Colleague Spotlight: Shea Soucie

Today I am pleased to share an interview with Chicago interior architecture legend Shea Soucie. In 2000, she partnered with Martin Horner (they once studied together at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris) to create Soucie Horner, a highly successful full-service interior architecture and design firm. I am a huge admirer of their luxurious and glamorous work, and am grateful to Shea for sharing her thoughts on the blog! 

Please share a little about your design philosophy.

We believe good design can actually define lifestyle—the lifestyle our clients lead now, or the lifestyle they aspire to lead in their new home. It’s not about us having a “look” we’re known for. It’s about getting to the heart of what individual clients are passionate about—how they like to spend their time, how they interact with their families, how they entertain—all those things drive our designs and result in intensely personal homes. 

Can you share a few photos from a recent favorite project? 

We just completed a project in Naples, Florida, for a long-time client with a deep appreciation for all manner of architectural styles. He had the passion to transform his dream of incorporating that variety in a single-family home. It includes aspects of Florentine palazzos, Swiss chalets, and Low-country fishing huts—it was an interesting challenge and turned out beautifully.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?

We don’t consider ourselves trend-watchers. We’re more about classic, timeless design—though we certainly like to take fresh approaches to our work on a project-by-project basis. Certain things, in my mind, will always be in style, and those things will always excite us—rugs and decorative accessories that are handcrafted by skilled artisans, for example, that can really give a room soul.

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?

Again, I don’t really like to call them trends—but I will say there are some things that are getting my attention. People—our clients, at least—are starting to think in terms of curating furniture collections just as they curate art collections. That’s becoming an interesting shift to me. We saw a lot of cinnabar colors at Art Basel in Miami, which was also interesting.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?

We like to incorporate custom SHIIR rugs in every project we can—they’re highly nuanced designs hand-woven in luxury fibers like cashmere and silk by artisans who learned the skill from their parents and grandparents. We also like to use Lynda O’Connor’s pillows—she makes them out of antique textiles that are interpreted in a uniquely modern way. They’re one-of-a-kind artworks.  

What are your favorite local shops for furniture and decor?

RedefinedThe Golden TriangleRevival, and Pavilion.

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?

Let a room breathe – don’t fill every inch with furniture. Use glass tables you can see through, and furnishings with legs that show open space beneath. And of course, mirrors are a great way to bounce light and views around and expand the feel of a room.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?

I go to different neighborhoods for different reasons. The Southport Corridor has terrific food options. Logan Square is always fun to spend time in. And I love the theaters and architecture in Uptown. 

What types of services do you offer?

We’re actually comprised of three business divisions: luxury residential interior design, commercial project development, and custom products including lighting, furniture, and textiles. But if you’re asking about our interior design division specifically, we do everything from plan and elevation analysis and specifications for furniture, fabric, color, materials, and lighting, to product procurement and expediting and move-in and installation. We also provide household staff training and landscape consulting services.

Colleague Spotlight: Summer Thornton

“Do at least one thing your mother wouldn’t.” This is decorating advice from interior designer Summer Thornton, and I couldn’t love it more! I’m so pleased to feature Summer on the blog this week—she’s renowned for her bold use of color and pattern, and her stunning work is featured regularly in House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Lonny, and many others. Lately I’m feeling especially inspired by her use of incredible statement light fixtures! Though Summer works on projects nationwide, we are so lucky to have her based not only out of Chicago, but Lincoln Park specifically.

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
My philosophy is really centered around the belief that every home should reflect the homeowner's unique personality. So while I have my own personal aesthetic, much of what I do is centered around creating the mood that the client wants to live in. I want people to live in homes that feel like them - where their soul is on the walls and reflected in the furniture. Every project we work on looks totally unique to that particular client - some are modern, some are traditional, some colorful - that's what makes them so personal. With that said, I do generally find that clients come to us when they're looking for interiors that feel fresh & timeless, oftentimes with color and pattern, and definitely a dash of whimsy.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?
I honestly don't really like to follow trends. Once something is a trend, it has lost its timelessness and its specialness. Instead of trends, I typically try to look for what's timeless but still feels fresh, and oftentimes I do that by incorporating pieces from a variety of eras. We'll mix art deco, mid-century, and contemporary pieces together to create a look that is curated and timeless but still feels current. Sure we might mix in a few trendy accessories here and there, but they shouldn't be the backbone of any design.  

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?
I think there will be a big resurgence for wallpaper over the next 5-10 years. People were afraid of it, fearing it would feel heavy and old, but I use it quite regularly and it always feels fresh. I think we'll also see a shift away from the overuse of beige/grey and more people comfortable using color & pattern.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?
You can't go wrong with classic Karl Springer, Jansen, or Milo Baughman furnishings. 

What are your favorite local shops for furniture and decor?
It's hard to pick just a few - last year we bought from more than 2000 different vendors worldwide, but here in Chicago I love Redefined Decor on Grand for accessories and vintage art; Jayson Home for furnishings & some imported flea market finds; and Asrai Garden for fresh floral bouquets. 

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?
You know what surprises most people? The more you layer a home, the bigger it feels. It causes the eye to move around and draws attention to various things, which makes the room feel more complete. When rooms are sparsely furnished or empty, they oftentimes look really small.  

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?
I live in Lincoln Park, our design firm office is in Lincoln Park on Armitage Avenue, and my kids go to school in Lincoln Park so it'd be hard for it not to be my favorite! But truly, it is perfect for my family. I've got a 5-year-old daughter and almost 1-year-old son, so we have regular trips to Oz Park, Sweet Mandy B's, and we don't feel bad bringing our kids with us to some of the restaurants. It's a great place to raise a family. But don't get me wrong - I also love a night out with my husband going to Gold Coast or the West Loop for drinks & dinner, without the kids! 

What types of services do you offer?
We are a full service design firm. Most often clients hire us to do comprehensive designs, in many cases including construction documentation, finish selections, and of course furnishings, art, and more. We've done everything from ground-up new construction builds, gut-remodels, and pure furnishings/decorating projects.