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High style greets DreamHome show visitors
By Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff

Christopher Michiels' bathroom earned kudos from our suburban designer.


Photos Courtesy Merchandise Mart

Leslie Jones says owners of vintage buildings can use contemporary decor.


Janet McCann spices up a home office.


Missie Bender's bedroom is silky and comfortable.


There's a lot going on in Laurel Feldman's foyer.


Panels slide to hide the television in the library/media room from ASI Interiors Inc.


The rug is a reclaimed treasure in Larry Boeder's living room.


Mick de Giulio mixes old and new in his kitchen.


The DreamHome kitchen is by Mick de Giulio.


Designer Kimberly Allyn in her Arlington Heights home.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/25/2009 12:01 AM

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The DreamHome at the Merchandise Mart represents high fashion in decor, with each designer scouring Mart showrooms to create a room for a mythical well-traveled empty nester couple.

Kimberly Allyn, a well-traveled suburban designer, recently toured the rooms to share her insights on the highlights of the home, which will be open through Dec. 18.

The bathroom, designed by Christopher Michiels of Chicago, known for appearances on HGTV's New Spaces, received Allyn's nod as a "brilliantly over-the-top" design.

Other decor was more conservative, probably reflecting today's economic climate, said Allyn, whose firm is North Dunton Design in Arlington Heights.

With descriptions ranging from predictable to too busy to fabulous, Allyn guides us through the home.


Michiels said he tried to create the feeling of different spa treatment rooms in the bathroom.

"He has something working everywhere - the wow factor," said Allyn. "All the style elements balance harmoniously. It takes a lot of vision to put all of those elements together and come up with those results."

The variety of tiles from Ann Sacks includes circular pieces so spectacular Michiels framed and lighted a panel of them behind the metal free-standing soaking tub from Urban Archeology.

The dramatic adjustable swingarm shower faucet by Sherle Wagner fits with the metals in the room, which Michiels calls "spun metal." Their finishes are a mixture of bronze and brass with touches of red and green.

Wavy backsplashes are sculpted wall panels from Interlam that Michiels used unfinished because he likes the sandy appearance.


The mushroom-colored silk corduroy rug in Missie Bender's space is "to die for," said Allyn, although she would never use it anywhere but a bedroom.

The Glencoe designer achieved a feeling of organic elegance, which Allyn credited to the silky grasscloth wall covering and silk and linen fabrics on the bed.

Rosy, coppery damask-like fabric that inspired the room covers a large pillow on the bed.

"The room is very elegant and comfortable," said Allyn.


Laurel Feldman of Highland Park had stencils embedded in the Venetian plaster effect on the walls of the foyer, and Allyn declared the finish feels just like ones she's touched in Rome.

"There are a lot of focal points," said Allyn, referring to the 5-foot-long 19th Century Chinese tub of carved marble that houses koi, a wall with hand-painted glass tiles, a huge polished tree root that serves as an entrance table and large, bright artwork including photos of flowers Feldman shot herself.

"It's a great marriage of exotic and outdoors, and you don't normally associate exotic and outdoors with elegant," said Allyn.

Home office

Allyn estimates it would take her six months to tire of the blue carpet from Hokanson, Inc., that maps the constellations. Janet McCann of Chicago chose the pattern because its curved design fits with the concave fronts of the cabinets that hide the technology tuned-in owners would want.

Allyn labeled "beautiful" the cabinetry of sustainable lyptus wood from Crystal Cabinet Works through Chicago Kitchen Design Group.

The very contemporary silky blue and silver wingback chairs are from R. Jones. The colorful chartreuse and night sky blue alpaca window treatments are an unusual choice, but might be appropriate in our chilly climes, said Allyn.

Living room

The custom Oriental carpet pieced from antique fragments in a sophisticated scheme of red, purple and apricot is a show stopper in Larry Boeder's room.

Allyn also praised how the antique carved pine door surround from a London home recrafted by Mike Bell warmed the room and served as a substitute for a fireplace.

"It was white with green trim," said Boeder, of Chicago. "If I had't found that I would have been in big trouble and had to come up with something else."

Two French-inspired chairs - one a reproduction of a 1930s Parisian in tone-on-tone striped silk from Charles Pollock and the other boasting burled walnut - also appealed to Allyn in the room she labeled elegant and sophisticated.

Dining room

If Leslie Jones had moved a spectacular picture of a light water scene to a focal point in the room, Allyn's whole attitude about the decor might have improved.

Although she's a fan of sisal, Allyn did not like the rug, intended to resemble apple rush matting, in this setting, perhaps because of the dark finish on the floor.

And she made no comment about the two-level square light with a box of stone above a larger one of mica that the Chicago designer suspended spectacularly over the dark round table made by Mike Bell. Holly Hunt represents the light company, Pagani Studio.

The room uses texture and natural materials to show how contemporary furniture and art could fit in a vintage building, said Jones.


Mick de Giulio's 150-year-old painted panel from Venice backing the crystal chandelier above a huge rough-hewn table helps achieve the authentic feel of a Tuscan farmhouse, said Allyn.

She also liked the way the Chicago designer used white marble for the countertop and backsplash above the Wolf range and how he combined it with the matte white cabinets that de Giulio created for SieMatic. The BeauxArts line is supposed to mix with either traditional or contemporary looks, he said.

De Giulio said he has used the Venetian panel in his own home for 20 years and has had it reproduced for installation over kitchen islands, which is particularly effective for lowering tall ceilings.

Library or media room

"It took me a while to warm up to this room, but it's creative, a combination of high style and exotic and well thought out," said Allyn.

While the room was inspired by an antique Burmese head of Buddha, the highlight is a wall of sliding white lacquered panels that can reveal or hide shelves, books and the television and other media equipment. Allyn was impressed with the use of Lalique glass as a touch of interest in the panels, and said this treatment with its Art Deco flavor actually made the room seem larger than if the designers had left the wall flat.

She agreed with Denise Antonucci and Jerry Sanfilippo of ASI Interiors in Chicago in praising the artwork, including a huge Victor Skrebneski photograph, which is a combination of different views of the grand staircase at the Art Institute.

In you go

What: DreamHome

Where: North Lobby, first floor, Chicago's Merchandise Mart, just north of the Chicago River at Kinzie and Wells streets.

Admission: $5 voluntary donation to University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women's Board is suggested.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, through Dec. 18.

Information: See or call (312) 527-4141.