with Sarah Vaile

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

Talk to us about Dualities.

It’s at the core of taking design to the next level. A lot of people can design products to look attractive, but can they stand the test of time, can they stand the test of use, will they make the client’s life better?

We want our homes to make us happy. It’s two-fold. On one side is ambience of the space. The other side is about functionality. This project we are working on now, we are being tasked with functionality. And one item is a serpentine sofa. There’s something to be said for ergonomic shapes, so we are custom building it. Ultimately, this room will dually function for her (entertaining) and for him (football lounging). The furniture needs to function accordingly.

It’s important to think of how rooms will be used and the designs incorporated into each.

(Left to Right) Amarcord, Vicostone; The Davids Modular Collection, The Bright Group; CinemaTech Paseo Stationary Sectional; Artisan Electronics Group

Are people looking for comfort, flexibility or simplicity? Is there a concept people want more often than not?

What our clients want is flexibility. It may not be the word that they choose to use, but it’s at the core. It’s about space to entertain, a place to be proud of and is compatible with their lifestyle. And let’s be honest, we have a more casual lifestyle than our ancestors did.

Why is Dualities relevant today?

It feels timely right now as we look at our homes and consider what’s important now – for example, entertaining, vs. working-from-home, vs. lounging – and how do we make it all work.

(Left to Right) G7000 Series Dishwasher, Miele Experience Center; Ideal Hot & Cold Tap, FANTINI | THE GALLEY; 5-in-1 Oven with Advantium® Technology, Monogram Design Center Chicago; BoxLife Collection, Scavolini Store Chicago

How did you find your passion for interior design?

I was in the corporate world in advertising and had a moment of epiphany when helping my parents redesign their home. It hit me how important it was at the time to find something I’m passionate about.I attended Parsons School of Design in New York and interned with Cerlerie Kemble Interiors before opening my own firm in 2008, moving to Chicago in 2010. It’s been a great ride so far.

Are there common threads that are your signatures?

Absolutely. We love black and white. It adds a modern element, without having to be modern. Take our room at the Lake Forest Showhouse, for instance. The flooring was a mosaic in black and white, and it just felt modern. We love bold colors, too. I love a bright bold yellow or fuchsia. There’s something about a bright bold color in a space that makes it cheery. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. I also love velvets, and greenery and animals! Love of animals is an influence I attribute to my grandmother. She was an amazing painter and featured exotic animals in colonial scenes. And I find there’s some form of animal in my room. It’s design in its most natural form!

What do you love about what you do?

It’s the business of making people happy. You get to tap into the fun part of people’s lives, typically at an exciting life stage and often experiencing firsts: first home, first family home, first time building a home. And we get to be part of the experience with them. I love the exhilaration of this gift you’re part of making happen. The process is half the addiction!

About Sarah: Headquartered in Chicago but working across the country, Sarah Vaile Design is comprised of four talented women with a wide range of professional design experience that spans architecture, fashion and event planning. The firm’s collective background results in a unique aesthetic and systematic implementation throughout all design projects.

Sarah Vaile

Sarah Vaile Design

with Susan Brunstrum

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

First impressions on this theme?

The first word that comes to mind is stark (meaning minimalist). I see lots of linear and geometric forms and there is a masculine vibe shining through.   

While I like to add industrial elements within a space, I prefer to juxtapose with curves, texture and comfortable elements. That mix is indicative in the A. Rudin chairs!

(Left to Right) Powell and Bonnell Snow Table, deAurora; Bosch Industrial-Style Gas & Dual Fuel Ranges, Gaggenau, Thermador, Bosch Experience & Design Center; Stinson Chair, A. Rudin

Looking at Industrial Chic, who lives in this environment?

It feels like an urban environment that has been pared down. Looking at the Waterworks faucet, for example, I could see this in a modern bar, a bachelor’s master bathroom or, in a different finish, perhaps a powder room for a trend-setting couple. I also see this grouping translating into a second home. For instance, looking at the Carlisle Wide Plank Floors image, the openness of the room is generous and feels appropriate for entertaining, which is a given in a second home! As for the deAurora table, I find it to be extremely sophisticated. I like the organic-ness of the legs. It is intricate in its simplicity.

(Left to Right) Thayer Coggin Blade Sectional, CAI Designs; BT45 CG Kitchen, Bauteam German Kitchen Tailors; Barnwood Blue Webwall Full or Thin Stone Veneer, Buechel Stone

In thinking about the roots of where Industrial Chic came, where do you envision this theme evolving?

