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Vibrant Chicago Home

Using color and texture as her tools, a designer and artist elevates her newly built home from a blank canvas into a modern masterpiece.  

Written by Margaret Zainey Roux
  • Werner Straube

    Fuchsia, chartreuse, tangerine: Christine Hughes isn’t afraid to paint the town. It’s the Chicago designer’s eye for color—and her fearless yet thoughtful use of it—that makes the 5,800-square-foot home she shares with her husband and two children in the historic Lakeview community a modern-day masterpiece. “Some people have a fear of commitment when it comes to color, but I’ve never been afraid to pick up a paintbrush,” says the Kentucky native, who holds a degree in studio art. “When I built my home, my goal was to create a blank canvas that would support my love of color and art without sacrificing architectural detail.”

    Hughes mastered the mix in the living room by pairing an antique Biedermeier table, large wooden urns and tailored linen drapes with a funky wool rug, mid-century style chairs, an inlaid bone table and a collection of her own original abstract artwork.

    Photography: Werner Straube
    Field Editor: Hilary Rose

    Architect: Patrick Plunkett, Patrick Plunkett Architectural Design, Hinsdale, Illinois; 630/789-8100; pat@patrickplunkett.com; patrickplunkett.com.
    Interior designer: Christine Hughes, Christine Hughes Interior Design, Chicago; 773/480-7192; artfuldesign@hotmail.com; christinehughesinteriordesign.com.
    Builder: Mangan Builders, Chicago; 773/883-1200; manganbuilders.com.

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  • Werner Straube

    Historic Vibe

    Christine enlisted the expertise of architect Patrick Plunkett to conceive architectural bones that would honor the integrity of the neighborhood’s forebears while maintaining a clean and contemporary aesthetic. The exterior’s gray limestone facade and slate roof lend the four-story structure a historic vibe, while the glossy black trim and fuss-free curves of the dormers, corbels, and wrought-iron fence relay an au courant overtone. Inside, paneled walls, custom mantels, and thick crown molding wear a shade of shadowy white that looks chic against soft gray walls and the gray wash coating the home’s white oak floors.        

    “Because our lot is narrow, we looked for ways to make our home look and feel more voluminous,” Hughes says. “Layering strong architectural details and highly tactile materials visually expanded the house both outside and in.”

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    Fun Family Room

    “Most people go straight to the creams or the tans when looking for a neutral color, but gray is my go-to neutral,” Christine says. “It’s crisp and contemporary yet always classic, and it responds well to other colors. For me, that’s important because I believe that color—like mood—often changes. Right now, I’m very into acidic, highlighterlike yellows, oranges, and pinks. When presented in a small dose such as a vase, accent chair, lamp, or pillow, they can be very powerful but easily changed.”

    “There is enough pattern and color to make it interesting, but enough natural light and breathing room between layers to let it feel clean,” says Hughes of the family room.

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    Colorful Accent

    High-gloss orange paint adds puts a contemporary spin on the traditional profile of a Queen Anne arm chair. 

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    Classic and Cool

    Christine enlists black and white to temper the intensity of bold colors and bridge the gap between old and new. The classic combination, which has transcended centuries of decorative arts history, can be found in nearly every room of the house. For example, there’s Christine’s own original abstract artwork in the bedroom, elegantly framed antique Grand Tour intaglios in the stairwell, a groovy 1960s-inspired rug in the dining room, and futuristic Italian pendants above the kitchen island.

    “For me, having a green chandelier in the dining room is like having a live plant or a moss ball on the table—it’s something organic,” says Hughes. Beneath it, a graphic rug lends lightens the load of a heavy pedestal table paired with French chairs upholstered in yellow leather and backed with faux crocodile. 

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    Lovely Kitchen

    Texture is also key to the home’s artful allure. Sleek stone, transparent plexiglass, and shiny mirrored surfaces serve as foils to the nubbiness of natural linen draperies and wool rugs. Strong materials like mohair, hide, leather, and pleather are among the designer’s favorites to use on upholstered pieces for their tactile quality and their ability to survive the everyday rabble-rousing of her young sons.

    “The house wasn’t right for a totally traditional kitchen or one that was completely modern,” says Hughes.  “We met in the middle by combining natural woods and stones with high-gloss finishes and stainless steel.”

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  • Werner Straube

    Kitchen Banquette

    A breakfast banquette maximizes seating in a narrow space off the kitchen. The black lacquered Chinese Chippendale bring dimension to the straight lines of the bench and the table comprised of Saarinen-style metal bases topped with a thick wooden plank. 

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    Hallway

    Architectural details in the sunlit stairwell shine even brighter against a minimal black and white backdrop.

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    Master Bedroom

    Hughes continued the gray palette into the master suite but otherwise used color sparingly to keep the space quiet. The rich charcoal accent wall adds coziness and visual interest to monochromatic space. 

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    Sit in Style

    “I have no rules when it comes to decorating,” Christine says. “I’m a collector of art, of books, and of things. If something speaks to me, I find a way to make it work.”

    A pink ikat pillow adds punch to an antique bergere chair in the master suite. Behind it, Hughes created a gallery wall of her own original paintings. 

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  • Werner Straube

    Master Bath

    To break up the monotony of the mostly marble master bath, Hughes used different sized tiles and patterns for the floor and tub surround. The wall covering, a three-dimensional hexagon print by Allegra Hicks, references mosaic tile work while employing another texture.

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    Bunk Room

    In the bunk room, a playful palette of yellow and gray trumps boyish blues and reds. Minimal décor encourages a clean aesthetic when toy chests start to overflow. 

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  • Brie Williams