When a home she had long admired went on the market, Designer Suzanne Kipp lost no time in making it hers
Georgian Style Home
Suzanne and Dan Kipp had no plans to move. There was no real reason to. The couple was perfectly content in their Winnetka, Illinois, home. It had provided many memories for the two of them and their three children since they moved to the village just north of Chicago in 1995.
The Kipps weren’t looking at real estate listings or touring open houses. But as they walked their dog and drove through one particular neighborhood, a classic example of Georgian architecture situated on an arresting corner lot always cast a spell on them.
Photography: Werner Straube
Produced by Mara Boo with Hilary Rose
Architects: Elissa Morgante and Fred Wilson Morgante-Wilson Architects, 2834 Central St., Evanston, IL 60201; 847/332-1001, morgantewilson.com .
Interior design: Suzanne Kipp, Suzanne Kipp Interiors, 800 Humboldt Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093; 847/254-2048, suzannekipp.com .
Builder: Rob Wickenkamp, Elmshire Builders, 3510 Chapel Hill Road, Johnsburg, IL 60051; 847/748-2048, elmshire.com .
“Design is my passion,” explains Suzanne. “It’s what I studied in school and what I have practiced throughout my career for the past 27 years. This house spoke to me every time I passed it. It was inviting me to come in and take a look. When I saw that it was for sale and that an open house was scheduled, I knew that Dan and I were destined to visit it."
Before: The generously sized foyer had good bones, but needed help.
To someone without a design sixth sense, the house and its dated aesthetics (think millwork painted bright turquoise!) would have offered only a pleasant way to while away a Sunday afternoon. Built in 1910, it had been home to four owners, all with their own visions and revisions. But Suzanne, who had ventured through the renovation process many times professionally, recognized the beauty that lay within. She and Dan agreed to devote their time and energy to returning the house to its glory.
After: To add substance to the generously sized foyer, Suzanne Kipp added a round center table and a secretary.
Living Room Before
The spacious living room begged for multiple conversation areas instead of one central arrangement. To tie the groupings together, Suzanne selected furniture that offers easy segues.
Before: Despite plenty of room to work with, the living room space was poorly utilized.
Living Room After
In front of the fireplace—painted black to draw attention—a settee faces a versatile backless bench, allowing an unobstructed view to the grand piano and a banquette-style sofa. At the opposite end of the room, a pair of slipper chairs repeats the symmetry of the two front windows dressed with champagne-colored silk drapery panels. An antique console table rests between the windows.
After: Seating arrangments flow throughout the living room. Above an armless sofa from Hickory Chair, the Richmond Afternoon oil by artist David Gordon adds a landscape of cypress trees. Suzanne found the pair of metal coffee tables at One Kings Lane.
Dining Room Before
The square proportions of the dining room suited the Kipps’ existing antique round table, but Suzanne also wanted to soften the room’s stately architecture, which includes a pair of French doors leading to the sun porch.
Before: Patterned wallpaper and door panel curtains on the French doors weighed down the room.
Dining Room After
Suzanne removed the patterned wallpaper, pulled pale blue from the rug and applied it to the ceiling, added extra seating with a settee covered in linen, and reupholstered the dining chairs in a steel-blue velvet. A final fillip is a traditional crystal chandelier descending from the ceiling in front of a gold-framed mirror.
After: Soft sunlight filters in through the French doors. A graceful crystal chandelier adds dazzle to an Edward Ferrell+Lewis Mittman settee and an antique dining ensemble. Dining chairs have been reupholstered in fabric from Manuel Canovas.
The Kipps’ new purchase had its limitations. Zoning laws prevented adding square footage to the brick house. But given its spacious rooms, which merely needed a visual facelift, the couple was glad to keep structural alterations to a minimum and to retain the home’s architectural integrity. They called on Elissa Morgante and Fred Wilson of Morgante-Wilson Architects, with whom they had worked on a previous home. The pair drew plans to bump out the kitchen slightly, which created space for a mudroom, half bathroom, and den. Transformed from a 1970s update that included columns and laminate cabinets, the kitchen now reflects the family’s contemporary lifestyle and is the heart of the home.
