By Peg Carmack Short
Blue and white-as clean and fresh as a summer morning's sky, as comfortable as a faded pair of well-worn denims, and as welcoming as a garden filled with hollyhocks, bluebells, and hydrangeas. No matter the shade of blue from palest Robin's egg to rich royal blue, this soothing palete invitess one to linger.

Not surprsing then that this is the color scheme selected by Lake Forest homeowner, Bonney Pope, to turn her historic, Tudor Revival mansion into a cozy family home for her husband Jack and their two boys, Bretton and Taylor, and daughter, Cameron.

This magnificent house was built in 1925 by noted Chicago archietct, Howard Van Doren Shaw. Often compared in stature with Frank Llyod Wright, Shaw is responsible for designing many prominent Chicago landmarks, including the GoodmanTheater, Lake Forest's Market Square, and more than 30 of the Northshore's grandest residences.

Though the Pope home now rests on 8-acres of what was once an 102-acre estate, it manages to retain the air of a country mannor. "Knowing the history it's fun to look around and see the original stables have been turned into a house, the original pool, formal gardens, and tennis court are three separate properties now," says Bonney. "You can somewhat visualize what it was like in its heyday."

Though the house is wonderful, finding a new home was the last thing the Popes were thinking about when the home came on the market in the summer of 1990. "We weren't really looking for a house when we found this one," Bonney says. "Our neighbor, a realtor, told Jack about the house and took him to see it."

Bonney, then pregnant with their youngest child, went to see the house a couple of times just because she found the history of the house so interesting. "When we asked to see the house a third time, the home's owner said, 'Not unless they want to put a bid on it,' " Bonney relates. Jack did, and to their surprise, they soon found themselves the new owners of the home.

For Bonney, that was when the real work of turning this 21,000 square foot house into a warm, intimate, and comfortable home began. While a 25-room, historic mansion is certainly interesting to visit, Bonney didn't want her family to feel they were living in a museum. "When we looked at the house, it was so dreary and cold," she says. And knowing she would need help in making the home inviting, Bonney called in prominent Lake Forest designer, Mary Southworth of Southworth Interiors.

"Mary has a wonderful shop in town, Samelsbury Antiques, that has many English pieces," says Bonney. "And since the house has an English country feel, using Mary just seem suitable."

Southworth was drawn to the very details, which in its present state, made the house appear too cold to nurture a young family-the majestic bare bones of the house, which included exquisitely paneled walls, spacious rooms with long, narrow windows, high ceilings, terrazo floors, and impressive moldings and cornices. All were sadly in need of brightening and polishing, but Southworth knew the stunning backdrop was in place. All that was needed to set the stage and make the home truly inviting was a light, bright color scheme, over-stuffed furnishings-arranged in cozy groupings, plush area rugs, and a few antique pieces worthy of the surroundings. For the finale, numerous lights were added to flood the dark corners or the rooms with warmth.

Southworth's inspiration for transforming the rooms from dark and dreary to charming and cheery, began with the selection of the blue and white color scheme. "I wanted the house to be cheerful, but still traditional," says Southworth.

While Southworth suggested blue because it seemed in keeping with the house, Bonney approved the color scheme because it felt so welcoming. The friendly blue and white recminded her of vacations to the ocean, near the east coast homes where she and Jack grew up-she in Long Island, New York and he in New Jersey.

"We always thought that we'd return there when we retired," says Bonney. But when the opportunity arouse a few years ago, after Jack retired as president of United Airlines, the Popes realized they wanted to stay in Lake Forest. "In the past we had talked about settling in Connecticut," Bonney says. "The ocean and water are so close, and we miss it. But it's so nice here!"

Feeling settled, Bonney realizes she has created the comfortable home she wanted for her family. "I had heard stories from people who grew up in Lake Forest and had visited the house when they were in high school," she explains. "They said that while the living room didn't have cording across the doorway, you just knew you would never sit in there. But I want the children to be in every room."

