When Sam Berngard and her husband, Jason, were looking for a home for their young family, the timing was imperfect. Having sold their city dwelling right before COVID shut down the world, they found themselves with nowhere to go. “We had our heart set on this beautiful home in Northfield,” remembers Berngard. “But the housing market was so volatile during the spring of 2020 that the house fell through.”
Yet, with the help of up-and-coming interior designer Caroline Turner, a house hunt that initially seemed imperfectly timed became the perfect time to find the Berngard’s dream home. After Berngard and Turner were introduced by Turner’s cousin, whose Page One Pilates studio in the West Loop Turner had designed and Bergnard frequented, a fast friendship was founded on similar design styles.
“I knew when I met Sam that I’d design her house someday,” recalls Turner, who has an illustrious design pedigree having worked for Kelly Wearstler, Nate Berkus, and Kara Mann. “We had this incredible chemistry and shared a love for the same types of design.”
Over the next several months as the Berngards temporarily lived in Michigan during the summer and Wisconsin in the fall, Berngard continued to look at homes until she stumbled upon an off-market listing in Highland Park.
“It’s this beautiful, classic red brick Georgian on this large, wrap-around corner lot,” Berngard describes. “The family who owned the home had lived there for 40 years and you knew just walking in the door that they had loved living in this house.”
But before making any offers, Berngard took Turner through the house to get her thoughts.
“I told Sam she had to buy this house immediately,” says Turner with a laugh. “It had all of these old architectural details like dentil molding that I just loved. I knew they had found the one.”
Turner embarked on what was to be a seven-month design and construction project, where the ultimate goal was to create a space that felt like a retreat.
For inspiration, Berngard asked Turner to draw from two of her favorite hotels: The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia and The Marlton Hotel in New York.
“I know this doesn’t sound like it makes any sense,” laughs Berngard. “But we wanted our home to have Southern charm and the vibe of a vintage New York hotel. We wanted to create an interesting city life out here in the suburbs. Caroline was absolutely the right person to help us because she has this unique ability to pair the old with the new.”
One of the first spaces Turner transformed was the front door vestibule. Walls that had been wallpapered in a muted grasscloth were painted a high-gloss black. The floor was updated with new tile, including an inlay of the home’s address number—very reminiscent of a storied New York hotel.
“Anything that was safe, we didn’t want to do,” explains Berngard. “We kept the elements of the home we loved: the moldings; the spiral staircase; and a built-in bar. It was up to Caroline to make them modern and fresh.”
Turner loved the traditional layout of the home, with rooms being walled off from one another rather than having the more open floor plan typical of homes today. While Turner designs rooms to flow seamlessly from one to the next, each space has a unique identity of its own.
The home’s all-season porch might be the Berngards’ favorite space but the living room may be the home’s best example of Turner’s effortless ability to mix high/low and modern/vintage furnishings.
“I never want Sam to feel like she’s living in an antique store,” says Turner. “So in the living room, we have a custom Maiden Home sofa in blue mohair offset by an antique travertine table. We painted the existing moldings and built-in bookcases and finished the room with a heavily textured piece of contemporary art we commissioned from Darcy Lamstein at DBL Works.” Another noteworthy piece is a piano the Berngards inherited from a family friend. At Turner’s suggestion, this piano is now playing a completely new tune having been painted a high-gloss burgundy.
In the dining room, a vintage chandelier Turner discovered while antiquing in Michigan set the tone for the space.
“We hung this light fixture just as we found it over a dining table we bought at Williams-Sonoma,” says Turner. “I’m not a snob about sourcing. I think mixing high and low pieces is what makes a room more interesting. I want the eye to catch something as you enter each room.”
One of the crown jewels of the renovation is the kitchen. Turner’s love for using living materials like marble and brass, which reveal character and beauty over time, is present throughout. The patina on the antique lanterns she found in New Orleans is a particular favorite.
While the first-floor renovations of the home are complete and several design projects on the second floor have been checked off the list, the family is happily taking a pause to enjoy all of their hard work.
“We’re just so proud of our house,” says Berngard, who loves to entertain. “It lends itself so beautifully to holidays and celebrations of all kinds. We can’t wait to have everyone over.”
For more information about Caroline Turner and her design firm, visit carolineturner.co.