grasshopper pie.

    A chandelier from Niermann Weeks sparkles above the antique mahogany table. The walls are upholstered in a Fortuny-style damask and antique chairs are upholstered in chocolate-colored Edelman leather. 

    Wall fabric (“Fortuny style Venezia Portofino”  #SSF200c, damask, discontinued): Brunschwig & Fils,
    Dining table (mahogany); side chairs: antique.
    Chair leather (chocolate brown): Edelman Leather,
    Chandelier (“Iron & Crystal Chandelier”): Niermann Weeks,
    Area rug (sisal): Stark Carpet,
    Sideboard: owner’s collection.
    Lamps (opaline, vintage): Donald Stuart Antiques, 847/501-4454.
    Placemats (linen): Shellkare Designs,
    Water goblets (“Kelsey”): Waterford,
    Champagne flutes (“Pearl”): William Yeoward,
    China: antique Staffordshire.
    Soup bowls: Lenox,
    Tea glasses: owner’s collection.
    Flatware: antique.
    Flowers on table: Lord & Mar Ltd., 847/295-5456.

  • Werner Straube

    Dining Room Sideboard

    “There are no rules,” Shelley says—and that applies to decorating too. “Go with what’s comfortable.” Fancy details sprinkled through rooms feel casually elegant. Rich embellishments are informed by Shelley’s stint in London, where she studied at the Inchbald School of Design and was exposed to dressmaker details such as Turkish corners, knife pleats, and application of trims on pillows and lampshades, as well as lacquering, gold leafing, and the creation of soft tinted ceilings and cashmere walls.

    Vintage opaline lamps sit on an antique mahogany-and-satinwood sideboard. 

    Sideboard; mirror over commode: antique.
    Lamps on commode (opaline, vintage): Donald Stuart Antiques, 847/501-4454.
    Reindeer: Pasquesi Home and Gardens,
    Foo dogs: Shelley Johnstone Design,
    Angel: Neiman Marcus,
    Chairs flanking sideboard: antique.

  • Werner Straube


    An embroidered linen placemat from ShellKare is topped with antique green-and-gold Staffordshire china and a Lenox soup bowl.

  • Werner Straube

    Pretty Living Room

    With her global experiences, she happily embraced the idea of layering. In fine European interiors, “nothing is from the same place,” she says. Shelley adds to that collected look with antiques and finds from travels, rounding out with custom-designed pieces.

    An elegant George Smith sofa from London mingles with lacquer, faux tortoise, and brass tables. Orange and gold accents dress the living room mantel.

    Wall paint (“Feather Down” #OC-6); ceiling and trim paint (“Linen White” #912): Benjamin Moore,
    Area rug (Aubusson): Stark,
    Sofa: George Smith London,
    Sofa fabric (damask in color, Elephant, discontinued): Peter Jones London,
    Striped pillows on sofa (“Bellini Stripe” #103225, discontinued): Cowtan & Tout,
    Lounge chair: Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman,
    Chair fabrictape trim on skirt: Scalamandré,
    Fauteuil: antique.
    Fauteuil fabric: Edelman Leather,
    Brass side table: Viya Home, Available through Stephanie Odegard, stephanie
    Coffee table (custom, lacquered brown); sofa side table (custom, tortoise finish): Shelley Johnstone Design,
    Mirror (Italian): antique.

  • Werner Straube

    Christmas Tree

    Meet Adler, a West Highland terrier. He's counting how many presents are for him! Simple metallic ball ornaments adorn the tree, while an angel tree topper brings the touch of orange.

  • Werner Straube

    Pretty Living Room

    For the living room, Shelley designed a banquette to blend with upholstered pieces and antiques she purchased in London. Those are teamed with mid-20th-century modern glass and brass tables, with notes of faux tortoise and chocolate lacquer.

    Classical motifs like Greek keys are consistent throughout, and animal prints are repeated fun choices. “I love the juxtaposition of traditional and modern,” she says. “That keeps it timeless and fresh. The brass is a little ’70s vibe.” 

    Drapery and trim: Scalamandré,
    Drapery hardware: Van Gregory & Norton, Through Dessin Fournir,
    Roman shade (“Bellini Stripe” #103225, discontinued): Cowtan & Tout,
    Banquette (custom): Shelley Johnstone Design,
    Banquette fabric (silk velvet, by Old World Weavers): Stark,
    Banquette trim (“Aristotle Greek Key”): Samuel & Sons,
    Pillow on banquette, center; pillows on chairs (silk ikat); pillow on banquette, right: Bermingham & Co, Available through Brunschwig & Fils,
    Bergères: antique.
    Bergère fabric (silk velvet): Brunschwig & Fils,
    Trim on bergères: Scalamandré,
    Cocktail tables (glass-and-brass, midcentury): Négrel Antiques,
    Architectural drawings: owner’s collection.
    Flower photograph behind bergère: Shelley Johnstone Design,

  • Werner Straube

    Neutral Solarium

    In the sunroom just off the living room, a tufted “Kames” sofa from Crate & Barrel is flanked by painted wicker chairs with checked cushions.

