“Defining lifestyle through design—that is our mission, our ethos,” explains Martin Horner, co-founder and principal of Soucie Horner, Ltd., arguably one of Chicago’s most sought-after interior architecture and design firms. “Our approach emphasizes real life: how people live, how they entertain, and how they collect.”
Horner met future business partner Shea Soucie back in 1994 as students at the School of the Art Institute. It was an instant connection and collaboration, forged by studies abroad in Paris and big dreams of the future.
After graduation, Horner and Soucie worked under award-winning architect and designer Suzanne Lovell before venturing out on their own. In 2003, they settled into their current offices, a chic loft space in River North, expanding Soucie Horner Interiors to include a design atelier, Soucie Horner Collections, for custom lighting and furniture, the SHIIR Rug collection, developed in partnership with Oscar Isberian Rugs, now available in showrooms across the United States and Europe, and SH Studio, for commercial properties.
While their main client base is located across Chicago and the North Shore, Soucie Horner has built second homes and stand-alone projects alike from New York to Jackson Hole, and have been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest and House Beautiful. “As a designer, it’s exciting when your work is getting noticed outside of your community,” shares Horner.
No matter the type of space, the goal remains the same: a Soucie Horner project is designed to be “comfortable, livable, and absolutely lovely.” The goal is to “illuminate individuality,” ensuring the design process is highly personal and collaborative. “The majority of our clients have a vision,” says Horner. “When we meet, we talk about what inspires them, what foods they like, what colors. Our biggest question is always ‘How do you want this house to feel?’”
It all begins with a lifestyle board, which includes the expected images of rooms and inspiring artwork paired with more surprising subject matter like food and plant life along with three words that capture the feeling they want their space to evoke. These words and images are referred back to throughout the process as every new layer—design schemes, architectural plans, timelines—is added. “We take our clients on a journey—it’s a linear, organized process but equally an artistic one,” Horner relates.
For a recent client in Highland Park, the journey began after a decade in her current home. A friend of an existing Soucie Horner client, the homeowner became enamored with the aesthetic they had created in her friend’s home, and it was not long before she enlisted the firm to upgrade her existing living space.
Soucie Horner was brought on to elevate and customize what was originally built as a spec home, with an initial focus on the kitchen. Addressing its odd size, difficult angles, and issues with functionality, the design team moved walls and installed two islands for additional prep space, adding a vintage dining table and leather chairs in between for seating. There is also a little space perfect for the busy mother of three to recharge: a coffee nook nestled into the bay window, complete with plush chairs to relax into. “For a family, the kitchen is the core of the house—it needs to function for everyone,” Horner explains, adding, “It’s one of my favorite kitchens we’ve ever designed.”
What started as a small renovation eventually touched every room—and bathroom—of the home. Structural changes resulted in a more appropriate scale for the space, improved proportions, and better bones. Next came custom lighting and fixtures: replacing the original mismatched finishes throughout the home are brass and other metallic elements, particularly notable in the kitchen. “I love the depth of color and materials we were able to achieve,” shares Horner.
The dining room is a stunning example of color, texture, and feeling, with Horner describing the room as “dramatic, slightly moody, and sexy.” While the center table is so often the focal point of most dining rooms, the true star of this design is its walls, from the lustrous wallpaper that shimmers in the twilight to the bold orange vintage Hermès scarf cleverly framed on the wall.
Described by Horner as stylish and forward-thinking, the client brought with her to the project an eclectic and extensive collection, including textiles, photography, and African pieces. “The question quickly became how do you make these things feel special, feel collected, and not make the space feel like a showroom?” says Horner. “So it was my job to be the curator of the space, to enhance what she already had.” Her collections now flow organically from room to room, lovingly showcasing beloved items inherited over the years and reflecting many memorable experiences and travels.
From fearless art collector to practical parent, the back of the house has been reworked to better serve the real lives of its residents. It now features a mudroom—a must for a busy and active family—and the homeowner’s office, the epicenter of the household, the epitome of efficiency, organization, and clean design, complete with a dedicated homework space for the children adjacent to her own.
Comfortable, livable, and absolutely lovely? A promise deftly fulfilled.
For more information, visit souciehorner.com.