Industrial Chic can be cold on its own; beautiful to look at but not necessarily comfortable to live with. Adding warmth through color, mixed metals, texture and organic elements will make it more livable and functional for more people.  

Tell us a little about your story.

This is our 19th year in business – and it is my second act. In all honesty, interior design just happened to me and was an unexpected path. My background and first act were in marketing and advertising. I worked corporately, then for an ad agency and then owned a marketing communications firm with a partner.

Due to personal lifestyle change, I realized a professional change was also needed.  Yet, using my creative talents and project management skills within a team environment was a must. I started out as a one-woman firm based out of my house, where my first client came through my daughter’s best friend who simply liked the work I had done in my own home. I remember so vividly walking into that first project (she and her husband owned a dental practice with kelly green walls) to only advise on paint colors. The project grew and so did my client list. Three years later, I moved to my own studio and built a team. The years that have followed have been nothing short of a wonderful and wild ride – complete with clients and projects near and far, a move both personally and professionally to the city, and a major rebrand. After 19 years, I’d still say the majority of our business comes from referrals – I love that. What started out consulting for a friend, still feels so personal and relationship driven nearly two decades later.

(Left to Right) Tranquil Collection, Carlisle Wide Plank Floors; Cesar’s Intarsio System, DOM Interiors; The Hudson Collection, Christopher Peacock; Bond, Waterworks

What do you love about what you do?

I love getting to know our clients – who they are and how they live in their home. The health and wellness of those that live there, family and loved ones, always come first.  

Are you stocking away insights on where 2021 will take us?

As with all things, the monotony of a day-to-day routine often causes us to overlook what areas of our lives need change – our homes are no different. When you have lived in your home for a while, you have a tendency not to see the nuances and details. Now that we’ve been in our homes more than ever, we are beginning to see strengths and weaknesses – or, where our homes support us, or not. Support means different things to different people. Ask yourself, does your home nourish you? Is it your safe haven? Is it a get-away to relax and unwind? Is it where you do your best thinking? Does it inspire you to be creative and strategic? Or is it the place that you can be your authentic self?

About Susan:Studio Brunstrum is the evolution of Susan’s original interior design firm, Sweet Peas Design. What started as a one-woman, home-based firm, has evolved into a full-service design studio located in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Susan is a member and past board member of the Design Trust Ltd., a New York-based think tank of interior designer CEO’s.

Susan Brunstrum

Studio Brunstrum

with Kate O’Hara

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

First impressions on Boutique Living?

It’s accurate, particularly in outdoor spaces and owner’s suites. We’re seeing retreats, places that feel like vacations. I want to close the door and feel like I’ve transported somewhere else. I think this nails that aspect.

(Left to Right) Abbott Sofa by Cameron Collection, Michael – Cleary; Make It Yours by Vanguard Furniture, J. Marshall Design; Caravaggio Cocktail Table, Ebanista

Comments on the color palette?

I’m seeing blues, which are complementary to the creamy tones. I’m seeing more blues than grays here.

(Left to Right) McGuire Lashed Lounge Chair, Baker Furniture; 48” Dual Fuel Steam Range – Contemporary, Dacor Kitchen Theater; Luxury Alpaca Duvets and Pillows, Designers Linen Source

What words come to mind on viewing Boutique Living?




We are looking for peace at home, with more function than ever before.

(Left to Right) KALLISTA Juxtapose Collection, de Guilio kitchen design; Atmosphere Wide Width Sheers, Thibaut Wallcoverings, Fabrics and Fine Furniture; Sealine, DEDON; Brooke Spot Table, Hickory Chair

What does 2021 look like?

Peoples’ relationships with their homes are evolving. Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen people wanting to open their homes up. It’s been ubiquitous coast to coast regardless of home style. We were seeing less diversity in design aesthetic.

Right now, people still want the openness, but they also want to have distinct functional zones. We hear people talking about this being the area that the kids will do schoolwork, this is for guests or this is for home office. We are seeing spaces being more defined. We used to hear about adding a desk to a kitchen – and who ever uses that? It’s the mail drop off area! Now that we need dedicated offices. It’s becoming more important to have multiple gathering spaces in homes. Lower levels and bonus rooms, family rooms and more than one place to retreat. Outdoor living has become more important than ever, too. It’s what we’ll continue to see, whether people go back to school and work. They’ve learned a lot this year about spaces serving purposes.

