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House Tour: The Art of Escape

Surrounded by peaceful interiors and smart, minimal decor, a Chicago family finds their best getaway is often right at home.

Having spent eight years in their 1959 ranch house, Amy and Mike Bailey wanted a getaway—from its cramped floor plan and outdated cabinets, from its beige and pea green walls. So the Baileys and their two sons turned to times they cherished for inspiration: vacations. The family has explored national parks, camped under starry skies and felt breezes through a beach house window in North Carolina.

Those memories shaped the remodel of their 2,650-square-foot home in suburban Chicago. “You live simply; you don’t have a lot of things with you, a lot of clutter around,” Amy says. “That’s what we wanted, a sense of comfort and relaxation.”

Durable details let the Baileys rest easy. A distressed poplar table welcomes nicks. The oak flooring forgives scuffs. Nothing’s too precious to be replaced, owner Amy Bailey says.

Walls came down and ceilings rose for openness in the main living area. They added to that sense of airiness with a Frank Lloyd Wright trick: creating the feeling of compression by lowering the ceiling in the foyer that then opens up into the vaulted living area. Remaining walls took on shades of creamy white.

Warm neutrals found throughout the home provide a soothing repetition, Amy says.

“The whole backsplash wall is continuous to make everything as big and as long as possible,” Michael says. It contributes to the horizontal lines and seamless flow.

The wood, stone and stained brick on the new wider porch create a cabinesque feel that continues into the foyer.

Earth-tone furniture nearly blends into the custom-stained brown oak floor. Quiet colors work with horizontal lines to ease eyes across the room and, eventually, to the back wall. There, nearly 9x6-foot windows frame a spacious yard.

“When you look through the house, the outside is what really pops,” Amy says of the windows. “The furniture is just meant to go away.”

Kerfed paneling and a long mantel create horizontal lines that lead eyes to the outside world.

Subtle details aid the outside-in effect. Wooden beams from the wide, lodgelike porch continue into the foyer, linking interior and exterior. The beams look structural, but aren’t. Architect Michael Abraham says, “We wanted to make it feel like they were there and we uncovered them.”

Elsewhere, smart details abound. An added mudroom doubles as an overflow space for entertaining thanks to an extra counter and sink. Amy simply swings shut two neutral doors that hide the washer and dryer from guests’ view. The family pared down its possessions to reduce clutter, a simplicity that evokes traveling light. (For instance, they kept only one set of plates, in a white versatile enough for any occasion.)

A barn door slides in to connect with a pivoting door, above right, closing off an otherwise open office.

Together, the calming layout and clever design enable the Baileys to feel at once home and away. “Someone was just here to pick up their son and said, ‘I feel like I am in Colorado,’ ” Amy says. “We get that all the time.” 

Buying guide

Throughout Architect Michael Abraham Architecture. Builder Mark Hickman Homes.

Dining room Eldridge rectangular chandelier Ballard Designs. 

Kitchen Kitchen design and cabinetry Liam Brex.  Mystic pull-out faucet and soap/lotion dispenser Elkay.  Adjustable wood-and-metal barstools World Market.  Eldridge pendant Ballard Designs.   

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