At the turn of the 20th century, Chicago, IL, was home to a slew of self-made millionaire industrialist who often became pillars of society. Whether engineers, inventors or hog butchers, many of these families certainly knew how to live and, often, hired well known and respected architects to design their homes.
Last fall, the home of one such prominent Chicagoan, Henry C. Todd,
became the 34th Annual Oak Park-River Forest Infant Welfare Society
ASID Showcase House in what the society termed A Celebration of
Design with a Purpose.
The Todd House in Oak Park launched a yearlong observance of the
90th anniversary of the founding of the Oak Park-River Forest Infant
Welfare Society. It also was an opportunity for the public to view
some of the newest trends in upscale interior design as interpreted
by more than 20 members of the Illinois chapter of the American
Society of Interior Designers (ASID). The Showcase Home and its
associated programs benefit the Infant Welfare Society Clinic, an
agency that serves the medical, dental and social support needs
of area children birth through age 20 from low-income families.
THEN AND NOW
The stately 10,000-square-foot, 28-room Todd manse became a celebration
of interior design when teams of professional designers—and
several landscapers—took over the property as a presentation
piece for their respective talents and techniques.
Originally designed and built in 1904 by architect Eben Ezra Roberts,
the home’s grand architecture remained intact right down to
its touches of Prairie School influence. From the wraparound, concentric
central stairwell that soars three stories to a 50-foot ballroom,
the imposing Tudor Revival was finessed by a design team that pulled
out all the stylistic stops. Some of the highlights of the home’s
• A high-tech catering kitchen—after all, the home must
fulfill the needs of its 21st-century family.
• A young girl’s room that brings to life the pages
of the award-winning children’s book “Linnea in Monet’s
Garden”—an art buff’s delight with its hand-painted
• A dining room with an extensive, collector’s dream
display of majolica.
• A third-floor snack kitchen.
• A fiber-optic bathroom ceiling that literally outlines family
member’s zodiac signs—a bit of a surprise in such a
After climbing the front steps and crossing the home’s large
porch, visitors enter the Todd house standing in the spacious first
floor foyer designed by Leeann Heininger, Allied ASID, with assistant
Brian A. Bilodeau, of Designs of the Interior (DOTI), Oak Park,
The foyer opens to the living room on the right, offers an intriguing
peak into the dining room at its far end and introduces the first-floor
landing of the dark oak staircase that rises in an open stairwell
to the third-floor ceiling. The room’s sea glass blue and
rich gold colors derived from the area rug by ORI at the foot of
the stairs. Above it hangs a large crystal chandelier original to
A round center table mirrors the curved ceiling details, and an
Old World console table paired with contemporary armchairs from
Kravet Furniture creates a welcome area for guests to gather. Custom-made
pillows, window seat cushions and archway drapery soften the foyer
and make for a comforting atmosphere. The fabrics are from Kravet
with custom fabrication by DOTI.
Behind that draperied archway is the dining room, designed by Joyal
E. Watkins Jr. ASID, of JW Designs, Inc., Chicago. Created as a
serene and soothing space in which to enjoy a meal or a cup of tea,
the room features glazed walls, lush drapery, comfortable lounge
chairs and an Oriental carpet. The idea was to design the room with
a sense of calm and luxury. It features the collection of majolica
as a reflection of travel and an appreciation of beauty.
The living room is a large, open space kept light by the tone-on-tone
painted stripped walls. The room was created by Michael Kerley,
ASID, and Bill Lowe, Allied ASID, of the Marshall Field & Co.
Interior Design Studio. (Since the time of the showhouse opening,
Marshall Field’s, a landmark Chicago retailer since 1852,
has since been bought by Macy’s and will change its name in
The living room is anchored by a black grand piano located immediately
inside the room. It has a doorway onto the wraparound porch, and
at its far end is a private alcove that once may have been the telephone
Before reaching the second floor, halfway up off the landing is
the home’s study or office. It is built above the porte cochere
and so extends beyond the home’s main structure. Janet R.