Tell us about yourself, Martha, the firm.

Martha was an accountant before she was a designer. She always wanted to run a business. Her father was an entrepreneur and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. After a series of family moves, she realized that she had a passion for interior design. She’d had success moving from one house to the next. She decided that was how she wanted to combine her passion and business acumen. She started the firm out of the basement of her home when I was 10 years old. We grew over time to an office space, then a larger stand-alone building, and now too two locations – one in Minneapolis and in Austin.

Along that journey, about 15 years ago, I joined the business. My role began in marketing. I got us online and we found ourselves working with clients across the country, which led us to Austin and new projects. Almost two years ago, I stepped into role of CEO and took over running the business. This allows Martha to focus on what she loves to do. Our firm is 18 employees with staff in both Minneapolis and Austin.

Do you have a favorite space at home? Or one that needs a dramatic change?

Yes to all! I think my favorite place is outside. I think that office spaces are what people are rethinking. So many have turned dining spaces into offices. It may work for them, but not the other members of their family. Offices, home schooling areas, some kind of laundry room. People are trying to get more utility. That’s how I feel too.

About Kate: Kate joined Martha O’Hara Interiors in 2006, establishing her mother’s already successful Minneapolis studio into a nationally-recognized firm.  She is now the company’s CEO + Creative Director. When she isn’t traveling between the company’s two offices and getting to know prospective clients, Kate can be found speaking at design conferences across the country.

Kate O’Hara

Martha O’Hara Interiors

with Summer Thornton

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

What are your first impressions on the overall theme of Bold and Beautiful?

Of course, I am all about a bold gesture!  I love a bold room, something that says…this is who I am, take it or leave it!  

(Left to Right) 30 Inch Beverage Column, True Residential; Perennials Fabrics & Rugs, C’est La Vie Collection, David Sutherland Showroom; Leaping Cheetah Wallpaper, Scalamandré

Why do we love a bold and/or beautiful moment generally?

I’ve always loved a bold moment, but I think people are tired of fitting into generic boxes and are ready to express themselves through design.  People are starting to see more and more bold design and starting to realize they could live with it too! I want my work to give people the courage to be bold.  

What features do you see in these images that make them feel like they fit this category?

Strong color and bold pattern.  These are two elements I love incorporating in our work!  

(Left to Right) Futurebound – Decorative Weave by Kirby Design, ROMO; Dove Bathtub, designed in collaboration with Gensler, DEVON&DEVON

Tell me a little about yourself. The condensed version of how you arrived here today:

I am a design obsessed person who is constantly dreaming, scheming and planning the next big thing. I started out studying art and entrepreneurship which led me to running my own design firm from a very young age. 

Favorite room at home?

My favorite room at home is a toss-up between my living room/library and my bedroom. My living room is seriously cozy with a persimmon-colored mohair sofa, original fireplace and floor to ceiling bookshelves.  My bedroom feels like a treehouse with tons of windows and walls covered in my favorite Braquenié fabric that adds to the effect. 

What’s your perspective on design today? And where we are headed?

Our emphasis as a firm is about creating a story, building a fantasy environment for people that is out of the ordinary. We are tired of people living like developers are telling them to live and want them to live in a world of their own imagination (with our help). We are headed in an intensely personal and custom direction with clients, with styles that range from spare and sculptural to highly layered and romantic.   

What have been some of the strongest design influences in your career?

I am very influenced by fantasy, whether that is from films or architecture. I love palace architecture, and I always love architecture that is highly situational. I love things that are very specific. Basically, I like architecture and design that gives you an intense sense of place.  

About Summer: Summer Thornton is known for fearlessly bold and colorful interiors that give homes life! Her work has been featured in Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, The Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Traditional Home, Domino and more. Most recently she was named one of the top 50 interior design firms in the world on the 1stDibs50 list.

Summer Thornton

Summer Thornton Design

with Kevin Toukoumidis

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

What kind of home might you see these designs in?

I would see them in an urban home, for sure. A sophisticated urban environment. There’s also a level of comfort and calm here, too. These are special rooms. There’s an understated, timeless elegance.

Why is the connection to outdoors so important? And granted, we’re going way outdoors with this theme (to the galaxy and beyond).

I think it’s human nature to have a connection to the outdoors. There’s a calmness in nature that is restorative to the body and the mind. I think these products are layered. There are contrasts and shadows, much like the outdoors.

