Principal Designer Kelly Guinaugh invites you to enjoy a virtual tour of her latest project: a 7.5-acre estate in suburban Chicago. Video and photos by Matt Warren Photography.

Balancing Stone Accents with Softness

Several years ago, when this Northwest suburban Chicago couple was contemplating a complete renovation and two big additions to their home, they had an epiphany. Why not bring home a taste of their favorite vacation spots? The challenge: how to make that work on a 7.5 -acre estate in the low-altitude Midwest? Our aim was to meld the dramatic interior stone accents and hand-hewn woods with soft and comfortable furnishings to honor our clients’ kick-your-shoes-off theme.

Incorporating space for multiple games tables was another must-have for these clients, who love when friends and family gather to play cards, Monopoly or chess. You can find all photos of this project here: MidwestTakeonMountainStyle

Embracing Gracious, Casual Living

Most of all, these clients wanted a very peaceful environment, almost a retreat, for themselves, their two junior high-age children and their extended family and friends. Because they are very generous people, they embrace an open-door policy. They wanted their home to be gracious, but casual enough that everyone feels like they can relax and enjoy each other’s company.

great room design

The ashlar, natural stone fireplace and accent columns are softened by the upholstered furnishings and rug.

Six Fireplaces, Six Unique Personalities

Because there are six fireplaces throughout the home, we wanted each one to have a unique look that would fit the purpose and overall feeling of their setting. For the great room fireplace, above, we chose ashlar stones, which means that each natural stone is cut into squared pieces. The resulting, clean-lined appearance is less rugged than uncut stones and helped us achieve the casual-refined look we imagined for this space.  To customize the fireplace further, the builder and I drove to Wisconsin to hand-select the stone slab for the raised hearth.  We also chose a reclaimed beam for the mantle. If you check the exterior of the home, first photo above, you will see that the stone fireplace surround and columns are the same material as the exterior of the house, creating a strong connection from the outside to the inside

Layering In Furnishings

To balance the heft of the stone fireplace and accent columns on the adjacent walls, we chose quietly sophisticated, comfortable furnishings, including the leather and fabric sofas from Kravet. Because this is a space where people gather, we wanted some energy in this family-friendly room as well. To generate that excitement – and provide flexible seating – we added a quartet of ottomans, also from Kravet, upholstered in their fun version of the iconic chevron pattern.  (Learn more about chevron in our blog: BoostingEnergywithChevron.) The ottomans can be rearranged as needed when my clients are entertaining large groups.  Anchoring the space, an understated rug from DavisandDavisRugs that gently pulls together the color palette of the room.

chess table and chairs

Located next to the fireplace in the great room, this alder wood chess table is one of five game tables throughout the home.

Let the Games Begin!

Apart from designing six, completely different fireplaces, these clients posed another challenge for us: they wanted multiple game tables scattered throughout the house. That is one of the most unique requests we have ever handled for a client! We really think it’s awesome that they  want to encourage face-to-face interactions with family and friends.


Located in a cozy corner next to the fireplace, the custom chess table pictured above has recessed holders for game pieces, drink holders and a drawer on either side. The quiet grain of the alder wood and the hammered clavos details (decorative nails) at the corners, echo the great room’s Western, yet tailored, vibe.  Cushiony chairs are a must for lengthy chess matches. We chose this handsome pair of leather upholstered chairs, with forged nickel nail heads, from LeathercraftFurniture.

Board Games Promote Good Health

Research shows that board games offer more than just entertainment and togetherness, they promote good health by improving memory, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. You can read more here: HealthBenefitsofBoardGames. Our clients keep the games in sight on the tables so that people will play more often, and they do. The challenge was to make each of those game tables look “at home” in their space and have a distinctive personality.

live edge bar top in lower level

A live-edge bar top and stone accents in the lower level reference the clients’ love for their vacation lodgings out West.

Not Your Typical Bar Top

We love to bring something different and exciting to a room, such as this live-edge bar top from WehrliFurniture in the lower-level family room. We hand-selected the wood for this unusual piece, which is supported by a custom designed iron base which infuses industrial feeling in the bar area.  Several trees were planed so we could find the perfect one for the bar.  For easy clean-ups in this frequently used area, we chose a porcelain tile floor with a faux-wood finish that is one of our favorites because of its authentic, warm look. For architectural depth and interest, we also specialty painted the walls and added distressed wood wainscoting.

white kitchen

Our dark stained, hewn wood floors were the perfect foundation for soft white perimeter cabinets in the open plan kitchen. All cabinets are from AbruzzoKitchenandBath.

How to Mix Dark and Light Cabinets

To establish the correct mix of light and dark elements in the kitchen above, we chose a soft white finish for the perimeter cabinets and a medium walnut for the two islands.  To pull together the duo-colored cabinets we chose complementary quartzite countertops in creams and browns. The flooring stain was custom mixed to be a shade lighter than the stained cabinets.  We love the trio of delicate pendant lights – they remind us of paper lanterns.

vaulted family room

Overhead – a dramatic ceiling with extensive wood detailing and beams. Below – inviting, fall-into cushiony furniture.

Making a Volume Space Feel Cozy

This vaulted ceiling, with its wood paneling and decorative beams make a dramatic statement in the family room. To balance those bold architectural details, we added lots of softer elements in our furnishings. We started with a large, custom wool rug from Davis and Davis Rugs in a quiet pattern and color palette.  Designing a sofa that would be comfortable for both husband and wife was a challenge, because he is about a foot taller. The solution: We provided extra back pillows that give her the extra support she needs and allows him the flexibility to remove a pillow if needed. For extra comfort, we selected a combination ottoman and cocktail table from BurtonJames  with upholstered edges for resting feet and a wood center for placing a drink or serving a snack.

