Cozy Up Your Traditional Home

If there’s one thing that Glencoe resident Missie Bender has learned in her nearly two decades designing interiors, it’s the importance of listening.

Listening to her gut instinct, to her clients and even to the house itself, which has a message from the original designer encoded in its geometry and architectural details.

“I didn’t tell this house what I wanted. It told me what it wanted,” Bender says about designing her vintage Tudor, which includes five bedrooms and an addition. “You need to be respectful of the house and the architecture. One of my big pet peeves is when people buy a traditional home and put in an ultra-modern kitchen.”

Here are some tips from Bender on how she created a comfortable, contemporary feeling in a traditional home.

Paint: “A lot of the rooms were much darker when we first bought the place. I wanted it to be brighter and more family friendly,” Bender explains, pointing to the formerly dark wood paneling in the dining room, which she brightened with a coat of neutral paint. Similarly, for the kitchen addition, Bender selected traditional white-painted cabinetry, which she accentuated with wood counter tops.


Fabric: To create interest in the dining room, Bender paired her antique dining table with more contemporary dining chairs, which she covered in a transitional fabric. “The fabric is traditional, but the larger scale also gives it a contemporary feel,” Bender explains.


Palette: Bender created a neutral palette punctuated with accent colors she took from a rug in the living room. “The hue or saturation of color remains consistent throughout the entire house,” Bender explains. “Carrying the same hue throughout a home creates continuity without actually repeating the same color throughout.”


Vary heights: To create interest in a neutral palette, Bender varies the height of furnishings, so that it pulls your eye throughout the space. “Having everything on the same plane would be truly boring,” Bender says.


Respect the home: To complement the original Tudor architecture, Bender selected “weighty, grounded” furniture pieces. “The furnishings required a certain depth, so none of the pieces in this house are light, airy or flimsy,” Bender says.


Mix it up: To keep things interesting, Bender has incorporated the same mix of vintage and contemporary pieces from around the globe that she stocks in her Glencoe boutique Vignette Home. “I love collecting things, and I love reinventing things—taking objects and making them into lamps, planters, bookends—all sorts of things,” Bender says.


Personalize: “Include pieces from your past so that your home doesn’t look like a showroom,” Bender says, pointing to her collection of vintage Anri cork bottle stoppers from Italy, which she groups together in a glass-front kitchen cabinet. “Your house should reflect you.”



Missie Bender