In some ways, these images feel like black and white photos. You start to appreciate the details because of the monotone palette. There’s a lot of strength conveyed in these materials. There are infinite possibilities with this palette.

(Left to Right) Argentinian Rug, Watson Smith Carpet – Rugs – Hard Surface; Liberty of London Fabrics, Fabricut; Manierre Dawson (Am. 1887 – 1969), Richard Norton Gallery, LLC

What words come to mind as you look at the Brightest Stars in the Cosmos?

Calming, texture, sophisticated, monotone, natural, infinite possibilities, restraint.

(Left to Right) Linea Built-In Appliances, SMEG USA; Glider, Innovations in Wallcoverings; Terrazzo Renata Fluted, Ann Sacks

Most of the words you chose have a timeless quality to them. Do you see these designs as having that?

Yes. I would absolutely agree there is a timeless nature in this design palette

Tell us about yourself.

I remember I went to an architecture summer camp when I was 15 years old and that’s when I discovered my passion for architecture. Art has always been a part of my life. I enjoyed math and science, also. For me, architecture was phenomenal because it allowed me to combine science and art. And having my own business has allowed me to connect with people. I’m able to have a multi-faceted career as a firm owner who is connected with clients, as well as a mentor and leader, promoting a collaborative culture for my team.  

dSPACE Studio is passionate about residential architecture. Our projects allow us to take a personal interest in our clients through innovation and creativity. Every home is one of a kind. We don’t have a rubber stamp aesthetic. Certainly, every project focuses on maximizing natural light, volume, space, affinity for outdoors and the overall architectural experience. And every house we have is highly functional. Form does follow function in our projects.

(Left to Right) Raw by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, Tai Ping | Edward Fields; Eclissi, House of Rohl Studio

Will COVID change the way you view home construction?

Our philosophy of architecture aligns with the new world order– our projects have always had integrated outdoor spaces, abundant natural light, state of the art HVAC systems and technology.  Clients are telling us how grateful they are to live in their homes. That’s been really rewarding to hear. But there will naturally be evolution in design based on the pandemic. For example, with people increasingly working and schooling from home, we’re focusing on acoustics even more. Additionally, we are seeing more and more interest in having two office spaces, home gyms, and even larger pantries. All these things matter, especially for families.

Do you have a favorite building out there in the world?

My favorite building is our next project! I have this passion for our work. But I’m definitely influenced by other works. I could not pick just one, though, because I have a long list. All innovation inspires me – art, furniture, landscape and or course architecture.

About Kevin: Kevin Toukoumidis founded dSPACE Studio in 2007 after working in architectural offices in San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago. He has received multiple AIA awards and regularly speaks on architecture and design. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and is LEED accredited in sustainable design.

Kevin Toukoumidis

dSPACE Studio

with John Cialone

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

Why are people drawn to Earth Tones?

I love neutrals. I like them as building blocks and as a foil for other things – whether for texture, color or other design elements. They’re easy to live with long term. Where you need to be careful is when everything is the same hue. There’s no contrast and design can get boring quickly. The addition of other tones, textures and colors is an easy way to give punch to an otherwise neutral space.

(Left to Right) ICreate, Kravet; Naked Chevron/European Oak/Cosmopolitan Collection, Divine Flooring; Albero Table Lamp (#3137), Paul Ferrante

What are the key features of the neutral theme?

#1: Texture is everything. I can’t wait to touch them. The textiles look soft, like you want to lay on them. And I’m not a big lay-on-the-carpet kind of guy. The same is true of the hardware. It’s screaming to be held and looks cool to the touch, like great jewelry.

#2: Contrast is super important, too. In every photo here we’re seeing high contrast, whether that’s smooth and rough; white and tan, etc.

#3: Simplicity keeps it clean. It’s pleasant to live in earth tones. They’re soothing, sophisticated and chic. 

What words come to mind on viewing New Traditionalist?




Layers of Multiple Materials

(Left to Right) Maven, Scott Group Studio; Joseph Giles Makes English, Contemporary, Katonah Architectural Hardware • Lighting • Furniture (Floor 1); Victoria Hagan Collection, The Shade Store

Do you see these neutrals evolving?

These fall into the warm tones. And warm tones are always timeless. The way to make them feel evolved is to bring in more color and texture.

Give us an anecdote that speaks to your history.

When I was in college, I was studying business and I used to sit in a room with few windows. I would think if the class were laid out in a different way with a circle of chairs around the professor and the wall was glass, it would invite natural light and a view. I didn’t know it was biophilic design at the time. But, that was one of my first indications that I would be good at this and was interested in design.

