Last fall, LoganSquarist inaugurated its Interiors-Exteriors feature with a tour of Kelly and Chris McGrath’s home near Palmer Square. Guided by the ever-gracious Kelly, event director for the swank Mastro’s Steakhouse downtown, readers were treated to a look at the couples’ collections of art and objets as well as some insights into their practical but meditative aesthetic. At the time, Kelly mentioned that a refresh of her second floor was in the offing and invited us back to take a look once it was complete.
Already very stylish and intentional in its organization, we wondered what improvements she had in store for the aerie of her two-story retreat. A master bedroom, two guest rooms, and two bathrooms, replete with vaulted ceilings and skylights, were all on the table for revision. The possibilities were numerous.
I trooped out to her brown brick retreat on a drizzly November night with photographer Paulina Fadrowska, whose gorgeous images of the space graced our earlier spread. We were greeted by Kelly and her five dogs and ushered in out of the rain. Over a glass of wine, we discussed the calculated edits she had made to her upstairs space and got a look at the results.
When we first toured her home, the larger guest bedroom was painted in moody boudoir-red and fitted with matching accoutrements: red comforter on the bed, red window treatments, an ornate light fixture and fan. All very reminiscent of New Orleans. While the McGraths retained some of the atmospheric quality of the previous incarnation of the space, they made some substantial changes.
Still enveloping and cocoon-like in its use of darker colors, the palette of the room was cooled down, with slate gray walls complemented by a mauve duvet. A sleek modern bedside lamp, attached to an adjustable arm and complemented by a shade lined in gold, snaked over the bed. And a new piece of art took pride of place on one side of the luscious-looking king. An enormous rendering of a Chinese figure in black and sepia, it adds both gravitas and whimsy to the otherwise minimalist feel of the room.
“My designer found it in a store off of Broadway in Andersonville,” explained Kelly. “She said ‘go look at it.’ It belonged to [a noted restaurant critic]. The guy who bought it got it from his estate.”
“I work in the restaurant industry,” she remembers thinking. “This piece is meant to come home with me. Not only did I love the piece but the backstory made me love it even more.”
Against a wall sits a weathered chest. “My dad sent his belongings from the Vietnam war home in this,” she notes.
This seems to be the thread uniting her design sensibilities: objects with emotional as well as aesthetic value.
A new console in dark wood, sourced from online retailer One Kings Lane, completes the dark guest quarters. Atop it sits Dixie, a seven-year-old black moor goldfish, who previously resided in the master bedroom. “She just hangs out in that little fish tank,” laughs Kelly.
The second, smaller guest room is a different story entirely. While defined by the same careful choice of objects and fixtures, it is bright and light. A white Mateo duvet and coordinating pouf for the floor are grounded by the black painted wood of a side table and a Persian rug, also sourced from One Kings Lane.
“It’s over a 100 years old,” she remarks. “I don’t normally like Persian rugs but [my designer] kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone. I like it. It works.”
Adding further character to the room is a window shade in a subtle floral print. Upon closer examination, the formal floral pattern is accented by snakes weaving through the stylized blossoms and branches.
“It’s very feminine looking but it’s cool with the snakes going through,” Kelly enthuses. “It’s got a little more life than just elegance. I had this woman make them. She works on Ashland. She did these curtains and the ones in my bedroom.”
The same originality defines the bedroom she shares with Chris.
“The inspiration-slash-motivation for the color scheme was this piece of art,” she says gesturing to the large-scale abstract surmounting the headboard. “My husband and I went to the White Linen party in New Orleans. You have to wear all white. You go in and out of galleries. This woman Duane Couch … painted this. We loved talking to her. She just couldn’t believe we wanted to buy her painting. We bought it because we loved it and we loved her even more.”
Indeed, the creams and earth tones of the painting are picked up in the bed linens and natural woods of the room.
The platform bed shares the spotlight with Couch’s painting. Constructed of light wood that retains many of its curves and variations, it is simultaneously rustic and modern. Sleek, wing-like side tables built into the piece jut from a base that highlights the knots and bumps of the tree from which it was constructed. LED lighting built into the back makes the honeyed tones of the wood glow.
“This is really funny,” she laughs. “I wanted something that the dogs could get up on as they got older. I wanted there to be a platform so they could get on the bed. [But most of] the [diminutive Cavalier King Charles spaniels] can’t even jump on it. They bark until I get them up.”
“I had Ari Smejkal [of Hammer Design Group] make it. He is on Rock the Block and Windy City Rehab on HGTV,” she notes.
Thrown across the relaxed linens of the bed is a brown faux fur throw that nearly matches the coat of one of her Persian cats, the golden-toned Sonoma.
“Everything is so light and I got a bit nervous about that … the dog hair. So I got this,” she says. There’s not a hair in sight; presumably it’s been sucked into the sumptuous weave of the throw.
A sleek black chest of drawers with formal Asian lines provides useful contrast to the organic shapes of the bed and the slouchy comforter atop it.
Two lamps in a bamboo motif flank the television on the chest. These much-loved pieces were found in Michigan.
“I’ve had them for probably twelve years,” she recalls. “But [these new white shades] gave them a whole new look.”
The bathrooms pick up the interplay between light and dark that defines the other rooms. Both preserve the original cabinetry, which has been painted in glossy black. One goes darker, with a circular mirror in a similar shade of black accented by gold, and the other goes lighter, with a mirror framed by a ring of amorphous hammered metal and accented by glowing glass cylinders hanging from the ceiling.
The overall feel of the floor is more unified and consistent as a result of these judicious tweaks and additions. Warm, raw materials punctuated by a few exquisitely formal elements make for a chic but unpretentious nest. Mission accomplished.
As we complete the tour and settle in downstairs for more wine and conversation, Kelly notes, “It feels like home again. It just needed to be revitalized.”