Before: The kitchen was stuck in the '70s.
“The layout and the original moldings of the house were perfect,” Wilson says. “You wouldn’t have wanted to change them. Within the kitchen, we enhanced efficiency by creating a butler’s pantry and the other utilitarian spaces.”
Enhanced by a pair of elegant crystal chandeliers, the all-white kitchen exudes glamour. The color scheme is evidence of Suzanne’s commitment to making a neutral palette flow throughout the home’s formal and grand public spaces.
After: Updated architecture, a large working island, and bookcases installed in the breakfast nook were all parts of the renovation.
While the palette of the Kipp home consistently follows a neutral path, it’s not all in pale colors. Dan’s office and library, formerly the sunroom, was stripped down to the studs and rebuilt with new windows, doors, and millwork.
Before: The sunroom offered little interest.
With so much natural light flooding the room, Suzanne was confident that it could handle a dark hue. So she painted the room’s perimeters a handsome, masculine black that is balanced by ivory-colored wall-to-wall carpet. The room is appointed with dark furniture, too. An oval mahogany desk sets the tone for brown leather club chairs. Punctuating the space is a large-scale ottoman covered with houndstooth hair-on-hide in chocolate brown and white.
After: Two substantial pieces of furniture—a desk featuring a feathery grain from Jonathan Charles Fine Furniture and a Hancock & Moore ottoman covered in a houndstooth hair-on-hide—command attention in the room painted in a shade of black from Farrow & Ball. With leather armchairs from Pottery Barn and a three-tier occasional table from Baker, the study is simply handsome.
“When I was young and had my first house, I wanted to do everything,” explains Suzanne. “I didn’t think about the flow of the house, so there wasn’t one set scheme. I did navy in the dining room, and green and red in other places.
“The house we were coming from was also filled with color. My kitchen was French country in style with painted floors and pine cabinetry. I was ready for change, and since we were making this unexpected move, I thought we should start with a clean slate.”
A retreat used primarily by Suzanne and Dan, the porch is reached through French doors in the dining room, making it an ideal spot for pre-dinner drinks with friends.
Master Bedroom Before
On the second floor, Suzanne designed the master bedroom and bath as a peaceful retreat where she could relax at the end of the day, both mentally and visually. A four-poster in dark mahogany anchors the pale gray walls warmed by a patterned, tone-on-tone carpet and sheer drapery panels.
Before: The mantel and marble fireplace surround didn't blend with the room.
Master Bedroom After
The goal of any residential design includes creating a pleasant backdrop for daily family life and special gatherings. But to Suzanne and Dan, it was important that this project preserve a snapshot of architectural history, too.
“This renovation was about so much more than providing a beautiful and functional environment for our family,” says Suzanne. “We take great pride in reviving something that already existed. When teardowns happen in old neighborhoods, art and craftsmanship are lost. Instead of getting rid of this home and all of its classic elements, we brought it back to life.”
After: A comfortable flax-colored chair and ottoman rest in front of the chic, streamlined fireplace.
Master Bedroom After
After: Soothing neutrals dominate in the master bedroom. The stately bed from Hickory Chair wears a Pratesi coverlet and a skirt made in fabric from Kravet.
After: A mirrored panel installation sparks allure in the master bath. “We designed the bathroom to be glamorous and to speak to the architecture of the house,” says architect Fred Wilson. Tile and marble flooring are from Waterworks; an antique chair rests by the tub.
Master Bathroom Vanity
After: The serene white bathroom provides a peaceful retreat. A vanity stool from Resoration Hardware cozies up to a custom vanity.
Homeowner and designer Suzanne Kipp brought her home back to life.