Local interior decorators share what's trending

With winter almost behind us and a hint of spring in the air, many homeowners may be dusting off their plans to freshen up their home with some new interior design trends.

Three home decor experts from Geneva, Arlington Heights and Lake Zurich shared their insights on interior design trends in our area for just about any room in your home.


“Definitely the white kitchen is still very strong. We don't expect that to be any less of a trend in 2017,” said Pamela Coslet, who along with her husband, Bill, own Vineyard Chic, based in St. Charles, with a showroom in downtown Geneva.

“What's happening in this area, there is a lot of dark brown out there and if someone has a lot of warm, masculine colors in their house, they can't just add an all-white kitchen.”

Instead, she recommends a “transitional” kitchen which brings in the white cabinets, adds quartz and marble for the countertops but then a deep navy blue island or darker color to complement other warmer colors in the house. Sometimes that island doubles as a dining table.

“Generally, the majority of our clients want it to be brighter and look bigger and somehow you have to incorporate other colors into the design like a dark brown or gray island,” Coslet said.

When she's working with cleaner, lighter colors and cooler tones, Coslet likes to tie those same colors into, say, a family room by introducing a two-tone rug in brown or gray to bring in colors from the kitchen. She also said the color greige — a combination of brown and gray with a little bit of warm undertone — helps pull two spaces together: white and gray in one room and brown in the other.

“But as part of this transitional look is the whole rustic modern with metals, weathered looks and a lot of barn wood doors.”

She describes the transitional look with a modern backdrop, a lot of shiplap, barn wood, metal and even leather used as straps for a stovetop hood or as pulls on the doors. Being creative and artistic with a hood, then adding a little drama with arabesque or diamond-patterned tile in a dramatic backsplash, adds a new dimension to a kitchen. Color and cabinetry also play a role.

Coslet noted that among the 50 kitchens that Vineyard Chic remodeled last year, only one used cabinets with a glaze or specialty finish, and oak cabinets are out.

“We're already ordering clean lines of cabinets and the shaker style is still very strong,” Coslet said, “but we've also sold a lot of inset cabinetry.”

After attending the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando, Florida, last month, Coslet commented on trends.

“My biggest take-away is that transitional is what's happening across the country,” she said, adding that the West Coast is using colors like reds and yellows.

“But in this area, we're not seeing a lot of that. There's also a lot of sliding barn doors and a lot of smart lighting, under cabinet lighting with remote control on your phone.”

Kitchen lighting is very important, she said, with large chandelier fixtures mixed with glass and metal to pendant lights, plus under and over LED cabinet strip lighting used for tasks or to dim for atmosphere.

Other kitchen trends include under counter and farmhouse sinks in either stainless or porcelain. Stainless steel appliances are also still perceived as high-end and used often in kitchens locally, she said. Flooring also plays a role in the kitchen.

“In the Midwest, people want warmth and darker wood floors, like a walnut. It makes such a nice contrast to the white cabinets and gives you your mix of materials,” she said.

Coslet added if it's been 12 to 15 years since your kitchen has seen a makeover, “it's time to update.”

The average kitchen makeover with new cabinets, she said, is about $50,000 while a mini-makeover could be $25,000 to $30,000.


“We're seeing the same thing in baths where everyone wants white, all-white with marble,” Coslet said. “We're seeing cast-iron bathtubs, claw foot tubs and big walk-in showers with glass. No more (whirlpool) tubs anymore.”

A new trend in bathroom faucets, she said, are motion-activated faucets, promoted by such celebrity germaphobes as Howie Mandel, who made a guest appearance at the Orlando show.

She added that a bathroom redo is a lot more money than people think it's going to be.

“You can't do a bathroom under $20,000 and a very large bathroom could cost $75,000,” she said, adding that the labor can add up because you have to remove a lot of tile.

Home offices

Function, function and function is what Jennifer McGinnis, owner of Redux Interior Design in Lake Zurich, likes to see in a home office.

“Many people work from home, and oftentimes they share a home office,” McGinnis said. “It's a central workspace for the family.”

Her favorite form of organization that maximizes the space is custom cabinetry in a variety of woods, with trends shifting toward white painted, pale gray or charcoal painted, with mixed use of darker woods like a walnut.

“When I do custom cabinetry, I use it for file storage, closed-door storage and cord management so you don't see cords in the spaces,” McGinnis said, “and it would include USB and docking stations and placing computer monitors in clean spaces.”

She recently created a small home office for a couple who was sharing the office and she made space for a printer, task lighting above printer and scanner and added full-height cabinetry to the ceiling with open book storage.

“For the home office, I love a good arm chair that has casters on it and has multiple functions so you can use it in the office and pull it out for extra seating,” she said. “It doesn't look like an office chair in a commercial space but it has the character of the home that you can pull out when you're entertaining.”

She also uses layered lighting for the tasks performed in the office space.

“I would have recessed canned lighting, then some type of lighting to illuminate the bookshelves and cabinet lighting,” she said. “I would also include a warm home element like a lamp in the space. It gives you options for optimal comfort and efficiency for a home office.”

She said she often persuades her clients not to share their home office space with their kids, for a variety of reasons.

“You want to keep it your work space your individual space and use the space when you need it and be able to shut the door,” McGinnis said. “The kids can work in the dining room or the kitchen.

