Mid-Century Modern Home Renovation

Designer Tom Ferguson combines arts-and-crafts style with mid-century modern architecture in this Winnetka home.

You just might hear music when you pull up to Bob Scales and Mary Keefe’s mid-century modern ranch-style home in Winnetka. Bob has been playing guitar for nearly four decades and enjoys the blues; their son, Emmet, 17, has been at it for two years and favors rock, particularly music by his favorite band, Green Day. The musicians have a built-in audience in Mary and the couple’s other son, Sam, 18, who’s away at college.

Indeed, Bob and his band have used the elevated living room as a stage on more than one occasion. (“The acoustics are great,” Scales says.) But according to interior designer Tom Ferguson, the three-bedroom house felt a bit out-of-tune when he first saw it in 2010. “The house had probably been decorated 40 years ago,” Ferguson says, recalling the dated ashy gray woodwork finish, wallpapered closets and small, ‘70s-era L-shaped kitchen.


The designer’s challenge was twofold: bring the dated décor into the 21st century and incorporate the Scales’ Mission-style Stickley furnishings into a home that, at first glance anyway, might appear more suited for pieces designed by Nelson, Knoll or Eames. “Our architect told us that we would have to embrace modernism, but Tom said he could make our style work,” Keefe explains.


First the house had to be gutted. Ferguson retained original features like the exposed wood beams, a Travertine fireplace hearth in the living room and a wood burning stone fireplace in the lower level. The new design includes cork floors, grass cloth wall coverings and other natural materials. “Bob and Mary are very organic people who love the outdoors,” the designer explains.


They certainly chose the right house. The home sits on a nearly one-acre lot overlooking a natural ravine. They can even see Lake Michigan from their original blue stone patio. “We just fell in love with the views,” Keefe says. Near the house, Ferguson, who recently received a Master Gardener Certificate from the State of Michigan, created an herb garden for the family.


In the newly and much enlarged kitchen, the designer added a sleek steel Ecosmart fireplace. It’s surrounded by Virginia Ledge stone, which was inspired by the exterior facade. New IKEA kitchen cabinets, high-end Mother-of-Pearl quartzite counter tops and top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances completely transform the formerly dated space—a textbook case of using high/low design to create a stunning look that doesn’t break the bank. “If you built an arts-and-crafts home from the ground up, this kitchen would fit beautifully,” Ferguson says.


Ferguson also incorporated decorative Chinese screens, an entertainment console and other Asian-inspired touches.


“Anything that has an Asian feeling is a very good bridge between styles,” the designer explains. “It has simple, clean lines that work well with English traditional, Arts & Crafts, American mid-century and much more.”


According to Bob and Mary, the renovation was a great success. “Tom has great taste and a lot of imagination,” Scales explains.  “There’s a warmth and simplicity that we enjoy very much.”

One thing’s for sure: this house hits all the right notes.


Photos also by Tate Gunnerson

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