    Paint (“Spring in Aspen” #954): Benjamin Moore,
    Sofa (“Kames”): Crate & Barrel,
    Pillow fabric (“Chevron,” by Michelle Nussbaumer Textiles): Ceylon et Cie,
    Pillow fabric (“Leopard,” by Old World Weavers): Stark Carpet,
    Sofa end table: vintage.
    Chairs: owner’s collection.
    Chair and drapery fabric (discontinued): Brunschwig & Fils,
    Coffee table (custom): Shelley Johnstone Design,
    Area rug: jute.

  • Werner Straube

    Simple Kitchen

    Interior designer Shelley Johnstone Paschke enjoys hot cocoa with Lauren and Hunter in the understated kitchen with black lacquered cabinets. 

    Wall paint (“Dove Wing” #OC-18); cabinetry paint (“Black Satin” #2131-10): Benjamin Moore,
    Cabinetry; hardware: custom.
    Countertop: Carrara marble.
    Refrigerator: Sub-Zero,
    Wall ovens: Wolf,
    Island faucet: Dornbracht,
    Lucite bar stool: discontinued.
    Black bar stools: owner’s collection.
    Gingerbread house: Gerhard’s European Desserts,

  • Werner Straube

    Family Room

    Neutral tones in a mix of patterns and textures play happily in family room. Mirrored panels on a set of doors enhance the space. 

    Wallcovering (grass cloth): Stark Carpet,
    Area rug (wool): Deerpath Carpet & Rug,
    Sofa (discontinued): Crate & Barrel,
    Drapery and patterned pillow fabric (“Sassari Ikat” #2007125): Lee Jofa,
    Blanket on sofa (“Avalon”): Hermes,
    Etching behind sofa (Dora, by Picasso): Atlas Galleries,
    Cocktail tables (“Jacques Cocktail Table”): Jonathan Adler,
    Stool fabric (“Ocelot” #34476-1, discontinued): Clarence House,
    Armchair (“Petrie”): Crate & Barrel,
    Chest: vintage Chinese.
    Lamp on chest: Shelley Johnstone design,
    Art by chest: owner’s collection.
    Art above sofa (Picasso etching of Dora): Atlas Galleries,

  • Werner Straube

    Trellis Room

    To dress a room that was enclosed during remodeling, Shelley had a trellis applied to the walls and painted the ceiling the vivid hue of an Hermès box. “I love bursts of color in fairly neutral spaces,” she says.

    A starburst mirror from Mecox hangs above a banquette covered in an Old World Weavers velvet and trimmed with Samuel & Sons Greek key-motif tape. 

    Wall and trim paint: Benjamin Moore,
    Ceiling paint: custom lacquered to match Hermès box orange.
    Trellis on wall and hanging lantern (custom design by Shelley Johnstone Design): Northworks Architects + Planners,
    Banquette (custom): Shelley Johnstone Design,
    Banquette fabric (“Taos Velvet,” by Old World Weavers): Stark Carpet,
    Greek Key tape trim (“Aristotle Greek Key”): Samuel & Sons,
    Iron chairs (Italian style): vintage.
    Chair leather: Edelman Leather,
    Mirror (“Starburst Mirror”): Mecox,
    Iron coffee table (“Chinese Fret Coffee Table”): Niermann Weeks,  

  • Werner Straube

    Cozy Library

    She couldn’t imagine living in any other home. “It’s comfortable and pretty and also functional for our busy, modern lifestyle,” Shelley says—particularly at Christmas. “It was important to make the house a place we all love. And everyone loves being here.”

    Inspired by a vintage tortoiseshell box, Shelley had decorative painters replicate the look on the ceiling of the library. An antelope-pattern carpet from Stark anchors vintage rattan chairs with chevron linen cushions. 

    Area rug (“Antelope Ax”): Stark Carpet,
    Decorative painting on ceiling (custom design by Shelley Johnstone Design): Simes Studios,
    Rattan chairs: vintage.
    Seat cushions: Rogers & Goffigon, 203/532-8068.
    Lithograph (by Salvador Dali): owner’s collection.
    Backgammon table (made from Brunschwig & Fils tea table): custom.
    Light over bookshelf (“Boston Functional Library Wall Light” #SL2922): Circa Lighting,
    Drapery (“Gramercy Park”/Cream #D07721): Coraggio,
    Tree skirt (from Rome): owner’s collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Library Detail

    Shelley converted the top of  a Brunschwig & Fils tea table into a backgammon board. A Salvador Dali lithograph hangs among vintage boxes. 

  • Werner Straube


    A delicate palette of cream and light blue dominates the bedroom. Swaths of cream fabric crape the windows and headboard. Pink monogrammed throw pillows inject a small pop of color. 

    Cream wall paint (“Linen White” #912); blue wall paint (“Heaven on Earth” #1661): Benjamin Moore,
    Carpet: Stark Carpet,
    Crown (custom design by Shelley Johnstone Design): Simes Studios,
    Interior bed drapery (“Bellini Stripe” #103225, discontinued): Cowtan & Tout,
    Bed: owner’s collection.
    Bed linens; bed skirt; monogrammed pillows; pillow shams: Leontine Linens,
    French knot coverlet: Ann Gish,
    Bedside table (painted): Brunschwig & Fils,
    Photograph (by Brett Paschke): owner’s collection.

  • Werner Straube