One of the great things about living in Chicago is that I am fairly surrounded by the works of one of my favorite architects, David Adler. Whether it's tidy townhouses, wood-paneled co-ops, or expansive country estates, all of Adler's work is elegant and precise. His homes are grand, yet restrained, and never grandiose.
Today I'm drooling over the Carolyn Morse Ely estate, c1922-24, one of Adler's finest homes. The buff brick house was inspired by La Lantern at Versailles (google it people if you're not familiar - thank me later).
The beautiful and well-organized front facade and porte cochere, complete with perfectly trimmed formal boxwoods certainly has a Versaillesque look and feel. [nb: Is Versaillesque a word? I feel like it is. A cursory google was inconclusive]. What strikes me most about the outside of this home is that despite its utter formality, there is an undeniable fizzy, ebullient quality to the house - like if the house could laugh, it would.
The foyer has an airy, spare quality that feels like a breath of frosty winter air off of the lake. I love the ceiling beams, and I believe the lantern (like many of the light fixtures in the house), is original to Adler’s design.
A green chamber off of the foyer has delicious pistachio-colored paneling, and inset antiqued mirrors. The octagonal-backed painted chairs are heartbreakers.
The living room has warm amber-colored Louis XV style paneling in knotty pine. The less formal Louis XV style, as opposed to the more frou frou Louis XVI style, done in a spotted knotty pine makes this a salon a teensy bit more rustic and appropriate for a very American iteration of the French country house.
This vignette at the far side of the living room is anchored by a large, antique Chinoiserie print. And those green upholstered bergeres don't hurt either.
A more casual den post the living room repeats the pistachio color of the little antechamber off of the foyer. This cozy room has beautiful curved moulding, and the perfect country house mix of giant gingham and animal print. I love the monochromatic treatment of the French doors, their muntins, and the curtain rod and rings. The Chinese red trunk coffee table is a nice punctuation against all of the gorgeous green.
There’s even more Louis XV style paneling in the dining room. Echoing the neutral tones of the foyer, this room is surprisingly calm, and echoes the airy serenity of the foyer. The gentle arch at the top of the windows makes my heart skip a beat.
Yes, I also thought this kitchen would be a disaster (if there were any pictures at all), and was pleasantly surprised by this lovely, creamy space. I love that grandmother's Queen Ann chairs have found a home here in the kitchen. The glass upper cabinets have a country charm, and I think that screened double cabinet beneath the window is a built-in doggy crate (!!!).
All I would do here in this family room is put a fresh Stark “Neptune” sisal rug on the floor and thenI would hunker down on that wonderfully faded and obviously well-loved chintz sofa and never ever get up. Ever. I adore the white walls contrasting cleanly with the grey moulding and superb French doors. Pale celery green draperies add even more freshness. And the rustic lantern is a perfect finishing touch.
There’s more warm knotty pine out in the central hall, and the marble floors are adorned with David Adler’s signature eight-point star.
The master suite is clad in fresh and pretty wintergreen paneling and a genteel floral.
The sitting room of the master suite sports the same beautiful pale aqua-green as the bedroom. There are more of the home's french paneled walls as well, although done here in a more pared-down style.
A guest suite is a charming, dizzy swirl of petite pink and green floral on a cream ground. I like the little pop of geometry provided by the gingham bergere and trellis carpet.
The rear elevation of the home is expansive and somehow simultaneously dainty, The round oiel-de-bouef windows in a classic French blue are truly one of this house's most lovely elements. I love the understated hyphens to the side of the home, with the right one connecting to the family room and garage beyond.
To the left of the home, a handsomely decorated garden and patio provides stunning outdoor entertaining space. The treillage vignette complete with centered bust is unstoppably gallic, nodding at the Versailles heritage of the home's design.
The symmetrical trees and use of pea gravel have a wonderfully continental appeal.
The home's formal gardens are completed with this beautiful, longitudinal reflecting pond, and it's perfectly manicured horseshoe of clipped boxwoods and trained trees.
The funny thing is, I don't like French provincial houses. Almost ever. I think its due to a northeastern upbringing, and a New England education that I find french style houses too overdone and prefer the clipped, restraint of a thoroughly Anglo home. It is Adler's incredible understanding of line and scale that brings a sense of delicateness and precision to this La Lantern inspired home. As I see it, this French style masterpiece by the son of German-Jewish immigrants, built for English-descdended Protestants on the shores of Lake Michigan is a truly American country estate.
You can see more of this gorgeous home here.