There was no house on this deep, narrow lot in downtown Barrington —no old relic to remove or restore, no legacy to draw from. What did exist was an established history in the quiet, tree-lined streets, one with roots in an era of “gentlemen’s farms,” riding clubs, and the promise of a more genteel life outside the fast pace of the city. If there was going to be a house here, it had to be the right one—a seamless blend of old and new.
With this history in mind, Barrington designer Kate Marker eagerly expanded her responsibilities from providing input on the exterior façade to spearheading the modern farmhouse aesthetic for this modestly elegant 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom new build in downtown Barrington, completed last fall.
“The Village of Barrington has so many quaint and historic farmhouses, many dating back to the 1800s,” explains Marker, who worked in collaboration with Grand Traditions, the builder on the project. “By embracing the farmhouse aesthetic seen on the surrounding streets—but giving it a significant modern touch— bridged what is old and new, classic and modern. It blends in, yet has the best of what new construction offers.”
This is not new territory for Marker, having started Kate Marker Interiors out of her own Village home in 2007 and opening a showroom on Cook Street in 2012. “I love this town and am so fortunate to be both a business owner and raising my two girls here.”
With an impressive portfolio of projects scattered throughout the Chicago area and expanding into a few e-design clients throughout the country, having a project in downtown Barrington allowed Marker to relate to the client’s wishes on a whole new level.
“Imagining how a family resides in a space is key to any design project. There was a huge sense of familiarity with both the home and the client right from the start.”
To continue the modern farmhouse aesthetic from exterior to interior, Marker and her team began creating a space an element of discovery that is often found in older homes. Entering into a long hallway of light white oak floors, past an elegant music room and dining room, leads you to an open kitchen and family room area that is spacious, yet cozy. From a white farmhouse sink to warm white cabinetry, modern farm finishes are given added authenticity with rustic reclaimed pine wood beams. But don’t be fooled. It may look like an old farmhouse kitchen, but those fixtures are top of the line—with a bridge faucet by Rohl, Subzero appliances, and a Five Star range in bold black.
The butler’s pantry takes that authentic, vintage charm to the next level with a very special detail that has roots in the new home’s history—literally.
“The client presented us with the outstanding idea of repurposing an existing walnut tree on the property. This beautiful walnut wood is now showcased in the butler’s pantry with the shelving and counters,” says Marker, explaining that this was a first for both her team and the builder.
“Creating beautiful and functional pieces from the salvaged walnut tree was a fun challenge and it adds such an organic element; and a true piece of history from the property. This warm wood was also utilized in the custom shelving and desk top seen in the laundry room and a beam in the teenage boy’s room.”
She says the family had relocated from nearby Barrington Hills with three teenagers—each with their own style and design requests. “Moving into the Village allows for more flexibility for the kids as they can walk to meet friends or even walk to and from school,” Marker explains, adding: “These teenagers were involved, with the daughter selecting a fun bathroom floral tile and the sons giving much feedback on their bathrooms and room décor for their own individual look.”
With so many people to please, the result is an individuality many newer construction homes are lacking. It’s intentionally timeless, marrying repurposed pieces from the family’s former home with modern vintage signature details. Light fixtures were hand-picked for each space.
An antique-style, wood-grain bathroom vanity is paired with a simple, black metal trimmed mirror with yellow-gold tones. Brass fixtures and framed artwork elevate the room as one of the home’s statement spaces.
“The mix of styles gives a sense of eclecticism that provides a glimpse into the personalities of the family,” Marker says. “It is rare that individuals only like one style, and in this case, the owner had several pieces from her previous home that we reupholstered to incorporate with the overall style. The blend of previously owned and new furnishings gives the space a sense of authenticity.”
In the end, the story of the empty lot and the interiors Marker and her team designed is a happy one. The Village’s history has been respected and visitors may never know that all that once stood here was a walnut tree.
“These clients were a joy to work with,” she concludes, “and now we are lucky to have a long-lasting relationship with this fantastic family.”
To learn more, visit katemarkerinteriors.com.