I sat down with my friend Erica, whose home & décor I have always admired. Erica is is one of those people who isn’t afraid to zig when everyone else zags, and her home reflects her wonderful taste and individuality. Read below to see her home design (images are sprinkled throughout) and channel her creativity.
Tell us about your home. When was it built, and are there any stories behind it?
The house is a classic colonial style, designed in 1925 by the firm of Huszagh and Hill for Ralph Gately. They also built the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago. We think it has good vibes because only 5 families have ever lived here. We rented the house for two years before purchasing it – essentially, we were able to shop it before we bought it. It’s always struck me as crazy that when you buy a home, you’re supposed to get 2-3 walkthroughs and then make the biggest investment of your life. In contrast, by renting before we bought, we knew everything that was wrong with it (and what we loved about it) before we made the big investment.
Did you start with a plan for the house overall, or work room by room?
I worked room by room. Once I began one room it would naturally cause me to think through the adjacent one, and suddenly I was reworking that one as well to complete the story. They are all linked, but I prefer having my head in one room at a time – and taking my time.
The interiors came together within two years, from two different designers that I liked. I used multiple designers because I wanted for my home to be reflective of my style- not a designer’s, so I think that helped. The process of designing each room was interesting. Friends and designers always said “pull a room that you like online or in a magazine and use that as your inspiration,” but there was never really a room that I liked. If I’m my own person and I look at someone else’s room in an inspiration photo, how could that room I’m looking at become my room? I struggle with that entire concept.
What design principles helped guide you, if any?
(this is a summary of what she said, she didn’t give me a bulleted list fyi because she is not a bot)
- Pops of color/fun: Chicago is gray for 6-7 months per year. Because of this, I knew I needed bright color and lots of graphics in my house. I guess I was hoping to get vitamin D via osmosis from the wall coverings, fabrics, and chairs. Orange is prominent in the kitchen and living room, and the family room contains a lot of turquoise and bright yellow. And of course there are the crazy birds in the dining room…
- Uniqueness: Beyond bright, happy color & pattern, I cared most about uniqueness. It’s a little sad to I enter someone’s house and recognize all of the brands, so I worked hard to create a mix that hopefully isn’t obvious. I want to feel individual, which I recognize is getting harder and harder with so much mass marketing out there. I brought in some art from my parent’s house to make my home feel like “me.”
- Blue as a neutral: The challenge with all of the bright colors was tying them all together! Blue became our neutral. Then we got bonus points for any extra color we could use.
- A calm bedroom. The bedroom is my sanctuary — so that is a room we kept calm and quiet.
I’m fascinated by the fact that you fill your home with rich color, but only wear monochromatic and simple colors yourself. How do you explain the dichotomy?
I’m not a clothes shopper, I’m much more into home! I don’t like to think about what I put on. I pretty much purchase only comfortable clothing that can mix & match with what I already have (eg adult Garanimals) so that I can rest assured that everything pretty much goes together with very little thought! I like to stay in my uniform, I guess that is Boyfriend Rag & bone jeans 99% of the time. Could be an internal vs external thing… my home is something that I’m looking at – and I’m not. I like my surroundings to be visually interesting, stimulating, even imaginative.
Where do you spend the majority of your time?
I have three middle school aged kids and we primarily hang out in the kitchen/family room area. When I’m by myself, I spend a fair amount of time in the living room on the daybed. If I have 20 minutes free, I veg out there.
Favorite piece(s) and why?
I love anything with history, but I tend to add my own twist. For example, my parents downsized into a modern home. I took some of their artwork that had hung throughout my childhood, but I had it all reframed. My maiden name was Campbell so I even have the soup can up. I was so happy with this rework in my own home!
Also, several of my favorite pieces came to us from trips / travel. Our buffet is from a street fair in NYC. The bed is from our honeymoon in Bali. Our dining room set is vintage. Most of our other art is from local Chicago artists.
Tell us more about your artwork.
Most of it is from Chicago artists: Maggie Meiners and Gian Garofalo for example. I also framed and hung some architectural drawings my kids did in school, some pieces we picked up when we lived in New York, a piece from a trip to France, and the art from my parents’ house.
I found that some designers wanted to bring in their stuff instead, but I like my stuff, so I shy away from that and stick with what I love.
You seem to be an effortless entertainer. Like with your wardrobe, is the key keeping it simple?
Honestly, my favorite type of entertaining is a “popover.” My friends know that if my car is in the driveway, they can pop over anytime. It’s so easy to pop open a bottle of wine, serve a beer, and pour some nuts into a cool bowl. I love popovers because they take the pressure off of scheduling, and there is zero pressure to have apps. So, to me, a popover is the best type of entertaining.
In general, I feel that whenever entertaining becomes a formal invitation, I start to worry about it. If it’s last minute, I can be simple. So even when I entertain larger groups, I tend to send the invite a week out (or less) and just enjoy whoever can make it.
And what is your typical formula for those types of groups?
- Always have drinks. You can be minimal on the food. I like to have a signature drink, but it has to be super easy. Signature drink examples: Stegler grapefruit beer with tequila & soda, Champagne with pomegranate seeds, Grapefruit-flavored San Pellegrino with Tequila and a salted glass. I find that people tend to prefer the signature drink.
- Food choices depends who you’re having. A good old cheese plate is easy and looks pretty. I usually go California cheese out of loyalty for our old town San Francisco: eg Humbolt Fog, Cowgirl Creamery Mount Tam, Point Reyes Blue Cheese. If I’m hosting women, I usually just turnkey buy 2-3 salads and a dessert, and I serve it all buffet-style in white platters/bowls. If winter, I like to get some carbs in there. I do carry-out on everything. Entertaining is much easier when you don’t cook!
- Ambience: I’m super simple – I just do a lot of candles and fresh flowers. I always place flowers in the bathroom. I love the white plates from Sur la table, and I usually keep napkins with a fun design on-hand so I can just pull them out.
Interested in meeting more people / homes that are unique and not afraid to show it? Click here.
Love a home with color and personality? Check out Alice Larkin’s work/homes