The couple's home was built in 1926 by the owner of Chicago's Merchantile Exchange as a stately architectural statement, but had fallen into disrepair. Julia painted the original red brick white and added gray shutters to refresh the façade. She also added a pergola and relocated the front door to up the curb appeal.
Julia's collection of tall candlesticks, many of which she repurposed from other objects such as planters and even a Chinese fireworks launcher, loom over the mid-century mirrored Italian coffee table as organically as a forest to create a one-of-a-kind focal point in the living room's conversation area. At the left, a metal gate with a distinctly Moorish feel leads to the dining room. To the right, the living room opens onto the paneled library. The living room sofa and armchairs are circa-1850 Swedish. "My taste leans to European country with a touch of funk," Julia explains.
Julia layered the living room's original limestone mantel with mid-century Verona glass lamps-"very funky and diametrically opposed to the style of the mantel, for fun"-and late-19th-century French art.
After buying the house, Julia promptly repurposed its rooms, turning the original sunroom with its funky Moroccan-style gate and fountain into her family's dining room, and the original porch into a sunroom. The "new" sunroom is invested with all the elements that make Julia's personal style buzz with energy-a mix of a Romanian wedding trunk repurposed as a coffee table, a 1960s-vintage outdoor sofa commandeered for use indoors, and an old olive jar that stands by the door as sculpture.
A fireplace warms one end of the sunroom and, during mild weather, Julia's favorite Buddha. A primitive French chandelier declares Julia's preference for European country style, while the meditating Buddha adds her requisite dose of funk.
"The library is a total departure for the house," says Julia. But it also is the fundamental reason she bought the house. Its original features that swayed her to purchase include the interesting metalwork on the window, the graceful chandelier, and the handsome mantel. Her headless Buddha on the coffee table and layered paintings at the mantel prevent the paneled room from feeling stodgy.
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Julia Buckingham revitalized a proverbial "ugly duckling" in her latest move
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Homeowner Julia Buckingham, a Chicago interior designer, has an eye for unwanted houses. She revitalized a proverbial "ugly duckling" in her latest—but probably not last—move. (She and her husband, John, have flipped seven houses since their marriage 21 years ago.)
Interior design: Julia Buckingham, Buckingham Interiors + Design, LLC, 111 Robsart Rd., Kenilworth, IL 60043; 312/933-8359.
Photography: Edmund Barr
Produced by Hilary Rose