Debits, ASID, JR Interiors, Oak Park, designed the study, which
has the most obvious touches of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie
School style. It begins with the row of windows, wood trim, bookcases
and earthly colors and extends to the barrel chair. Most notable
is the tulip design featured on the glass doors and repeated around
the room in a hand-painted border. The design was digitally photographed,
calibrated and laser cut into a stencil. It was applied to the wall
in three segments using a stipple brush and painted with glazes
to match the colors of the existing pattern.
SECOND FLOOR DELIGHTS
One of the many highlights of the second floor is the master bedroom
suite created by Gail Prauss, ASID, Gail Prauss Interior Design
Inc., Oak Park. Seemingly small by today’s standards, the
room’s centerpiece is a large, inviting bed and also features
a seating area with sofa and end tables—plenty of room for
the owners to be quite comfortable.
And talk about inviting, the master bath is enough to make anyone
want to get up and start the day. The spacious room offers both
a shower and a freestanding tub if you’d rather soak.
If possible, things only get better in the guest bedroom designed
by Jae Berni, Jae Berni Interiors, Inc., River Forest, IL. A sophisticated
European atmosphere was the aim in the blue and ivory color scheme.
The four-poster bed is carved and silver-gilded in a Florentine
motif from the Farmhouse Collection from Summerhill.
A soft backdrop is created in this multi-layered room with walls
painted by Chuck Nitti in ivory and dove blue. The trompe l’oeil
appears as panels and is enhanced with a painted border of diamond-shaped
upholstery tufted with buttons.
The girl’s bedroom is yet another delightful space with its
hand-painted murals bringing to mind a French garden. Created by
Patricia Bailey, ASID, Faceted Interiors, Winfield, IL, the room
is a dream come true for any young lady—playful, imaginative
and still with grown up touches.
Down the hallway is what is listed as “the hall bath,”
but that hardly begins to describe the room. It’s a Roman
spa with multi-media enhancements that include lights, sound, video
and, above all, water therapy. Created by Evalyn R. Ashmore, ASID,
Design Era, Inc., Highland Park, IL, the room’s walls, floors
and tub deck are covered with Italian glass mosaic tiles from Bisazza
in white and gray in a random mix. Classic Roman shades created
by Design Era, Inc. feature Pollack Muse fabric with a bubbly burnout
The extra deep, two-seater whirlpool tub from Jason International
features multiple water and air jets and even underwater colored
lighting. The view from one side of the tub is a large mosaic of
Roman antiquities, and from the other side it’s a very modern
flat-screen TV. But it’s the view upward that may be the most
interesting. The midnight blue celestial ceiling is decorated with
the zodiac sign of each family member illuminated with fiber optic
starlight created by Mattingly Custom Finishes.
Finishing off the second floor is the boy’s bedroom and the
nursery. The biggest feature of the boy’s room, designed by
Andi Cassem, Allied ASID, Andi Cassem Interior Design, Inc., Shorewood,
IL, is the bunk bed with the wall the end panels painted to look
like a locomotive engine roaring out of the end of a tunnel.
Details caught the attention of Mary Lou Kalmus, ASID, Designing
Edge, Clarendon Hills, IL, in creating the nursery. The cheerful
lime green and periwinkle blue room features an acrylic texture
coating on the walls by Roman Decorating Products. It’s virtually
indestructible, the company says. It can be scrubbed, sanded and
repainted and is mold and mildew resistant.
A scallop design is repeated throughout the room in the furnishings
and the embroidered fabric. Fabrics are from Robert Allen, Schumacher,
Stroheim & Romann and Norbar. One window is treated with a custom
laser-cut metalwork by Transomart of Oak Park.
ROOM AT THE TOP
The biggest feature of the home’s third floor is the 50-foot
ballroom with a ceiling that extends up to roof’s peak—yes,
they really knew how to entertain in those days, too.
The most important space for the homeowners, however, is probably
the nanny’s apartment. Calm golds and blues with touches of
deep bittersweet and green highlight both the bedroom and the sitting
room created by Sal LaPorta, Allied ASID, Carson Pirie Scott, Yorktown
Furniture Gallery, Yorktown, IL, assisted by Joliet Junior College
design intern Mary Beth DiMayo who designed and constructed the
window treatments and bed ensemble. The window treatment fabric
is from Thibaut. The bedding fabric is from Payne, Pindler and Pindler
and Robert Allen.