See How One Designer Filled a Home With Color and Pattern—Without It Becoming Overwhelming
Incorporating color—especially bold, eye-grabbing color—into any home is no easy feat; there’s a (very) fine line between a clownish explosion of tones and a home that makes a dramatic statement. When it came to crafting the latter for a growing family of five in their Winnetka, Illinois, suburban escape, SuzAnn Kletzien—Principal at Chicago-based SuzAnn Kletzien Design—had her work cut out for her.
During a three-year gut renovation, Kletzien replaced the 6-bedroom, 5.5-bath home’s muted wood tones and generic light walls with striking, vibrant entertaining spaces tempered by quieter, soothing private family rooms.
“It’s a delicate balance to not confuse and exhaust the eye with pattern everywhere, so keeping one main pattern in each room and balancing the rest out with subtle or solid patterns makes it work,” Kletzien says of the vivid colors and patterns used throughout the home.
For anyone looking to use vivid hues in his or her own home, Kletzien has this to say: “Consider the use of the space as we did here. We considered the spaces where the family spends most of their time and we used subtle or bold patterns in small amounts that weren't at eye level. The other areas that you pass through quickly feature the bold patterns that stimulate you as you move through.”
From the moment you step inside the home, you’re hit with a burst of color. The foyer features tall wainscoting with geometric wallpaper at the top, a deep blue ceiling, and playful details, such as the bow-adorned sconces, balanced by more masculine aspects, such as the buffalo check wallpaper.
“I wanted the ceiling to complement the space, but not serve as the focus, so the dark blue made it less prominent,” Kletzien says. (Pro tip: Dark colors help ceilings expand. “Since we struggled with shorter ceilings, this was a nice trick!” Kletzien says.)
The blue ceiling mimics the tones in the buffalo check wallpaper, while the tall wainscoting is durable enough to withstand the heavily trafficked space. (The white is easily cleaned, or when worst comes to worst, repainted, whereas a patterned wall covering would be more difficult to clean and replace.)
The orange rug helps bring out the space’s warm tones, complementing the cooler blues and furthering the room’s striking (but playful) feel.
The Living Room
The foyer connects to a formal living space, which the homeowners use for entertaining. Both rooms are rich with blue tones.
“The blues played off each other,” Kletzien says of the connection. “The wavy lines of the wall covering in the living room relaxed the geometric lines of the entry.”
The focal point of the living room is artwork commissioned from Philadelphia-based artist Lauren Walcott, which gives the room a serene feel, Kletzien says. The artwork “spoke to the homeowners” and helped define the entertaining space, which echoes the shades of blue and gold in the piece.
The simple painting also helps balance the vivid wallpaper: “Using an eye-catching focal piece of art that displays serenity and calm really puts the wallpaper at ease,” Kletzien says. “Additionally, incorporating solid fabrics on the sofa, chairs, rug, and pillows balances out the movement of the wallpaper, allowing the eye to find a place to rest. Balance is key when it comes to blending wallpaper with movement.”
The Living Room Before
Before, the living room had muted colors and simple furnishings that, though formal, made the room feel nondescript and sleepy. The addition of deep colors, pops of gold, and bright whites (plus new dark oak hardwood flooring, used throughout the house) helped bring it to life, also infusing gatherings in the space with energy.
Compared to the living room and foyer, the kitchen is much calmer—though with the same impactful blue focal point. (“The client just likes blue!” Kletzien says of the recurring color.) Other than the large central island, the kitchen consists of various shades of white, which Kletzien unified by varying textures and finishes.
“These elements create balance and give depth to this all white space,” she says. The cabinetry has a satin finish, while the backsplash is glossy with a touch of texture. The natural veining in the countertops has enough contrast to stand out while still flowing with the rest of the space.
The light fixtures are from Remains.
The Kitchen Banquette
The Family Room
The family room feels much more like the kitchen than the more entertaining-focused living room and foyer, with soft textures and more neutral tones (though there are still plenty of touches of blue). The faux-exposed beams overhead, painted a crisp white, help the space feel cozy without feeling closed-in.
“The family spends most of their time in this space, so it was important to create comfort with all the textures and colors and strike the ideal balance of warmth and interest,” Kletzien says.
The sectional sofa is by CR Laine.
The playroom, for the family’s three children, is tucked under the eaves at the top of the house, in what used to be the home’s attic space.
The Master Bedroom
In the master bedroom, Kletzien makes excellent use of the fifth wall: the ceiling. “The wall covering is an interesting muddled pattern and draws attention to the fifth wall,” she says. “It allows the other four walls to position the space as an intimate escape, since your eye level is drawn to the rich wall color.”
Neutral furnishings help balance the surrounding deep colors, while flashes of gold help unite the room with the rest of the home and flowing white curtains keep it from feeling heavy and dark. The absence of pattern everywhere but the ceiling and the rug help tie it all together.
“The unique surprise on the ceiling keeps the space from being bland,” Kletzien says.
The Powder Room
The home’s powder room is compact, but Kletzien stuffed it full with a dynamic wall covering, tempered by white, silver, and gold finishes—and tall white wainscoting.
“Wainscoting helps immensely,” she says of keeping the wall covering from overwhelming the small space. “It keeps the space clean and fresh feeling while letting the beautiful wall covering be the masterpiece that it is.”