“I like keeping designated spaces and making them highly functional,” she said.


Bedrooms should be designed to be a relaxing retreat, with custom window treatments for privacy and light control, McGinnis said.

She also likes to add layered lighting so that when you wake up in the morning, you can still turn on the lights and match your socks but have a lot of natural light during the day, and soft subtle light in the evening.

She also adds a good task reading light or lamp that could be a swing arm sconce reading fixture or a pharmacy-style wall-mounted light.

“I love layered lighting,” she said. “It adds so much more to a space, adds to function and the beauty.”

As for headboards, she said she's seeing a lot of upholstered headboards, huge and coordinated, but not matching the nightstands because it looks like you bought your furniture by the roomful.

“I see a mix between the clean lines of midcentury modern against texture, and even woven grass headboards,” she said.

She's also seeing brass re-emerge as the go-to metal that offers balance and warms up the gray tones that are on the market.

“Burnished brass from lighting to kitchen cabinetry hardware to faucets, lamps and furniture, it's really made a huge impact, and we're going to see that for a while,” McGinnis said. “It has replaced what used to be brushed nickel. The brass has some longevity and mixing the brass with other metals has been very popular.”

As for colors, gem tones are back in a bold way, she said, with more of a tonal quality such as deep fuchsias mixed with a light pink and everything else in a pale gray, emerald or jade green — with a peacock blue used as an accent or accessory.

Even more style trends

Comfort is always key in any living space but rather than the couches with overstuffed backs and lots of throw pillows, furniture design is streamlining, often geometric, reflecting the lines of midcentury modern decor.

“I love that it is clean, it's more simple, it has good form and the seat cushions are tighter,” McGinnis said. “It's a tailored look.

McGinnis likes to add texture to a room, suggesting an off white sofa made out of men's suit fabric, or a tweedy fabric, layered with woven, soft chenille pillows, or adding rattan or wicker in a contemporary way.

Soft velvets or a faux fur throw can also add to the room.

“You can give your room a refresh with accessories, rugs and toss pillows,” said Jenny Kuenstle, interior decorator and owner of Finishing Touch Decor in Arlington Heights. Her favorites are vintage pieces, typography to natural fiber rugs made of sisal or jute.

Another easy update, she said, is to swap out hardware, lighting fixtures and faucets but warns: “Only do design trends that make your heart sing.”

She loves the farmhouse look made famous by HGTV's “Fixer Upper” couple Chip and Joanna Gaines.

“It's livable, approachable and family friendly,” said Kuenstle. “The more dents, chips and bumps, the better.”

In fact, she repurposes old items and makes them look new with chalk paint, but also relies on vintage pieces like grandma's old kitchen scale to add a new element to a contemporary kitchen that might otherwise seem cold and sterile.

“Adding a vintage piece to a new, modern room looks dynamite,” Kuenstle said. “Anything that can be repurposed brings in a warm and unexpected design element.”

Crown molding, shiplap, board and batten or bead board paneling can create the foundation for a room and add an architectural interest for what may sometimes otherwise be a very boring and boxy room, she said. Wainscoting, chair rails and picture frame molding also add dimension.

“Moldings are a timeless, cost effective way to stay on trend,” she said. “Shiplap is trending right now, and a little shiplap goes a long way. With a trend, you want to do it in small doses but it scratches the farmhouse itch so many of us have.”

She uses shiplap on what she describes as feature walls, one wall in a room that introduces a new element like paneling, wallpaper, brick or faux brick paneling.

Swapping out doors to the new two-panel or arched shaker panel doors either in white or stained can be a “game changer.”

Mixing styles, both old and new, is still trending, she said, making it “more of a collected look than a showroom look.”

Kuenstle also likes to bring the outside in with branches, art, pine cones and feathers, and dropping them throughout the room along with pops of saturated colors like turquoise and patterns.

When it comes to redecorating, she has her own rules of thumb she recommends for any homeowner looking to buy something new.

“A. Do I love it? B. Can I use it in more than one place or in more than one way? C. Is it cost effective? If yes, I will buy it.

“At the end of the day,” Kuenstle said, “what you love is trending.”

The showroom of Vineyard Chic, based in St. Charles with a showroom in Geneva, displays a kitchen with a marble backsplash and a custom metal hood. Lighting comes from a pair of metal-wrapped chandeliers. Courtesy of Vineyard Chic
In this home office design by Jennifer McGinnis of Redux Interior Design in Lake Zurich, custom built-in cabinetry provides plenty of storage space and still show clean lines with cables and docking stations hidden. Photo courtesy of Mike Kaskel
Lots of natural light helps this home office designed by Redux Interior Design maintain an open feel. Photo courtesy of Mike Kaskel
Pamela Coslet, CEO of Vineyard Chic
Adding wainscoting such as board and batten adds architectural interest in an otherwise plain and boxy room, says Jenny Kuenstle of Finishing Touch Decor in Arlington Heights. Kuenstle has more than 70,000 Instagram followers and her home will be on the Arlington Heights Historical Society House Walk in June. courtesy of Jenny Kuenstle
Painting out dark cabinets made this kitchen go from cavernous to light and bright and more true to the home's 1950s build. Photo courtesy of Jenny Kuenstle
Shiplap on one wall is enough to scratch that farmhouse itch so many of us have. courtesy of Jenny Kuenstle
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