Peg Carmack Short - Photography by Kristine Wolff
growing up on Chicago's North Shore, Peter and Kathy Wilson spent their first 24 years of married life in a succession of charming suburban homes. But six years ago, they decided to trade in manicured lawns, fast food restaurants, and neon signs for 11 peaceful acres of rolling meadows and a charming 1845 farmhouse with a barn.
Picturesque in its placement high atop a ridge, the Wilson's home might best be described as a gentleman farm. Peter and Kathy don't work the land, but their property is presently home to eight dogs, nine cats, and numerous sheep. "We've
both always loved animals," explains Kathy. And the Bull Valley home also offered the perfect spot for indulging their passion-breeding Irish Wolfhounds. "We've been breeding them for the last twenty years," she says, adding, "We love our dogs. They're our children.
As perfect as the property appeared, the couple knew they wanted to add their own stamp of charm to the rural acres. So with some help from architects and landscape designers, they began personalizing the plot with trees, shrubs, and fences-and even a little stone house for the geese. "We wanted the stone house to look like an authentic spring house--one that has always been here," says Peter.
keeping with the old-fashioned feel, Kathy asked
for white picket fences," Built in a style similar
to those the couple remembered from a visit to
Colonial Williamsburg. "We loved the look and
never quite forgot it," explains Kathy.
the home does exude a certain colonial charm now
thanks to the addition of the more than 400 feet
of fencing; not added just for appearance, Peter
is quick to point out. "We needed a way to keep
the animals separated," he says, referring to
their menagerie of dogs, sheep, and geese.
the exterior rejuvenated, Kathy turned her attention
to the interior, and began a room-by-room transformation
that pays tribute to the couple's pastoral interest.
A careful collector, Kathy is drawn to objects
that celebrate her love for animals-especially
dogs. Irish Wolfhounds grace everything from paintings
to a folk art fire screen. Staffordshire dogs
stand sentry atop a fireplace mantel and terriers
pop up on pillows, footstools, and paintings that
were gathered on trips here and abroad. Birds,
bunnies, and an assortment of flora and fauna
also grace plates, painted furniture, and various
wall hangings. All are tastefully combined and
artfully arranged by Kathy, who admits her penchant
for interior design.
in addition to her knack for personalizing her
home, Kathy also knew just what she wanted-a casually
elegant home filled with bold color and vibrant
florals that would also remind her of her second
love-gardening. To help her pull this look together,
Kathy turned to designer Lynne Wickham, of Wickham
Interiors in Crystal Lake.
not afraid of color and she has a real sense of
fun," says Wickham, referring to Kathy's love
for whimsical accessories. "But she also wanted
authenticity, so we stayed primarily with French
and English period pieces."
room's décor started with a fabric or textile
that Kathy adored. For instance, Kathy fell in
love with a cream and red floral from Clarence
House that Wickham used in the master bedroom
for the comforter, tester, and window treatments.
A complementary rose plaid from Brunschwig & Fils
was soon chosen for a dust-ruffled and chaise,
and the room's cheery tone was firmly established.
New reproduction pieces lend all the upholsteries
the elegance of timeless style, while the chaise
from Peter's grandmother and a chair from Kathy's
grandmother bring just the right reminders of
family when placed fetchingly round the room's
fireplace (one of four in the home).
bedroom, now one of Kathy's favorite spots, also
holds one of her dearest treasures-an engraving
purchased at Harrod's in London, entitled "Naughty
Dog." "It features a cute little terrier, who
looks very guilty!" explains Kathy, whose sense
of humor often shines in playful accessories such
as this one.
her finishing touches reveal her sense of humor,
Kathy's love for fabrics dotted with delectable
old-fashioned flowers hints at her romantic disposition.
Not surprising, then, that the living room, with
its flower-strewn surfaces, is her second favorite
meanwhile, prefers the deeper palette and the
more traditional look of the library. Here, a
backdrop of cream, emerald green, and ruby red
compliments a stately, reproduction Dickens desk,
designed by Heckman.
of these favored retreats take their decorating
cues from vibrant splashes of color. "I love color.
It makes me feel good," enthuses Kathy. Not prone
to overdo, however, she is careful to offset her
deep hues with plenty of white and softer variations
of the shades, going from red to rose and royal
blue to cerulean.
the living room, a 1920s Persian rug that warms
the oak floors and establishes the red, white,
and blue color scheme. Though nearly of an age
to classify as "antique," the rug had never been
used. "It was found in the inventory of a well-known
Chicago store after the owner's death," explains
a grand piano and a pair of love seats pulled
intimately around a coffee table at the other,
the 25-by-18 foot space seems downright cozy .
. . and warm. A north-facing wall of windows brightens
the room and offers captivating views of the garden
below where hollyhocks, sweet William, phlox,
Virginia blue bells, and forget-me-nots flourish.
Throughout the country home, great attention has
been paid to detail. But nowhere is this more
evident than in the renovated kitchen by Barrington
designer, Helen Lundstrom. One of the smaller
rooms in the home, the 13-by-13 foot kitchen still
boasts plenty of storage and workspace thanks
to Lundstrom's careful planning and ingenuity.
do love beautiful details," admits Kathy. And
certainly, decorative embellishments abound in
her kitchen-from the glass-fronted cabinet doors
with patterned mullions to the fruit-accented
American tiles that dot the countertops.
display areas above cabinets or in the many tiny
vertical built-in shelves also provide interest
and serve to show off a show medley of collectibles,
including Kathy's rooster collection and her favorite
Flow Blue china.
off the kitchen lies a sunny breakfast room that
was once an enclosed side porch. Maintaining the
spirit of the 1840s farmhouse, the room now provides
the prefect backdrop for the couple's collection
of vintage pieces combined with period reproductions.
A new armoire from Habersham Plantation, for instance,
marries happily with a vintage drop-leaf table,
a gift from Peter's family.
love the character of this piece," says Kathy
raising the drop-leaf to reveal a burn mark from
an old-fashioned iron. Not one to wax poetic about
the sentiment of time-worn antiques, Kathy's pleasure
is nonetheless evident in the tone of her voice
as she points out pieces handed down through Peter's
family and her own.
as in other parts of her home, a nature theme
prevails. A faux-painted chair features a garden
scene and weathered kitchen chairs feature a hummingbird
inside and out, the Wilson's home sings with the
joy of peaceful country living and a love for
creatures great and small. "There's nothing I
would rather do than spend a quiet day in my garden,
taking time out to feed the sheep or play with
our dogs," says Kathy. "Now when we go back to
visit in the suburbs, we think it's nice, but
so crowded. We breathe a sigh of relief when we
get back home."
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