The Palatine house Kirsten and Heinz Titze found had a lot going for it, starting with the open floor plan they craved for entertaining.
Their three children could stay at the same school, and the Wexford neighborhood very near to where Heinz lived as a teen teems with playmates for the youngsters.
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But the decor in the 10-year-old house did not mesh with Kirsten's taste. And she knew changing things like light cabinets with a pinkish tint, white countertops and lots of white carpeting and light maple flooring would be both expensive and time-consuming.
"I am more into earth tones and warm colors," said Kirsten Titze.
Then, as often happens these days, the asking price for the house dropped, putting decorating changes more within the family budget. In December, the Titzes purchased the two-story brick home with the kitchen-great room flowing across the rear behind the more formal spiral staircase and living and dining rooms.
Kirsten, who works full time as an early childhood speech and language pathologist in Mount Prospect, needed help.
"I knew I wasn't going to have the time," she said. "I needed someone to tell me what to do and where to buy it."
And she is thrilled she found Deb Goetz, a designer with Steinhafels in Vernon Hills, the only store the company has outside Wisconsin. This happened by chance when the couple, who had heard about Steinhafels through a friend who works there, drove by and stopped in.
The store had a special on decorating services, and Kirsten quickly learned Goetz "understood my style. She came to our old house and saw what I liked. She came to the new house before everything was done and helped us create a picture."
Not only was Goetz willing to work with things the Titzes wanted to keep, but Steinhafels has an area that kept the children busy so Kirsten could concentrate on making decisions.
The family moved in this spring, after all the very light, white colors -- with a splash of blue that drove Goetz crazy because it didn't relate to anything else in the large room -- had been replaced with rich, darker tones.
"We brought a richness to their space," Goetz said. "The darker colors warmed it up and made it more inviting."
•Goetz started with a picture, stylized poppies in a vase with colors the homeowners and designer would carry throughout the house -- gold, green and rust.
"I loved the picture," Kirsten said. "All the colors came from the artwork, and I loved it."
Kirsten took photos of ideas and things she liked, and on the rare occasion she and Heinz rejected one of Goetz' ideas, the designer came up with an alternative.
•Goetz and the Titzes sat in the kitchen of the new home, working with samples and pictures of products sold by Steinhafels and those that were not.
A big savings was refinishing the kitchen cabinets and fireplace in a cherry tone, rather than replacing them. Both had been light, and the cabinets were a pickled theme with a pink cast. This service cost about $3,500, but replacing the multitude of cabinets would have cost $25,000, estimates Heinz.
Heinz Titze said the whole project, including some bedroom furniture and painting throughout the house cost about $60,000.
•The space has lovely cathedral ceilings. However, these require skillful decorating.
The custom drapes, for example, start near the top of the family room windows, not at the 8-foot level as the previous owners had chosen.
"Most people don't understand," said Goetz. "You need to dress the whole space."
They chose a simple green trellis design on a soft gold like the paint selected for the entry and into the great room. The green relates to the shade on the fireplace wall. And dots of rust at the trellis joints pick up that shade from artwork and accessories.
Goetz was able to show the couple a picture of how the drapes would look on their windows before they committed to having them made.
The ceiling also called for large accessories on top of the kitchen cabinets and the entertainment center.
•Black is also an important color in the room. This starts with the chairs for the custom dinette set with the wrought iron table base and the slightly higher swiveling chairs for the eating counter that separates the kitchen from the family room. The appliances are also black, not to mention the entertainment center on the opposite wall in the family room.
"The color black is dramatic and gives depth and richness," said Goetz. "They work hand-in-hand, the table and the appliances and the chairs."
•The black granite countertops are new, as is the flooring, cherry wood in the kitchen and a darker, tweed family room carpet that the children find comfortable on bare feet.
•What Kirsten loves (besides everything): The lamps, which are a bronzy green with a heavy crackle-like enamel and textured burlap-colored shades.
"It's a very casual room but fancy at the same time, sophisticated but family friendly."
•What Goetz likes: Those same lamps and the vignette on the mantel, including a metal scroll, picture with the same shades as the original art and candlesticks that were among the accessories she brought in especially for a photo shoot.
Goetz points out design principles
•The rooms in the home need to talk with each other "like they are neighbors." Thus the traveling of color from one room to the other.
•Elements must be mixed from the leather couches the Titzes already owned to fabric, metal, wood and pottery.
•The scale of patterns must vary, too, from large on the custom pillows to medium on the drapes and small the comfortable chair that all the family members love to sit in.
The rust wall
Goetz had proposed a rust wall in the kitchen, but that wall is now two shades lighter than the green that covers the long fireplace wall into the eating area of the kitchen. And this meets the kitchen's front wall, which is the gold from the entry.
"We loved the rust wall," Kirsten said. "In our previous house we had a big, bold maroon wall. But after the cabinets were stained it was too close to the color. Then she helped us come up with a color."
"We've had my daughter's first community celebration here and a few birthday parties," Kirsten said. "People comment how everything ties together and is so much our personality."