Ideas for Sensational Second Homes

arizona second home, patio, fireplace, sofas, cocktail table, palm trees

Luxurious Southwest living in Paradise Valley, AZ. Photo by Cole Horchler Photography

Second Home Experts

Looking for design ideas for a sensational second home? We are experts! From Arizona to Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin to Florida, my team and I have designed second homes for many of our existing Chicago-area clients, and they love the results. We know that designing a second home is a bit different from designing a primary residence. Yes, many people do some work from their second homes, but these homes-away-from-home are geared more toward letting your hair down and having fun. They are often multi-generational destinations for making memories with family and friends.

desert home, foyer, round pedestal table, chandlier, round rug, terra cotta floor, coffered ceiling, desert view, floor plants, arm chairs, mullioned windows

This foyer says “welcome to Paradise Valley!” Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Why Work with Your Local Designer?

Whether you are an existing or new client who has a primary home in our area, our meetings and selections can happen right here in Illinois. That makes it much easier for you and doesn’t eat up precious time at your vacation home. With for existing clients, we already have a comfortable working relationship. We know your style, your lifestyle and your personalities from previous projects, which makes the selection process for your second home much more efficient. When we need to be on-site, perhaps three times during a project, we set aside as many days as needed and plan our work so we can maximize each visit. Plus, we have a network of vendors and trades people lined up throughout the United States with whom we have worked before, including Paradise Valley, AZ, where we have completed three homes. So, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some of our ideas for creating a sensational second home.

outdoor pool, second home, Arizona, in-ground pool, brick pool deck, chaise lounges, patio umbrellas, mountain view

If you provide seating, they will come! Furniture by Summer Classics Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Elevate Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor spaces are even more important at a second home, whether you’re on the lake or  overlooking a desert golf course or your backyard pool and patio. Typically, a dining table and chairs plus conversation groupings with sun-blocking umbrellas top the wish lists of our clients. Kitchens and covered porches are popular, too. When these Paradise Valley, AZ clients gather family and friends outdoors, there’s a seat for the whole gang! Of course, lounge chairs and umbrellas were a must-have at pool side, and we incorporated seating groups and some tables in numerous nooks, alcoves and on terraces.  Durable, washable outdoor fabric is always our priority, and today’s outdoor fabrics are gorgeous! You won’t believe they are made for outside,  – they are so soft and stylish you could use them indoors.

desert home, pool deck, love seat, ottoman, arm cahir, side table, accessories, flowering bushes, brick hardscape

So cozy and inviting! Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

“Our guests rave about Kelly and Elizabeth’s selections for our second home in Paradise Valley, AZ. They all comment on how welcoming it looks.” –Julie Bruch

 Thank you, Julie!

covered porch, lake home, swivel wicker chairs, dining table and chairs, cocktail table, accessories, lake view, tile floor, wicker sofa

Swivel chairs are the best! They offer 360-degree options for conversation or enjoying that lovely view. Photo by David Bader

Bring Indoor Style Outdoors

 Covered porches and sunrooms like this one in Wisconsin are extensions of your home’s interior design, but more laid-back. The colors and overall style should blend together like a well-mixed summer cocktail! For this Wisconsin lake home, we chose wicker chairs from Summer Classics that swivel toward the lake view or inward for lively conversation. The dining table and cocktail table are multi-purpose – they can be used as a game/craft table or work space when they aren’t in service for food and beverages. Our clients love these spaces because they provide some protection from the elements and help stretch the outdoor season from early spring to late fall.

living room, sectional sofa, arm chairs, cocktail table, sofa table, ottoman, fireplace, wall-mounted TV, glass-front cabinets, accessories, pillows

A little bit Arizona desert, 100 percent refined. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Be Inspired by Your Surroundings

Whether your second home is in Arizona, Wisconsin, or on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive, we recommend channeling the environment outside your windows without going overboard. In this Paradise Valley, AZ, family room, the upholstered pieces by Kravet are refined contrast for the natural, sun-dried-wood look of the cocktail and sofa table. For desert authenticity, we accessorized locally sourced pieces such as the delicate blue pottery, woven baskets and ropes of beads. The pastel wall art reflects the understated colors in the room and outside.

lake home dining room, wood table, upholstered bench, six high-back upholstered chairs, black metal chandelier, wall cabinets, built-in cabinets and counter, medium wood floor, tile wall, accessories on wall shelves

Food, games or both are welcome at this multi-purpose table. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Think Game Table!

