Designers who can update a 1916 Italianate villa and make its 15,000-square-feet warm and welcoming can surely answer some of your decorating quandaries.
David Adler designed the home, chosen as this year's Lake Forest Showhouse, with arches and columns inside and an enclosed courtyard outdoors where most of us have front yards.
If you goWhat: 2013 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens
When: Through May 19
Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Tickets: Admission is $36.50 if ordered online before May 19; $40 at the door.
Directions: Park at 1150 N. Western Ave., northwest corner of Laurel and N. Western avenues. Shuttle bus runs continually.
The homeowner who pulls away from gawking at the vaulted ceilings -- reminiscent of vintage churches -- or the incredible views of Lake Michigan can collect ideas about painting, window treatments, art display and light fixtures, among many other themes.
And just for fun, keep your eyes open for all kinds of doors and cabinets hidden in the extravagant paneling throughout the house, which is open daily through May 19.
•Paint can work miracles, and Showhouse designers created both monochromatic rooms and others sporting vivid colors. With time and patience you could accomplish some of these looks yourself.
In the lower, or Garden Level bath, Susan Brunstrum of Sweet Peas Design in Libertyville had Nancy Schnell of Arlington Heights paint the walls a striated silver, then Schnell used a syringe to apply 133,000 dots in a pattern of scrolly diamonds.
Right inside the room Kathy Chambers of Libertyville painted colorful portraits of architect Adler and his sister, Frances Elkins, an interior designer.
Other "tricks" the Libertyville designer used include a custom, stepped metallic ceiling to hide pipes. And check out her Deco-looking mirror with steps on one side that serves both as a window covering and a camouflage for the off-center window.
•Shelley Johnstone Pasche of Lake Forest attracts attention with a high-gloss spring green paint in the Lounge and powder room right off the main level foyer. She also accented the molding with gold. Darker green malachite, the color and pattern of the year, covers the ceiling.
•The exact opposite ploy made the Back Hall Galleries suitable for displaying artwork. Paul Rufus of Green Oaks used a collection of Farrow & Ball whites to create the subtlest of stripes.
•The walls were rough in the Morning Room, so what better solution than a Venetian plaster-type application in an ivory with a finish that looks like limestone. Gail Plechaty of Old Mill Creek also chose drapery trim that resembles large upside down tulips or bells.
Observers suggest this room could become a dining room if the home's new owner turns the adjacent dining room into a large family kitchen with views of the lake.
•Lori Lennon had the Master Bedroom painted a serene blue-gray. She jazzed up the fireplace by surrounding it with cast glass pieces and antique mirrors. The dramatic four-poster bed with a frame suitable for a canopy helps with her mission of providing height in the room. Glass balls trim the ends of the drapery rods.
•Julia Buckingham Edelman of Chicago used vibrant color and mixed design styles to humanize the scale of the large Party Room on the Garden Level.
She covered the rough plaster walls with a rosy orange hue that Farrow & Ball calls Charlotte's Locks.
A contemporary looking floor lamp wears a square shade above a plain black and white standard with numbers that could help measure children's height as they grow. Classic sliver-leafed side chairs at the poker table are modernized with upholstery of huge bright flowers in pink, green and orange with chalkboards on the back. In the center of the room an upholstered round "conversation chair" is formed with benches around a middle tower, all covered with an Ikat diamond pattern in rust, red and blue.
Among the room's fun touches are Lucite sofa tables behind and beside the sectional. And don't miss the pillows on the sectional. With a layered effect in green, chocolate and taupe, they seem almost alive.
•In the first-floor Keeping Room -- the home's original kitchen -- Jeannie Balsam of Winnetka even painted the parquet floor white, with a seashell design to go with other nautical touches because apparently this mythical family that lives on Lake Michigan vacations on the East Coast.
•Most of the window treatments in the home are drapes with no valance. However, attention is paid to the rods and the trim. In Scott Yerkey's Gallery, each rod has a large crystal ball on either end.
If you are ever faced with decorating a Gallery that is 50-feet long, you might think back to the work of this Chicago designer. His secret is rather obvious; he used furniture, including a baby grand, to create different areas for sitting and talking. This is emphasized with three rugs, the two end ones the same blue and green geometric while the middle one features gold scrolls.
•Artwork is plentiful in the Gallery, including a very large fossil of a 50-million-year-old sting ray.
•Soledad Zitzewitz shot black and white photos of details around the villa, printed them relatively small and gave each a matching wide matte and gold frame as a Living Room focal point.
•The collection of vintage Barbie fashion sketches in white curvy frames stand out even in the Girl's Playroom where Kendelle Cornette of Lake Forest packed in a lot of fun and pink, including wallcovering in a pink and silver zebra pattern.
Ceiling lights range from a chandelier with ropes of crystal beads to a sculptural wooden "cage" around the a glass globe in Chicago designer Michael Del Piero's Guest Bedroom 1. Many in the home have a midcentury feel.
Each visitor will find his or her favorite ceiling fixture, but we loved the brass rods with huge bare bulbs in the Lady's Bath & Dressing Room designed by Randy Heller of Highland Park. It is from Apparatus Studio in New York.
The room off the garage is labeled "Office" in the show's program, but Melissa Edelman of Antiquaire Inc. in Highland Park knows better. She calls it the Rear Foyer.
First of all, the space has to look good because most people enter the home this way.
Besides that, she made it useful with a bar of Belgium limestone to serve as a desk for the mother, a sink set in an 1850s-carved Asian cabinet flanked by French vintage wrought iron garden gates where backpacks could hang, and a 1930s French mail sorting station to serve as cubbies for keys, mail and shoes, etc.
Edelman's over-the-top touch of bling: A genuine 16th-century gilded Italian sofa that she had recovered. For family members to sit and remove their muddy boots? And don't miss the floor of pennies attached to the concrete with epoxy, then grouted and sealed.