For Lenore Weiss, her recent collaboration on an east Highland Park residence was a dream project. “As an architect who also does interior design, a project like this has been gratifying on so many levels,” says Weiss.
Weiss’s claims validate how she was able to channel each of the pillars of her architectural studio into this recent project. She fundamentally believes that architecture “should be inspirational, eminently functional, and delightful to all of the senses.”
Weiss was commissioned by a North Shore family who fell in love with the location of their new house built in 1993. With lake, ravine, and natural views, Weiss was challenged to leverage the setting in the rebirth of this contemporary structure. Lenore Weiss Studios collaborated with the first architect, Stuart Shayman, to transform the original iteration into a house that better met the lifestyle needs of the current family, including a full sports court on the lower level. The house was modernized and refreshed through a play of natural textures, patterns, and forms.
“I really focused on the details, both macro and micro,” adds Weiss, who says her early undergraduate studies in psychology helps her know the hearts and minds of her clients. “Inviting nature indoors— making it symbiotic with its context—was very important to achieving our design goals for this project.”
As you enter the main foyer, you’re immediately taken with how the natural stone used on the home’s exterior walls and garden path is continued indoors. “The textural quality of these outdoor materials truly becomes warm and elegant once extended inside.”
One of Weiss’s opportunities and challenges was to ensure that the design optimized the floor-to-ceiling windows in each of the main gathering spaces. Playing off the shapes formed by the faceted window walls, she and her team used a vocabulary of rectangles as they worked their way through the home thinking of storage requirements within the interior. “I have a sailor mentality,” she explains. “Whether it’s a project this size or a small space, I think about the storage capabilities a sailboat has—all of the tucked away spaces you don’t see that store everything you need.”
The coat closet in the front entry is a perfect example of Weiss’s eye for detail at work. The wooden panels that warmly frame the entrance conceal the closet seamlessly. “It’s designed to be an unexpected surprise when you discover that two of the panels within the grid are actually doors to a closet. It’s beautifully integrated into the paneled wall, but functionally provides ample closet space. Cisneros Brothers Construction and Pegasus Millwork were incredible to work with in bringing these designs to life.”
Just off the entry way is the master suite, kept private with sliding doors hung with specialty concealed hardware giving the illusion that the doors are suspended in air. When you cross the threshold into the suite, you’re welcomed by his and her framed art that directs you to her office in one direction—where her space is centered around a gold-toned desk with a pink leather blotter—and the master bedroom in the other. “This was artwork the couple acquired during construction,” Weiss says. “It shows what a great eye they have as collectors and how they were able to integrate their collection into the home with a sense of humor.”
Several rooms throughout the project exemplify how Weiss’s design married the homeowners’ art collection serendipitously.
Weiss was shopping for stone for a bathroom project with the couple and came across a piece of bluestone quartzite they saw and loved. “It looks like a painting,” she recalls them saying. After a quick brainstorming session with Shayman, they decided to include the tile in the first floor powder room by recessing it in the wall and treating it like a painting.
Daylight plays such a role in bringing out the natural elements of a room that it was important for nothing to stand in its way.
“You’ll notice how the kitchen opens into the dining room,” Weiss points out. “The chandelier over the dining room table is made of handblown glass pendants, very light and airy and it doesn’t take away from the view. At nighttime, they’re like stars twinkling. It’s an anchor for the room, but in a very light and playful way.”
The same is true in the kitchen where the walnut cabinetry by Valcucine is offset by the dark textured granite on the new center island. “The dropped ceiling and pendants visually anchor the island yet hover like a cloud. The softness of this lighting balances the more rugged surface of the island.”
When pushed to claim her proudest accomplishment in the home, it was hard for Weiss to pick just one. But when pressed, she recalls that “each design challenge became an opportunity for a creative solution.” As an example, she cited the central staircase. “The couple had competing objectives for this more focal point. One wanted a light, floating aesthetic, and the other wanted a more solid feel while navigating the steps,” she explains. “So, we devised a detail with solid elements that creates the illusion of lightness. The steps do seem to appear as if they’re floating. The solution to that problem really worked.”
Weiss’s work didn’t end with the interior architectural design, she procured nearly all of the furnishings as well. “The couple and I worked through the palette of materials to support the overall design vocabulary,” she says. “There are so many custom pieces that were designed specifically for those homeowners, from the custom colors for some of the rugs to the wood and leather finishes on the furniture. I sourced much of the furniture from Holly Hunt. It was so much fun to be able to finish and furnish the home to be so aligned with the design intent.”
But probably the greatest joy to Weiss is knowing that her clients are living in this home in the way they had dreamed they might. “They are such special people and this was an incredibly special collaboration. I feel lucky to be privy to the fact that they’re enjoying their new home very much.”
For more information about Lenore Weiss Studios, visit lenoreweissstudios.com.