The Rules According to Wohlner

Following a few simple rules helped interior designer Stephanie Wohlner transfer her family’s “wreck of a house” into a stylish and comfortable home.

Rick and Stephanie Wohlner’s 80 year-old 5,600 square foot Nantucket Clapper-style home was dated and worn the first time they saw it, but they appreciated the simple architecture, idyllic wooded setting and gracious room sizes so much that they decided to make an offer.

Transforming it into an elegant, eclectic and comfortable home took more than a year, and while Wohlner’s experience, vision and contacts helped, she says anybody can do it by following a few basic steps.

Don’t go it alone
According to Wohlner, Evanston architects Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker were instrumental in helping her to  “re-jigger” the floor plan to give the home the balance it had been missing, adding columns to create distinct dining and living spaces, transforming the original dining room into a family room and turning the family room into the kitchen.

“Stuart and Julie helped me to achieve my dream in this house,” explains Wohlner. “A really good team can help make a house work exactly how you want it to.”

Design for comfort and livability
“Every formal living room should have comfortable, kid-friendly fabrics and furniture so they’ll be used by the entire family,” says Wohlner, who has also been incorporating TVs into formal living rooms in response to how people actually live.

Add layers for warmth
“Especially in a newly built home where you don’t have the uneven crackled beauty, it’s important to layer,” says Wohlner, a self-proclaimed flea-market junkie who recommends incorporating lots of accessories: tables, trays, books, flowers, pillows, throws and other favorite objects.

“Layering these objects into a bookcase gives the room warmth, texture and soul.”

Pop the neutral with color and texture
Wohlner starts with a neutral and adds splashes of color in the form of accent pillows, fabrics and even faux animal hides. “A touch of leopard adds texture and zing to a room,” explains Wohlner, who also added pizzazz to a sisal rug by topping it off with a vintage zebra hide. Wohlner uses red as her “pop color,” incorporating it into the room on pillows and accessories.

While Wohlner’s renovation took an entire year, the result shows how much can be accomplished by following a few simple rules.

The Goods and Where to get Them
As a designer, part of Stephanie Wohlner’s job is to know the best resources. Here are some of her favorites:

Pagoda Red:
I love Pagoda Red for Asian furniture. They have beautiful old pieces from different periods.

Northern Lights:
A great lamp source, Northern Light makes all my custom shades.

Village Carpets:
Great service. I get all my sisal there.

Park West Furniture:
Great for upholstering. Keith and I have been working together for 20 years.

nuHaus Kitchens:
Owner Doug Durbin is very responsive. They also do the best custom millwork.

Additional resources:

Stephanie Wohlner Design
Highland Park

Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker
Residential Architects

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