Given that one caveat, Southworth started her decorating in the living room working her way into the adjacent sunroom. Combining old English sensibilities with the needs of a young contemporary family, Southworth used her expert eye to bring the rooms into focus. A sophistocated, yet friendly, linen floral from Gray Watkins fabrics was used to adorn sofas, cover window seats, and create a window treatment complete with pom pom trim. Large scale furniture pieces, in keeping with the expansive room, was arranged into two groupings that surround the fireplace and add to the cozy feel.

"When you have a small group of people together, you can sit on one side of the room and feel that you are close together," explains Southworth. Adding that it was also necessary to float the pieces in the center of the room because of the many windows and openings. Though, it also serves to make the room seem more intimate despite its spacious dimensions.

Although the furniture from Baker is comfortable and casual, its classic lines are traditional enough to embrace an 18th century Pembrook side table and a custom-made red laquer coffee table that anchors the cozy grouping. "I think splashes of red put some life into the room," Southworth says, who also added red throw pillows to the sofa.

Finishing off the room in style, is Bonney's collection of antique blue and white china, which appears on tabletops, mantels, and paired as vases that flank the fireplace. Bonney enjoys a few period pieces which lend a hint of traditional charm, but she has been careful to use a light hand, so that the rooms don't become too untouchable to the children. For after school, the children are allowed to become "kings and queen of the castle!" It's not unusual to find the children and several of their school mates collapsed in giggles and rolling over the plush area rugs that warmup the terrazo floors. In the sunroom, this would be the cheery blue and white needlepoint rug from Shumacher that was added to the sunroom by designer Jackie Renwick of Green Shutters Home Shop.

"Jackie has a shop in town and I would walk past, and say, 'Oh, that's so cute.' She does such nice work with finishing touches," Bonney says. So after giving hersef a brief hiatus from the major decorating, Renwick was commissioned to finish the decorating.

"Mary had done a beautiful job," says Renwick, refering to wonderful foundation established by Southworth, like the simple, monochromatic background found in the wallcovering and window treatment. This stately pattern is reminiscent of a Staffordshire china. A crisp stripe fabric covers the comfy wicker furniture, whose texture contrasts nicely with the stone table that nestles in a corner of the sunroom.

Both Bonney and Jackie longed for a splash of color in this happy room that Bonney deems her favorite room in the house. "I love blue and white," says Renwick. "It's so fresh, airy, and clean. But sometimes you have to do something to add warmth to it." Thus, Renwick added yellow bringing the room a French country feel.

Starting with a pale, yellow, floral chintz from Cowtan and Taub, throw pillows and a large, impressive ottoman brought pizzaz into the room. Yellow, white, and blue accessories such as lamps, vases, and a handpainted table, all from Green Shutters, finished off the room in playful style. "This room is where our company always seems to gravitate," says Bonney.

Though the room embodies the easy-living style favored by the Popes, they have, nonetheless, still managed to maintain the homes architectural sensibilities. Trademark Shaw elements, such as the decorative ceiling medallions found in the sunroom, have been allowed to shine. Here, a lighter shade of blue highlights the medallions without making them overly accented into the room.

Throughout the home, redecorating was always nicely married to the architectural integrity of the house. Though updating the bathrooms proved necessary, sensitivty to detail and structure was maintained. Sue Walker, the architectural designer, who helped with the structural and design changes advises, "It's important in a historical home to be as accurate to the original as possible-a fact agreed upon by both Southworth and Renwick. Though Renwick hastens to that while "it's important to keep it classic; there is, however, a wide range of acceptability." She emphaisizes it's important to offer ideas that are "compatible with the family's lifestyle and needs."

Today, Bonney continues to make major decorating changes in her home with the help of Renwick. "I don't think you're ever through," says Bonney. "By the time you finish, something changes. The children are getting bigger and their needs change, as do ours."

But one thing that has remained constant, Bonney still loves her blue and white rooms. "When I think back to when we first saw the home, there was no warmth," she says. " Now when I think of our home, it's so bright-even without lights on-the sun just comes barreling through."

Articles included here are copyrighted by Peg Carmack Short and may not be copied in full or part without written permission of the author.

return to the article page