Bespoke walnut moldings, French antiques, and fabulous fabrics are just a few of the features interior designer Megan Winters tapped to transform a Lake Forest, Illinois, builder’s spec house into a home rich with character. Yet jaw-dropping beauty is not the laurel on which this designer prefers to rest. “Yes, I think the rooms are beautiful, but the reason the home is a success is because it’s a reflection of the family and the things they love,” she explains.
Rest assured, these active homeowners—Julie and Michael Eckert and their three children, ages 12, 15, and 19—have a plethora of passions. Winters not only kept pace but was often a step ahead.
Take color. Winters gave Julie first dibs on the house’s palette. The full-time mom was the one likely to spend the most time at home. “Navy blue is my favorite color, so Megan wanted to use it throughout the house,” Julie says. “But I said, ‘It’s hard.’ Her response was, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll get it’—and she did.”
Thanks to the designer’s cool confidence, Julie’s beloved blue-and-white palette connects every room—from the foyer’s color blocks of navy and white linen covering antique seating to the living room’s ikat and Chinese jar-patterned fabrics. “Julie loves every iteration of blue,” notes Winters, who strayed slightly from the predominant navies and indigos to a lighter yet still rich variation for the living room’s grass-cloth walls. “It’s a hard color to describe, but it makes the walls sing,” she says.
Grass cloth is a theme replayed throughout the spaces. “Before, there wasn’t a single wallcovering. Nothing but paint,” says Winters. “I told them the house needed texture. They learned a lot about layering.”
In the dining room, she dipped down to a dark navy grass cloth to envelop the space with drama. Overhead, she created a counterpoint of sparkle with the ceiling’s gold-leaf grid. A crystal chandelier illuminates the homeowners’ Chinese export collection, displayed in an antique English cabinet. A pair of old wooden chairs came from a church in England.
In the master bedroom—which actually was one of the two rooms Winters was initially retained to design—the designer lightened up the look with a sandy-hued grass cloth on the walls. White bed linens and white window shades reinforce the clean look, featuring only a smidgeon of navy blue accents on the bed’s monogrammed pillows and the trim defining the shades.
“The Eckerts are happy, energetic people, and their home needed to feel the same,” says Winters. She rid the windows of heavy draperies and let in light with variously styled custom shades. In the family room, trunks serve as side tables for an easygoing look. She also replaced gray carpet with sisal rugs for additional textural interest.
“I’m big on rooms flowing together,” Winters says. “An easy, economical way to get that is with sisal rugs and runners. In this home, they serve as a response to the smoothness and formality of the new moldings.”
Michael, CEO of a global interactive display manufacturer, got plenty of perks in the design. “He’s the family chef, and he wanted a cook’s kitchen,” says Winters, who reconfigured the space with a more efficient work triangle and replaced the “big block” island with a more navigable one that allows the family to gather as Michael cooks. Throughout the Eckerts’ home, total accessibility for a trio of children is paramount. “Even our master bedroom includes a conversation area that is inviting to the kids, who always end up gathering here,” Julie says.
Both Julie and Michael got their own offices in the redesign. Michael, a passionate sailor, enjoys the eight antique pond yachts displayed on the newly paneled walls of his office. He balked at having three crystal chandeliers in the home, so Winters suggested adorning the center-hall foyer with a masculine carved-bronze French antique chandelier. “Michael said he wanted a ‘mandelier,’ ” laughs Julie, “and he got it.”
“Despite some fine French pieces, the house doesn’t feel too precious,” suggests Winters. “It feels like the Eckert family. And the Eckert family rocks.”
Interior design: Megan Winters, project manager: Kimberly Dahl, Megan Winters Atelier and Maison, 675 Forest Ave., Lake Forest, IL 60045; 847/295-1675, meganwinters.com.
Photography: Werner Straube