Interior decorator Lj Savarie has always loved design, starting from a young age visiting the beautiful homes of her parents’ friends to her career in publishing with Traditional Home and Southern Living magazines to today, as the founder of her eponymous firm Savarie Interiors in Winnetka.
Her stint at the two magazines introduced Savarie to the work of talented designers on a daily basis, and she had a behind-the-scenes look at their processes, which would eventually influence and inspire the work she does today.
“I’m a Midwesterner that loves Southern style,” says Savarie. “In general, my aesthetic is traditional, but I love to add a bit of surprise and something unexpected in the details. I really appreciate the comfort and warm feeling in Southern homes. All of my clients have families, so I want their homes to be beautiful, of course, but also feel thoughtful and practical.”
Savarie eventually left publishing to start her own family with her husband Andy, and they now have four kids: Chip, the oldest, and Ryan, who are both in college and who Savarie refers to as the ‘bigs,’ and the ‘littles,’ Clayton and Logan, the only daughter. “With three boys, I couldn’t give her a name like Tiffany,” jokes Savarie.
She put her career on hold to raise her children but once they were a bit older and more independent, Savarie slowly started to help friends with their design projects. Eventually, Andy pushed Savarie to turn her side hustle into an actual business, and Savarie Interiors was born in 2013.
“There were plenty of times dinner wasn’t ready or the laundry wasn’t done, but my kids and husband really rallied and stepped up,” says Savarie. “I feel lucky because I was able to turn my passion into a career but still be present for my family. It’s never the perfect time to start a new business but, if you love it, then you make it work.”
Now, Savarie is partnering with fellow North Shore interior designer Michele Frigon on the 2020 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens benefitting the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago. The two designers—and friends—are working together on the 23-room, 11,000-square-foot home’s mudroom, which ticket holders can see starting April 25.
“The mudroom is typically the main point of entry to the home, not just for its residents but for their friends and extended family, too,” says Frigon. “But it’s often overlooked from a design perspective, even though it’s the first room people see. We were inspired by the idea that this room is the first glimpse into the grandeur of the home overall and wanted to surprise visitors and welcome back residents with an upgraded aesthetic that still maintains functionality.”
Savarie and Frigon had both independently submitted their names in consideration for the Showhouse but eventually decided to partner, as their styles complement each other.
“Lj’s focus is the design details, while my twist is pulling in graphic elements and natural materials,” says Frigon.
The palette of the space is built on neutral tones with a pop of color; specifically, slate blue and grass green. The duo is using vendors like The Fine Line for tile, Phillip Jeffries, CASA by PC for textiles, Colleen & Company for lighting, and Fiberworks.
“The mudroom had great bones, like beautiful existing architecture, millwork, and brick floors, and we wanted to take it to the next level,” says Savarie. “We added a charging station, an ottoman, a place to throw keys, a sink—we wanted to add a bit more function.”
Savarie believes that clients today expect both quality and performance and that they want to be able to use all aspects of their home. To make her work stand out—and stand the test of time, like the work of the late Billy Baldwin, one of Savarie’s icons—she adds custom elements that are unique to each home and makes sure to layer in fun details.
“I hope my clients love their homes for the next 25 years,” says Savarie. “Sure, we’ll make small updates along the way but if you have good design, then it should be timeless.”
Savarie finds inspiration from travel and is always taking photos with her phone to refer to later. But she also says she appreciates vacation and time off more now than ever before and makes a conscious effort to be present when with family and friends, some of whom she’s known since moving to Winnetka 20 years ago.
In between traveling and watching her kids play sports, Savarie has a “laundry list” of updates she’d like to make to her own home.
“Like the old adage that doctors make the worst patients, designers are the same,” says Savarie. “When it comes to my own home, I pause. There are so many choices that I am slow to pull the trigger. I’ll just wait.”
Perhaps she, like us, will find a few ideas in the Showhouse, open April 25 through May 17.