How to Create a Home That’s Cool But Not Delicate
Chicago designer Alex Kaehler opens up her family-friendly (yet artfully decorated) townhouse.
Published Jan 24, 2017 6:00 AM
Chicago-based interior designer Alex Kaehler creates gorgeous homes that are meant to be lived in. “I don’t do delicate decorating,” Alex notes when talking about the redesign of her Chicago townhouse where she lives with her husband and two-year-old daughter. After renovating their home to open up the downstairs and create living areas that flow together, Alex focused on designing her home with both function and beauty in mind. She loves furniture that is as sturdy as it is elegant, and she embraces pattern for its aesthetic quality as well as its ability to camouflage life’s wears and tears. She adds color, vibrancy, and meaning to her decor through original art—largely the work of friends—and the result is a home that feels modern, elegant, and welcoming—which happens to be exactly like Alex.
How would you describe your style?
I think my style is really a mix. The tension of different things make a space interesting. Shiny with matte, square with round, feminine with masculine. I like all different time periods and aesthetics, so mixing them is the perfect way to create a space in my eyes.
Talk a bit about your design philosophy…
I think the most important thing is to fill your house with things you love. The “aesthetic” will build on that. There is nothing better than looking around your home and seeing things that make you happy. Second, nothing should be too fragile or delicate that you aren’t able to enjoy it! A home is meant to be loved and lived in. That can mean different things to different people, but the overarching philosophy is still the same.
What do you love most about your home?
How well it suits us! The main floor is one big open space. We can cook, entertain, play with our daughter, watch a movie, all in the same space. I also love that we were given the opportunity to renovate it, and really make it our own.
What are some lessons you learned from renovating your home?
Really pay attention to the way you live. If you spend a lot of time at the sink, it’s nice to have it facing out so that you don’t feel like you’re in a corner. If you tend to have big groups over to watch a game, make sure to design your family room with enough seating. A beautiful space is fabulous, but if it isn’t functional then who cares?
What was your biggest splurge, and was it worth it?
The biggest splurge was our kitchen, and yes it was definitely worth it. We invested in really fantastic appliances, used a custom carpenter to build our cabinets. We chose things carefully, knowing how much time we would be spending in there. I love to cook, and so does my husband. Now that my daughter is a little older (she’s two) we include her in it, too. It’s such a bright, happy space.
Has your approach to design changed since having your daughter?
I’ve always designed clients’ homes to be lived in and used, but now I really know the true meaning of that.
What’s your favorite room in the house?
My daughter’s nursery is very special to me because it’s where we brought her home, and it’s just so cozy and lovely. (Alex had a friend custom design the butterfly wallpaper in the nursery.)
What are some of your favorite belongings?
In general, I love our collection of art. It all has meaning to us. There is a common theme of butterflies in a lot of it, a tracing of a body done in salt by a friend of ours, and I love the big photograph in our bedroom. It is a picture of my husband and my daughter walking through Lincoln Park. I love waking up in the morning and seeing the two of them in their moment together.