Written by Rebecca Christian
Photography by Werner Straube
Produced by Hilary Rose & Jo Ann McVicker
London-based designer Samantha Todhunter has spent her working life in design, first as an editor and art director on top shelter and fashion magazines. She set up her own design firm in 2005. Known for an easy mix of pared-back modern with vintage finds and classical underpinnings, Samantha’s designs are polished, with a glamorous edge.
Here, Samantha opens up about her own style and what pieces inspired her the most while designing a fabulous pied-à-terre in Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton Showcase.
TH: How did your own personal style impact your vision for this apartment?
ST: I purposely went for a more compact apartment. I wanted to make a little jewel box, really. I see a lot of beige and low-key colors, and that’s a standard easygoing look. But I spent years in Australia and color always makes me smile, though I don’t want to be too over-the-top. I try to balance traditional and classic, and then infuse it with little crazy pops of acid yellow, edamame green, blues, and pinks. I’m not a purist, a total modernist, but I love to mix it up. Super old-fashion vintage quirky is great, and that next to something very sleek—I like that mix.
TH: That mix really comes out in the furniture. How were you able to tie everything together?
ST: I make a lot of furniture myself so there are a few bespoke pieces around the apartment, like the dining table. It’s basically a very classic table, similar to one from the 1940s I saw in France years ago. Since then I’ve been making them as desks, as dining tables, as console tables. It’s just a classic trestle table and every inch is upholstered. The chairs sort of match—nailhead trim finishes it off, makes it jump at you, which I think is good. You could do it in anything: velvet, silk, it looks great in everything. The bronze benches in the living room are also my design. They’re good to close the circle in the seating area so you’re not overwhelmed with furniture and chairs. A lot of upholstered pieces can feel like too much, so they add extra seating while still feeling airy.
TH: What aspects of each room do you feel make it unique?
ST: In the dining room, the eye is drawn to the chandelier, called ‘Splashing Water.’ It was designed by the legendary Tony Duquette. I’m delirious about his work, so it was fabulous to have that. He also did the chandelier in the entry hall, which is called ‘Sunburst.’
There is so much in the living room. The chairs from Chicago’s Jayson Home are possibly my favorite pieces in the whole apartment. Just the curl of the arm, and I’ve put a pop of edamame green silk on them, which modernizes them a bit. The rug from the Rug Company draws attention, a large silk and wool beautiful butterfly. The console is custom, I had it made to fit the space. It’s just a very generic glossy white parson’s table. I think it’s the best style: It’s modern, it’s chunky, it’s not so imposing, it disappears. Then we have the fabulous Jimi Hendrix, by Francine Turk. He, I think, gives the space the best edge because he’s so cool. And all the colors, a bit of lavender, gold, white, gray—everything picks up the colors in the room. The photograph above the parson’s table is by Herbert Ypma—he’s a fantastic photographer. The graphic black and white photograph just ties it all up rather nicely, and the art can sing a bit. As for the draperies, I like to keep it not too fussy. I thought the white linen throughout ties the living and dining rooms together.
The study was meant to be cozy, dark retreat. The millwork is glossy, a beautiful Benjamin Moore color called “Oxford Grey.” Then we have a mohair velvet daybed that fits in the alcove, with a bit of a zebra on the floor. It was meant to be a little bit masculine, cozy, a nice contrast to the pop of color going on everywhere else.
The bedroom is in a very soft color called ‘Hollywood.’ I think the bedroom is very calm, which it should be. But it’s got some graphic elements: big white mirrors by the bed and beautiful white glass lights by Circa. I love mixing textures: a silk, velvet, and linen mix is good. Soft grays with dirty pink and white—it’s as simple as that, really. I’ve used Chinese trunks as bedside tables. This is a Rug Company rug as well, designed by Vivian Westwood, called ‘Magnolia.’ The curtains are so luxurious. I love a little bit of luxury, and taking very luxurious fabrics but treating them in a lean and modern way is very nice.
Interior designer: Samantha Todhunter, 011 44 208 746 6517, samanthatodhunter.com.
Kitchen designer: Mick De Giulio, De Giulio Kitchen Design, 1121 Central Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091; 847/256-8833, degiulio.org.
Flowers: H. Bloom, 312/846-1194, hbloom.com.