When this Dinec table isn’t in demand for meals, it can be called into service for traditional vacation home pursuits: board games, cards, puzzles and craft projects. The long bench increases seating by three adults or four children, in addition to the six chairs. Plus, it’s great to be close to snacks and beverages. That’s a win-win-win!

teak floor sculpture, hand-made sculpture, hammered metal side table, table lamp, floor vase, Arizona second home

Art, courtesy of nature and imagination. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Be Adventurous

Second homes sometimes bring out a sense of adventure in our clients! They can be more willing to embrace brighter colors, more pattern, unusual textures and perhaps a large-scale wood sculpture like the one above. Why not? This modern-tribal work of art was handcrafted of natural hardwood teak for one of our Paradise Valley clients in Arizona. Because of the natural variations in the wood, each piece is unique. Tree huggers welcome!

great room kitchen, white kitchen, beaned ceiling, wood floor, island stools, two islands, pendant lights, glass front cabinets, armchairs, stairway, ship lap, chandelier, counter stools, arm chairs, pillows, medium wood floor, beamed ceiling, glass-fronted cabinets, two islands

Second home owners embrace open floor plans. Photo by David Bader

Embrace Togetherness

When three generations of family gather at this Wisconsin lake home, they enjoy a lot of togetherness in the wide-open spaces of their great room and its drop-dead gorgeous views of the water. Open floor plans may be on the wane for primary homes, but second home owners are embracing them. After all, for most people a second home is a place to hang out with friends and family. My client especially enjoys multi-tasking in the kitchen. She can prepare meals, chat with anyone seated at the island, soak in the action from the great room and enjoy the view. That’s a triple play!

Between the counter stools from Charles Stewart  and the dining table chairs at the end of the island (not visible), nine people can break bread together. The white cabinetry builds on the lake home vibe and is nicely framed, top and bottom, by the darker wood floor and beamed ceiling.

chandelier with black metal cage surrounding cluster of warm brass lights

First-rate lighting for a second home. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Have Fun With Lighting

Chandeliers, lamps and wall sconces – all types of lighting, in fact – should take on the personality of their second home locations. In this Arizona home, we took our lighting cues from the architectural elements as well as our furnishings choices. We mixed textures with sleek ceramic table lamps and this striking chandelier from Hinkley, with its black metal cage enclosing a cluster of warm brass lights.

covered patio, dining table with eight chairs, basket-like chandelier, candles on table, ceiling fans

A cross between a basket and a lantern, this pendant is a great fit for this covered patio in Arizona. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos


Second home, Arizona, family room, two sofas, cocktail table, arm chair, pillows, wall art, floor lamp, wood sculpture, window panels, rug

It would be a shame to cover those windows. Photo by Cole Horchler Photos

Celebrate Your Views

When you’ve got it, flaunt it, I always say! That’s especially true for the views in second homes, which tend to be in locations where the scenery is, well, extra scenic. For this Paradise Valley, AZ home we took care to minimize the window treatments and maximize the open window space. I would almost feel like I was sitting outside in this space!

woven tray, small pottery, wooden beads, lake home Wisconsin

We couldn’t resist that drippy, navy paint on pottery or the wooden beads. So lake-house casual. Photo by IEG

Remember to Accessorize

My talented senior designer, Elizabeth Martini, LOVES to accessorize! She has so much fun  gathering pretty and unusual pieces to combine in a striking arrangement. Naturally, she is always looking items that reflect the overall tone and style of our clients. Enjoy some more of her finds in the photos below.


second home, arizona, blue tray, small blue vases, white ceramic bird, wood table

We were thinking backyard pool and big skies over Arizona when we chose these blue accessories for a client’s Paradise Valley home. Photo by Cole Horchler


lake home, wisconsin, covered porch, wood table, potted succulents, wicker arm cahir, wicker sofa, wicker side table, grey cushions, lantern, pillow, throw

A personal favorite – succulents, particularly when planted in a piece of sun-dried wood. Photo by David Bader

“We are so thankful to have found Kelly, Elizabeth, Ashley and the entire IEG team for our family dream home – a lake getaway built for three generations in Wisconsin. Their style, sense of taste, technical expertise and lovely personalities made us feel like we had won the designer lottery! –Maria Allison

 Thank you from all of us for your kind words, Maria!

Ready to Talk About a Second Home?


Contact us at 847-705-9569.