Clean lines. A neutral palette. Layered textures. Meet husband and wife team Michael Kreuser and Marli Grace Jones, Rebel House Interior Design principals.
Stunningly simple twin olive trees flank the picture window of their Hubbard Woods design studio, quietly beckoning you to look further, to enter. Once inside, the joy for the business of interior design emanates from Jones and Kreuser. Joy for one another and, more broadly, their team and clients—this zest, this air of positivity, is contagious.
Layers of textures and California cool is the foundation, with sparks of edge to keep things interesting. Black elements ground the space, and in their shared office is an eye-popping photograph of an artfully tattooed woman and man, holding hands. Jones and Kreuser are people you want to be friends with.
A passion for design for Jones came early, as would be expected with parents who met in Paris, at art school. Their focus: learning and practicing “technique mixte,” a Dutch Masters-inspired, photorealist style of oil painting under a teacher who became a lifelong mentor. This demanding medium greatly influenced Jones on the art of pursuing beauty through a process where the aesthetic itself is the chief goal.
Jones’ father, Steven Jones, is a Winnetka native and lifelong professional painter and curator who teaches painting in retirement at a private estate in Lake Forest.
Carol, Jones’ mother and a Lake Forest native, sold her entire body of work in her early 30s to a collector. For the next 30 years, she ran a successful graphic design business creating identities for many North Shore-based corporations.
Jones grew up in Lake Forest, inspired by her mother’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Interior design was her calling from an early age. Elementary school sketchbooks—even chalk drawings on the driveway—featured floor plans and room layouts.
Kreuser was raised in Peoria, but his father’s career at a world-leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment took the family to both Japan and Australia. These experiences shaped Kreuser’s global perspective and created an appreciation for design. Kreuser’s entrepreneurial bent was influenced by his mother Chris, who in retirement coached entrepreneurs at a Stanford University program.
Jones and Kreuser met in college at Illinois Wesleyan and then ventured post-graduation to San Francisco. By that time, Jones had earned a master’s in Interior Architecture and Design and Kreuser had earned an Emmy in broadcasting.
Jones’ first job was at a boutique Bay Area firm that emphasized art in design, often featuring blue-chip, modern American artists. Here, she was tapped to be the right hand to the principal. In her elevated role, she designed for Silicon Valley venture capitalists on the Peninsula and in Wine Country.
In 2015, she launched her business, which quickly thrived, requiring additional leadership. Kreuser officially joined her as co-owner in 2018. They have, as they say, “a dynamic bond, sharing what they love: being creative and running a good firm.”
Fast forward to today; Rebel House has a flourishing business, with its Hubbard Woods enterprise expanding organically.
“Word of mouth is the basis of our growth. We’ve been so fortunate to join our clients on their life’s journeys, from their homes on the North Shore to their second and third homes. The element of trust is key to a successful collaboration, and we’re proud we have that kind of relationship with our clients,” says Jones.
The pair believes a holistic approach packs the biggest punch. “We look at the entirety of a room and how it functions, the materials, and the forms. We highly discourage following ‘trends’ and instead want to foster an appreciation for the architecture of a space along with the personal interests of the spaces’ inhabitants. We strive to create work that stands the test of time. An interior should not be fast fashion, but a calculated amalgamation of a client’s persona organized and elevated by our team’s experience and knowledge.”
While much of Rebel House’s work is focused on a modern, art-forward aesthetic, Jones and Kreuser have been personally steeped in a pet project centered around historic design—renovating their own 1924 Tudor home in Glencoe.
“We purchased what many deemed a tear-down in 2019, just before the pandemic, five blocks from the lake. The bones were great, but the home had not been lived in for four years. It was truly hard, even as professionals, to see past the immense amount of cosmetic work that needed to be done,” says Kreuser.
While expecting their now two-year-old son, they got to work on a full-scale renovation. “This has been a passion project that got us through the last few years of the pandemic, and it taught us a lot about the emotional components of renovation,” he observes.
“We learned how to be the kind of partner for our clients that we wish we’d had: someone who can make it fun, inspiring, and digestible through a well-orchestrated team and organized communication. We focused our personal design efforts on incorporating gothic arches from the original bones of the home into the custom millwork, cabinetry, and fireplaces. We mixed in modern elements with historic details of the era to create a dynamic interior that elegantly straddles the line of fresh and familiar. This was our opportunity to experiment, and we gained even more incredibly talented partners in various crafts. Our next big project is a custom grisaille landscape scene painted by a local muralist on our dining room walls.”
Next up for this dynamic duo: working on ground-up construction and renovations across the North Shore along with private residences in Utah, California, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
“On the commercial side of our business, we are working on a series of medical day spas and boutique hotel spaces. We look forward to future work in the restaurant space as the need returns, post-pandemic,” says Jones.
While they are relative newcomers to the area’s design scene, they are firmly planted on the North Shore. “This is our home. The North Shore has long been a place that has fostered the arts and creativity—pushing the boundaries to develop interesting works, investing in creatives to preserve the beauty and architecture of the area. We aspire to be a resource for the community rooted in the appreciation of historic architecture and design, but with an artful twist: creating couture environments with an edge of modernity,” explains Jones.
Rebel House is located at 905 Green Bay Road in Winnetka, 773-661-9661, rebelhousedesign.com.