On the outside, Chris and Natalie Decancq’s South Barrington home looks just like all the others in their elegant subdivision—from a stately brick exterior to a circular driveway that has become a staple of suburban living. But step inside and it feels more like a lavish luxury retreat in downtown Chicago, with Art Deco- inspired details and a hip urban vibe.
“I love the bold geometry and polish of the Art Deco style,” says Natalie, an interior designer by trade who poured more than a decade of experience into her family’s dream home. “I adore how the aesthetic evokes glamour and sophistication and elegance. For me, that was something I really wanted to bring to my home.”
One year after moving into the four-bedroom, six-bathroom, 5,000-square-foot residence, Natalie has customized every room to fit the personal interests and needs of her family members. Husband Chris, a guitar-strumming finance executive who does most of his work from the home office, telecommutes from a stylish suite fully accoutered in cowhide poufs, mid-century modern chairs, and art from his favorite films.
“Guitar is a hobby he picked up. He just loves sitting there between calls and playing,” says Natalie, explaining how she chose to keep the walls dark with a chair rail and wainscoting for a vintage Mad Men feel. “His office definitely has that masculine feel. That was the first space we ended up doing when we moved in so he could have his sanctuary to work.”
Meanwhile, the couple’s twin 3-year-old daughters— Ava and Ellie—have a bedroom fit for any little girl’s dreams. Closets filled with dress-up clothes open to a secret passageway to another guest bedroom, creating the perfect setting for make believe games and play time. Downstairs, the girls also have an expansive playroom, adorned with all the toys and props for fairy tales come true.
“That’s a big thing about design. It needs to be functional for you and your family,” says Natalie, who grew up in Grosse Point Farms, Michigan, and came to Chicago in 2000 to study at Harrington School of Design. “I like to interview the family and find out what their needs are and how they live their life. I applied these same principles to designing my own family’s home.”
Beyond the spaces made just for Chris and her daughters, Natalie was also sure to create a lair of her own—a Hollywood-worthy office rich with detail and layers of texture and color.
“I know that this is the way that I work, so everything needs to have a purpose and a function,” she says. “I’m a problem solver. I want my home to work for my family. If there are issues with space in a home, it’s my job to solve that problem and make it look like it’s been thought out. That’s what good design is.”
A recent tour of the family’s home also included a retelling of the story of how the couple met and married and found themselves in South Barrington.
“We met in August 2008. Natalie was working for a design firm downtown. We met for drinks at Rebar in the Trump Hotel a week after it had opened,” explains Chris, a native of Mount Prospect who was living in Chicago’s River North neighborhood when the couple first met.
The couple was married at St. Michael’s Church in Chicago and lived in the city as newlyweds. Soon after, as their thoughts turned to family and building a future, they bought a fixer upper in Palatine.
“The house had good bones. We went in, renovated, and ended up flipping it,” says Chris, adding. “We sold it in seven days.”
With twins on the way, it was time for a bigger, more long-term house, which is what led them to this Toll Brothers subdivision in South Barrington.
Natalie loved the area and loved the look of the home, but wanted to add her own touches. Today, the home is perhaps the most customized one in the subdivision, with unique features and one-of-a-kind design elements.
The kitchen is a great example of these custom touches. The cabinets are white, as they are in many other homes in the neighborhood. However, Natalie opted to take them to the top of the ceiling, and pair them with white quartz and a stainless-steel stove hood that she designed herself.
“I wanted to create a bold focal point in my kitchen with the hood. I didn’t want it to appear too heavy and boxy, so I added a soft curve on both sides. For the finish, I combined a bright polish and a brushed finish to add contrast and sparkle. All these metal work details you would see during the Art Deco era,” says Natalie. “I also wanted to keep the color palette on the calm and neutral side. That allows me to swap out different pillows and art to add that little pop of color. Down the road, I might want to switch my accent colors and this allows that flexibility.”
Other design elements custom created by Natalie include the fireplace mantel and the iron balusters on the dramatic entry staircase. These are the things that make her happy, and give her purpose.
In addition to Natalie Marie Design Group and a new lifestyle blog, Natalie is also working on a new line of yoga inspired, street wear clothing called NamaChic, launching in the fall of 2018 (with Chris as the “numbers man” behind the scenes). She is also eager to contribute to her newfound community in Barrington, donating design services to a recent Barrington Junior Women’s Club fundraiser.
“We love it here,” says Chris. “We have friends who live in Barrington and we just joined the Biltmore Country Club. This community has everything we were looking for.”
Natalie says she is eager to continue working with friends and new clients to bring her personalized touch to Barrington interiors. With a background in hospitality design (working on elite boutique hotels all over the country), her approach is adaptable to the client’s needs and taste.
“My house isn’t a typical home you’d see in the suburbs. You can see the influence of the city and of Art Deco style,” she says. “It’s perfect for our family and I love being able to blend the best of both worlds.”