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Susan Fredman is one of Chicago’s premiere interior designers. For the past 30 years, she and her team have designed grand homes and estates in the Windy City, around the Great Lakes and on both coasts. The Susan Fredman Design Group delivers luxurious designs that also embrace a client’s passions. This month’s tour takes us to Wisconsin where we step inside the home of a client who loves traditional style but wanted to avoid anything stuffy and uninviting. It was important for them that the house worked perfectly for entertaining and day-to-day living, as well as lending itself to curated collections. The result is a brilliant manor with plenty of personality and surprises, like hidden passages and secret rooms. All design work was done by Susan Fredman, Aimee Nemeckay and Barbara Theile.


Susan says: The appeal of this residence begins as soon as you pull into the driveway. This classic manor looks like it’s set in the English countryside. Who would guess that it’s actually located in the middle of Wisconsin’s agriculture center.


By mixing formal dining chairs with a round table one would typically find in an eat-in kitchen, we were able to provide the client with the traditional style they desired, infused with a casual atmosphere that invites guests to sit back and enjoy themselves. There are a couple of touches in this room that I particularly love. The large stone fireplace mixes both hard and soft lines, similar to the dining room as a whole. Plus, the mantel and surround is functional art, which you’ve got to love. Also, check out the hand-carved tree trunk base of the table. It’s an unexpected, whimsical touch that doesn’t compete with the style of the room.


Most traditional estates have huge great rooms. This home is no exception. But by using smaller-scale pieces of furniture and grouping them in smaller rooms-within-a-room, we were able to give the clients the inviting, homey feel they wanted. This design proves it’s possible to have a big, beautiful home without it feeling overwhelming or pretentious. I love the great room because it draws you into the home and provides a glimpse of the personality of the homeowners.


This seating area is one of the “mini-rooms” within the great room. The multiple seating groups create intimacy within a large space. Chicago artist Larry Roberts’ painting hangs above the sofa and provides an invigorating pop of color to the muted palette.


While the two colors of the detailed cabinetry feel traditional, the stone and glass tiled backsplash provides a contemporary counterpoint. A custom hood, made of copper, steel and bronze, and the over-sized lantern-like pendant add focal points. In a large home like this, it’s so important to get the scale right. Can you imagine what this kitchen would look like with a tiny island, shorter cabinets and a regular-sized light fixture? Laughable!


Like the great room, we created a room-within-a-room in the kitchen to provide intimacy and to capitalize on the fabulous views in the breakfast nook. The large burnt-orange chairs hint to opulence and tradition, while the tan wicker adds a playful, casual touch.


The master bedroom provides the perfect marriage of luxury and comfort. While the fabrics and textures in the room are lush and plush, structural elements, like the carved stone fireplace with raised firebox, anchor the comfortable bedroom in the regal style of the rest of the home.


I absolutely adore the master bathroom. It’s divided into two areas: a grand shower area and the tub lounge. Here’s the shower area, complete with chandelier, huge walk-in shower and stunning views. Imagine what a joy it is to get ready in the morning or for a party in this suite! Sometimes I get a touch jealous of my clients.


The spa-like tub has an infinity-edge and is situated across from one of the home’s seven fireplaces. The surround features honey-colored onyx tile. While these color choices would be odd in a ordinary bathroom, this master bath suite is quite extraordinary, so it works.


Clients are often a source for delightful design ideas when their passions inform what they want in a space. And at times it’s something we, as designers, wouldn’t have thought of. This formal, wood-paneled library, aside from serving as home to thousands of titles, has a secret passage that leads “those in the know” to the master suite. This was a specific request from one of the homeowners—an avid reader of mysteries. I love incorporating fun, unexpected elements into traditional designs.


Speaking of fun touches, family heirlooms and personal collections are incredibly effective at transforming an imposing estate into a living, breathing home. The second floor craft room is cleverly hidden behind an open bookcase that proudly displays refurbished vintage typewriters that one of the homeowners restores. Embrace your collections and showcase them. They show who you are and are anything but humdrum.

2 Responses

  1. kathy c harvey-haire says:

    Mike Holmes should be our next president of the United States of America

  2. [...] Monthly Tour: Susan Fredman’s Traditional Wisconsin Surprise [...]

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