Although last year’s showhouse was not a Wright-designed home, it was the work of a prominent architect, George Washington Maher, whose interpretations on the Prairie-style can be seen throughout the community. Maher designed seven properties in Oak Park, including the historic 1905 Charles R. Erwin home selected for the ASID charity fundraiser.
The Erwin home includes 23 rooms, each of which was assigned to a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Each design professional created distinctive, showpiece interiors presenting their talents and introducing decorative innovations. Even the exterior of the home was included. The landscape design for the home was created by Judee Hansen, Hansen Landscapes.
Open to the public for viewing in October 2004, proceeds benefited the Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society’s clinic. The agency has provided health care to children of low-income families since 1918. In the past year, the clinic provided more than 1,300 medical visits to 829 children who required examinations, immunizations and sick care. Restorative and preventive services were provided to more than 1,000 children during 2,444 visits.
ROOM BY ROOM
Upon entering the Erwin House, the first stop is the vestibule
and front hall with the main stairway winding around behind, above
the door and up to the second floor central hall. Here, Lynn Aseltine-Kolbusz,
ASID, Room Service Ltd., worked with the home’s original central
hearth and lantern pendant lights, adding reupholstered period sofas
and floor lamps.
Immediately to the right is the large living room, designed by Dale Edmunds, ASID, and Patricia Martin, ASID, Dale Edmonds Interiors & Floor Fashions, Inc. Serving as living room and family room for the home’s new owners, the design is formally casual, highlighted by circular forms from the room’s architectural arch to the painted ceiling medallion, custom rug and window cornice treatments. The furnishings were selected to be elegant for formal occasions, yet durable. Four chairs are covered in warm, camel color protected leather. In the room’s far-end alcove is the homeowner’s grand piano. Covered bench seats over the room’s radiators make the room comfortable for larger gatherings and party guests. Ample walkways around the exterior and within the room mean family and friends can come and go as they please.
The living room window treatments combine function, casual privacy and elegance. The fixed side panels are in a plaid fabric, and for light control, Alouette blinds from Hunter Douglas were used. The room’s textured wall treatment was created by John Cappi, Cape Designs, Ltd. The custom rug is by Custom Carpet Mfg. & Distribution.
To the left of the vestibule, and behind double pocket doors of thick oak, is the study. Designed by Sal La Porta, Allied ASID, and Phyllis Brown Zincky, Allied ASID, Carson Pirie Scott & Co., as a man’s office, the room features rich wood furnishings. Although not immediately apparent, the wall treatment begins to look familiar, and with a second look you realize it’s done in a giant map of the world. The woven wood window shades are topped with masculine leather cornices featuring decorative nail-head detail.
Behind the home’s central hearth is the dining room, large enough to hold two dining tables—one to be used as a serving table until needed for larger gatherings. Karen Clausen, ASID; Jackie Bruggenthies, Allied ASID; and Elizabeth Thornburg, Allied ASID, Marshall Field’s Interior Design Studio, selected two wingback chairs you’d normally expect to be placed at either end of the dining table. A bench seat beneath faux stained-glass windows allows for family seating of more than two on that side. Fitting with the home’s Prairie-style architecture, a sheaf of prairie grass is used as the centerpiece. The fixed window coverings frame the view of the home’s backyard and garden.
One of the cheeriest rooms of the home wasn’t actually a room
at all. It was the upstairs central hall, a family gathering place
at the top of the main staircase and between the bedroom wings at
opposite ends of the house. Leeann Heininger, Allied ASID, Designs
of the Interior, chose a bright golden yellow for the walls. The
colors were picked up and complemented in the furnishings: an inviting
loveseat and two armchairs. The golden floral-framed mirror above
the second-floor fireplace reflected the sunlight from the bank
of windows above the front door in the home’s open stairway.
A golden oak cabinet at the end of the room provided a hiding place
for a television. At either end of the hall were archways leading
to the bedrooms.
The master bedroom suite and master bath were created out of space that once was three or more bedrooms in the original house. (The home was built for Erwin, his wife and 10 children.) Joyal E. Watkins Jr, ASID, JW Designs, Inc., took a long narrow space across the front of the house and divided it into three areas—a writing desk; the bed, with custom upholstered headboard, opposite a large flat-screen television; and a sitting area with a two-cushion sofa and a pair of side chairs.
Watkins teamed with James Landa, ASID, Aquaworks, on the master
bath featuring a freestanding bathtub and separate steam shower.
Between the bathroom and the bedroom were a walk-in closet and a
woman’s dressing room.
An enchanted garden was the theme for the girl’s nursery, created by Jae Berni, ASID, Jae Berni Interiors. A magical effect was created by a faux sky ceiling that bordered on trompe l’oeil so real were the pinks and blue of the early morning clouds. The ceiling was painted by artist Charles Nitti, whose work was also seen on the garden porch floor, where hand-painted bunnies could be found among the painted flowers.
Although the room featured a center-placed white crib, Berni selected an antique armoire, bookcase and dresser—all crafted in Italy—that easily could work through the child’s teen years. Flowered drapery panels in a rainbow of colors floated above the white with pink polka dot café curtains on the windows.
On the opposite side of the second floor central hall is the guest room, created by Janet Davidsen, Allied ASID, Details in Design, Inc., as a private retreat for longer stays by the owners’ parents. Featuring an Old World feel in yellow/gold, green and rust, the room’s focus is comfort from the large bed and upholstered headboard to the silk area rug. The walls are plaster-inspired falling leaves in green and burnished gold above an architectural molding that divides the room.
Finally, the back half of the home’s warp-around porch was screened in to create what designer M. Grace Sielaff, Allied ASID, M. Grace Designs, calls The Hemingway Porch. The porch room has a sub-tropical Africa feel with rattan furnishings, large plants and billowing draperies to close out the sun and provide separation from the house next door.
The one room of the house with the most extensive work being done was the kitchen—it was being rebuilt from the wall studs out, and when finished would include new windows, all new appliances and a wood-burning pizza oven imported from Italy. After all, the home was designed in 1905, and a lot of upgrades have come along in kitchens over the last two turns of the century.
The home’s designer, George Washington Maher, was a prominent architect of that era. His work on the Erwin home came early during his most important and productive period beginning in 1904. He started his architectural education in 1878 as an apprentice in the Chicago firm of Bauer & Hill. In 1887 he began working with architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee alongside fellow draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright.
Maher’s residential interpretations of the Prairie style were built throughout Chicago’s suburbs. He also developed the campus plan for Northwestern University.
The ASID Designer Showcase House 2004 was originally built for Charles R. Erwin, a pioneer in the advertising industry and a founder of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Erwin and his wife, Melissa, lived in the home with their 10 children.