The soft furnishings serve double duty – they help absorb sound as well.   In front of the windows we added another small table with chairs where family and friends can play a game. These game-loving clients can never have too many!

masculine library

Creating a clubby retreat for the man of the house.

Husband’s Hide-Away

Clubby and comfortable, the husband’s study is equally inviting for quiet hours of reading or intimate conversations with family and friends. Against a sophisticated backdrop of stained wood cabinets, stone fireplace and coffered ceiling, we layered in the masculine details our client visualized for his retreat. Among them, leather and striped chairs from TaylorKing with nail head detailing, a hair-on-hide rug and upholstered ottoman encircled by a geometric, nail head pattern. Though the home has an open floor plan in some areas, our clients also wanted personal spaces where they can relax and rejuvenate. I understand completely. We all need a room of our own, (no matter how small,) where we can just have some time to ourselves. Check out this excellent essay from Huffington Post on the ImportanceofPersonalSpace.

great room patio

Gathering outside with the elements – a waterwall and fire place.

Fire and Water

Human beings have always been drawn to fire and water, which are beautifully combined on this elegant patio. In this conversation grouping, everyone can experience the elements while enjoying some face-to-face time outside. The woven outdoor furniture with upholstered cushions add extra layers of texture and depth to the scene.

Want to know more? Please contact me at 847.705.9569.

Principal Designer Kelly Guinaugh hosts her first, behind-the-scenes video tour of a spectacular interior design project. All photos captured from video by Matt Warren Photography.

Why We Work as a Team

Come join my team and me in our first video as we walk you behind the scenes during “install day” at a spectacular project. You will learn about our collaborative team approach and enjoy a sneak-preview of the guest house on this spacious property. We also will show you the former silo, where we furnished a must-see, sky-high retreat for guests. IEG has completed five projects on this 230-acre property, which includes an 18-hole golf course, two lakes, beaches, boat launches and thousands of trees. As we manage the details of move-in day, we will explain why working as a team produces the best results for our clients.


bird's-eye view

Bird’s-eye view of guest cottage and former silo-turned-retreat.

Seeing the Big Picture

From this vantage point, you can see the newly-constructed, six-bedroom guest cottage, where we furnished the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms and great room. In the foreground is the former silo, which is now a retreat.  Our “big picture” goals were to create a resort-like get-away that would make guests feel relaxed, comfortable and pampered.  As we collaborated on the design, we were inspired by the gently rolling hills, wildflowers, gardens and lush, wooded acres that comprise this secluded estate.  It is easy to fall in love with the beauty that surrounds you here.

Taking a Team Approach

Leading up to install day, our senior designer Elizabeth Martini, worked with me and the rest of the team to interpret our client’s wants and needs, analyze how the facilities will be used by guests  and translate all of that into a design scheme.  This coordinated approach ensures that multiple designers and a project manager each contribute their unique perspective and talents to produce the highest level of creativity and function in the final plan. Space planning, furniture design and layouts, architectural details, color palettes and fabric selections happen at this stage, along with budget development. We develop two carefully edited plans so the client can weigh the options. Our lead designer meets with the client to present and discuss the proposal, listen to our clients’ thoughts and suggestions and incorporate changes at this point. Typically, our clients tell us that we have interpreted their vision and made it better.


organizing accessories

Lead designer Elizabeth Martini helps oversee install day.

Selecting Furnishings

With an overall plan in place, we begin the exciting process of choosing each specific furnishing, including sofas, chairs, rugs, tables, pillows and artwork. We place orders well in advance and follow their progress closely to ensure that our delivery dates will be met. Because we handle every detail of a project, our clients can focus on their day-to-day lives and enjoy the design process.

The week before installation day for this project, we loaded up bedding and accessories and delivered it all to the space. As you can see above, the kitchen counter is overflowing with pieces in a variety of textures, materials and finishes. Many of them have an organic feeling.  Interior designers are experts at setting the mood in a space, and we know that incorporating nature into interior design brings a sense of peace and serenity, which we wanted for this project.


reviewing delivery check list

Kelly and designer Ashley Mui review the delivery check list.

What Happens on Install Day?

The actual install day is an exciting time for any project. Everything we have done comes together and we get to see the results of all the collaborations that led to this point.  Our team personally oversees the delivery and placement of every item to ensure that furnishings and materials arrive in good condition and are properly placed.  Working in concert with the delivery people, Ashley carefully tracks every item on our check list, above, making sure that everything arrives as scheduled.  In this case, we are monitoring deliveries to the guest house.


inspecting furnishings

Project manager Sheila Biell inspects a bar stool.

Inspecting Every Piece

Our project manager, Sheila, inspects every piece from top to bottom and front to back, making sure it is in pristine condition. Often she has to inspect dozens of items, and each piece must meet our exacting standards.  We want everything to be perfect for our clients.


silo retreat

Expansive windows offer sweeping views of the 230-acre property.

Bringing the Client’s Vision to Life

Of course, seeing the finished project that we and our client had envisioned always gives our team a thrill! Above, the silo “retreat”  was one of our earlier assignments on this property.  An elevator whisks guests to the top of the structure, where they can have a massage after a day on the golf course or just relax in peace and quiet while enjoying the scenery. With expansive windows on every wall, the silo offers dramatic views of gently rolling terrain, a lovely outdoor terrace with a water feature running through it and thousands of trees. Or, you also can step outside on the balcony and drink in the sights al fresco. Research has shown the mental and physical benefits we get from being close to nature: Green is Good for You. 

We feel very grateful and privileged to work with this client. Doomis Builders and architectural firm Stan Leonard Designs deserve recognition , too, for their outstanding work at this facility.  Our coordinated team effort led to a space that our client and his guests will enjoy for years to come.