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Tinsel & Tartan: A Charming Chicago Home at Christmas

A suburban Chicago home celebrates the charm of classic design and the spirit of Christmas 

Written by Krissa Rossbund
  • Werner Sträube

    Very little about Christmas is black and white. Pine, fir, and spruce needles usher green indoors to cascade and swag from banisters and mantels. Red velvet bows soften wreaths with tactile luxury. Metallics shine and sequins glitter on surfaces as diverse as brass candlesticks and festive party frocks. Green and red, silver and gold deliver holiday magic.

    Tim and Shanna Derry’s home, however, gives family and friends a Christmas surprise—a delightful black-and-white -palette. The arresting plaid in the living room and on fabrics throughout the house recalls the classic tartan taffeta garments that dress many a holiday gathering. 

    “So many people hear the word plaid and automatically think old and dowdy,” says Nashville-based interior designer Lori Paranjape. Her work struck the Derrys while they were perusing Instagram for design talent to tackle their suburban Chicago home. “We wanted to bring plaid back to life in a way that’s modern and fresh. There’s no reason to eliminate something so classic when all it needs is revival. In this house, it wasn’t only about selecting the pattern, but also about the way we used it.” 

  • Werner Straube

    Shanna and Tim embraced the design element that unapologetically veers toward traditional style. Their visual goal from the get-go was a new house that makes a striking statement with its interiors as it naturally blends with—and r-espects—its charming early 1900s neighborhood dotted with varying -architectural styles. 

    “We didn’t want to drop something onto the street that beamed with new-build qualities,” Shanna says. “It was important to create a house that’s traditional but with modern amenities. It needed to be a house that this established community was proud to have among all of the historic properties.”

    Come Christmastime, evergreen swags and wreaths clad in red ribbons dress the home’s Colonial Revival exterior. Inside, the striking black-and-white palette that reigns year-round plays to the holiday almost as if the design, with its pops of plaid, was created for the season.

  • Werner Straube

    The motif fearlessly debuts in the living room, where Shanna had one word to describe her design wish: jaw-dropping. The Derrys, who entertain frequently, wanted to push the design envelope here, shaping a space that’s both formal and fashionable. Wrapped in plaid, the room sends holiday greetings with emerald and crimson on toss pillows, pops of cheery fuchsia, and a festive array of fresh greenery. 

    Like the living area, the adjacent dining room features classic bones. Its black-and-white palette, though, is all about -solids not pattern. Black grass cloth gives textural depth to walls that are contrasted by white millwork and crisp white linen on chair seats and drapery panels. A jolt of color comes from a Christmas tree bejeweled with pink ornaments that amplify the warm blush tones of the ceiling. 

  • Werner Straube

    A second tree, similarly embellished with electric pink and yellow balls and a buffalo plaid skirt, lends seasonal cheer to the family room. The motif repeats on stockings hung with care from the fireplace mantel. Holiday adornments and color-ful modern art find the perfect neutral canvas in a room that blends painted white surfaces with a gray velvet sectional, a tufted ottoman, and a pair of spool chairs. All are upholstered in performance fabrics that stand up to the Derrys’ two young children, Sydney and Grant. 

    “The chairs are classic, just like Tim and Shanna’s vision for the whole house,” Paranjape says of the chenille-covered chairs. “I’m not the type of designer who has to reinvent the wheel. Spool chairs are tried-and-true. They work.” 

  • Werner Straube

    Connecting to the family room, the breakfast nook features another classic: a tufted banquette. The seats cleverly tip up to reveal storage for some of Shanna’s Christmas accoutrements. 

  • Werner Straube

    Sweet treats are just a step away in the elegant white kitchen.

  • Werner Straube

    Plaid reappears in the master bedroom, albeit with great subtlety. The airy pattern covers the frame and headboard of the bed, which sits atop a rug with tonal stripes defined by two heights of pile. 

  • Werner Straube

    Before dreams of sugar plums, though, Shanna spends much of her day in a seating area that’s part of the expansive master bedroom. Her remote employee status allows her to work at home regularly, and when she does, this is where she prefers to sit with her laptop and coffee.

    “They intentionally opted out of a home office in this house,” Paranjape says. “When homeowners request a home office, it’s typically so they can have a quiet place to take a phone call. This room achieves that because it can easily be closed off.” 

    A simple wreath, pink flowers, and wrapped gifts give a small holiday lift to the room without disrupting its soothing, peaceful vibe.

  • Werner Straube

    The entire house—their beloved new home—has changed Shanna and Tim’s perspective on day-to-day life and how they celebrate Christmas.

    “Neither of us is from Chicago, so visiting our families means traveling out of town,” Shanna says. “We’ve made the decision that we no longer want to do that at Christmastime. We love this house and want our children to wake up here on Christmas morning. And, of course, we welcome our families, too.”