This Holiday Home Blends Classic and Contemporary Styles

An empty-nester couple watches the glory of the Christmas season unfold at a new home outside Chicago.

white kitchen gold lights

Werner Straube

After a new house is built, it can take a couple of years for Christmas to hit its stride. Mike and Cristie English couldn’t enjoy the holidays at full decorative steam in 2020 when they moved into their Wheaton, Illinois, home just five days before Christmas. Last year was different. Up went Christmas trees and the trimmings that made their abode sparkle with festive spirit. The edited classic-meets-contemporary scheme took a hard pivot from their former house. 

christmas lights home exterior

Werner Straube

“Our previous home was French country and full of warmth, color, and softer forms,” Cristie says. “That was when we had kids in the house with kid things. Since we were moving toward another stage that was just going to be the two of us, we wanted a transitional look that can go one way or the other.” 

Santa relies on his elves to bring Christmas to its peak. Mike and Cristie had their own helpers to help execute their vision: builder Patrick J. Murphy, with whom they had built a house before, and interior designer Amy Storm.

In the foyer, the Christmas tree is informed by a pair of benches covered in shocking pink velvet and trimmed with a fashionable mix of ornaments in silver and two shades of pink.

indoor patio set

Werner Straube

“Cristie has strong design sensibilities,” Storm says. “Her high-fashion style is sophisticated but low-key and casual. The house needed to follow suit with a scheme that was pulled together but relaxed.” 

Ceiling heaters and a fireplace on the back porch keep the air toasty so the English family can enjoy the space well beyond warm months.

holiday dining room

Werner Straube

Dynamic architectural details including soaring, vaulted ceilings and graphic windows, plus a palette of dark gray and white, deliver a simple foundation that allows for pops of pizzazz where the Englishes want it and quiet moments where they don’t.

A stately table anchors the formal dining spot and contrasts upholstered chairs with dainty feminine legs. Christmas trees with tall, slender forms emulate the contemporary qualities of the house. 

living room large wreath

Werner Straube

Case in point, the sight line from the foyer, where everyone but Santa enters the home. A quadrant of leather armchairs is handsome but doesn’t overwhelm the direct view of the primary focal point: a see-through fireplace that encourages a glimpse into the dining room and at the pool beyond. An oversize wreath punctuates the soaring fireplace wall.

black dining room with wreaths

Werner Straube

The same is true of the great room and kitchen, which also open to the space. Furniture has flair but with a quiet presence so activities such as watching Christmas movies, baking cutout cookies, and building gingerbread houses is supported by a simple foundation.

white kitchen gold lights

Werner Straube

“In the case of the kitchen, we understood that it was going to see a lot of action,” Storm says. “Cristie wanted a white kitchen but was open to mixing materials and adding details to make it special.” 

Brass accents give allure to the mostly white kitchen. Lighting fixtures above the island introduce the bulk of brass into the space. A pair of modern sconces, pendants over the sink, and brass bands on both the range hood and island top amplify the charm.

christmas decorated sink

Werner Straube

The soothing grain of walnut wood made it an attractive material to offset the kitchen’s white perimeters. Taking a cue from the adjoining pantry, where walnut cabinets stretch across the room, the kitchen island is capped with the warm wood. Wood also peeks from the back of open shelving, where the family’s cookbooks are housed, and on the legs of barstools with rope backs and linen seats. 

Shutters from Mike and Cristie English’s former home were cut and installed as a door on a track to disguise the mudroom.

Cristie’s office also lends a small but mighty dose of dazzle. Situated in the back of the library room, the space touts a modern pink floral wallpaper that elevates the nook with both glamour and color. Initially assigned to be a closet, this space became Cristie’s work zone. “I didn’t really need a closet,” she says. “But I did want a little room of my own to store the books that I love and have a quiet moment for myself."

blue and neutral bedroom

Werner Straube

Wood veneer accents the wall behind the bed that’s layered with stone-color blankets. The dusty blue stain of the veneer keeps the space peaceful and calming.

lofted christmas bedroom

Werner Straube

Lily English, now in college, requested a lofted bed to make room for several zones, including a hanging chair and sofa seating arrangement. A cherry blossom wallpaper introduces subtle pattern.

So now, with one full Christmas checked off and all three kids out of the house, will this Christmas bring significant changes for the Englishes?

Either way, they are prepared. “There are new memories to be made here,” Cristie says. “We just want a place where Mike and I can be comfortable and one that welcomes our kids and any little ones to come.” 

Well, that time is now. This Christmas will deliver the most joyful new experience: Mike and Cristie’s first grandchild is due to arrive in November.

Produced by: Hilary Rose

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