Do you have a design perspective?

I would definitely say I’m a client-centric interior designer. And I believe in that. I like the excitement of working with different clients who have different needs for their lifestyles. One of the fun things I get to do with every project is reinvent myself through the eyes of my clients. That’s powerful to me. The commonality is everything is comfortable and ultimately make sense – if there’s a table it’s going to be where it is because you’re going to put your drink on it.

Where is design headed?

There are so many things that I’m interested in right now. I think biophilic design is one of them. The idea that we should do everything possible to bring the outside in and have natural elements surround us is so important. It doesn’t have to be overt. It doesn’t have to be a wall of plants in your house, or doors that open to the outside. Some things aren’t possible. It may start with abundant natural light and fresh air. So many things are important to healthy living and wellness. Also, I expect to see way more touchless technology. There’s a day not too far away where light switches will be gone. Why do we need a wall of switches when it can all be done verbally?

About John: John Cialone is Partner and Vice President at Chicago-based Tom Stringer Design Partners. With over twenty-five years of experience, he is a Fellow of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and is currently serving on the ASID National Board of Directors. John’s enthusiasm for promoting the interior design industry is contagious.

John Cialone

Tom Stringer Design Parnters

with Brooke Lang

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

Do you get warm or cool vibes when looking at this group?

It feels warm. I immediately can feel all these materials and the accessories I’d use to enhance.

(Left to Right) Cecil Round Dining Table, BRADLEY; Mistral, Gloster Furniture; Black Wolf Design, Katonah Architectural Hardware • Lighting • Furniture (Floor 6)

What’s at influence here? What might be next for Natural Curves?

It feels like its driven by Parisian architecture or a Parisian vibe. But in the past, design was ornate and detailed. This is the opposite. It feels like a more modern take on a vintage aesthetic. I would say the next evolution is playing with material. Wood can be manipulated. But maybe materials that aren’t naturally considered curvy? Playing with materials more. Push it further!

(Left to Right) KALLISTA Juxtapose SemiProfessional Kitchen Faucet, K&B Galleries, Ltd.; Olin Chair, Ferrell Mittman / Avery Boardman

What words come to mind?


Organic Movement


Tell us about yourself.

I am born and raised in Chicago. I’ve always loved architecture, art and math – as well as being creative and thinking outside the box. I went to college and majored in architecture which I thought was a good blend of these loves. It eventually morphed into pursuing interior design which allowed for even more creativity and working with clients in their home. I went for it and started my own firm! I’ve been in business for about 8 years. I feel like I’ve defined my point of view, regardless of style and color. What I prefer is relaxed sophistication. I use materials and textiles that are comfortable and work day-to-day – but always looks polished.

With every year, you learn and build. Right now, we are seeing a lot of renovations in kitchens, baths, home offices and basements.

Home offices and basement renos, is this a sign of the times?

Before the pandemic, you didn’t experience your home as much. You passed through in the morning and again when you went to bed. And now people are looking around and realizing that spaces are being underutilized. Let’s take traditional spaces and make them more functional. For instance, in the basement, people are looking for home gyms, home offices and distance learning spaces for kids. It’s becoming truly multi-use.

Big picture, where does the future of design lie?

This is a tipping point. We didn’t ramp up to change. It happened quickly, and we all scrambled. Now that we’re in it, it’s definitely going to change the way people look at their home.

About Brooke: At the University of Illinois, Brooke Lang earned a Masters of Architecture and studied at Sede di Roma in Italy. Her career began in 2006 working for some of Chicago’s top architecture firms. Brooke’s style is influenced by a long love affair with Parisian architecture, and she brings her Millennial Modern® aesthetic to her design projects.

Brooke Lang

Brooke Lang Designs

with Filip Malyszko

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

Why do we love blue?

In general, there are so many variations of blue.  It can act as a neutral. It’s easy to introduce to a space. For so many years, the amount of gray and greige has saturated peoples’ consciousness. Having an element of color in these gray interiors brings them to life. And blue and gray look great together. It’s a natural fit. Blue is not the newest color on the market. But the shade here is sophisticated. It has a depth and richness. 

Do you get a warm or cool vibe when looking at this blue?

For most, they’re giving me a level of warmth. It shows that in neutral spaces with warmer, honey tones, this shade of blue can be a nice counterbalance.

(Left to Right) The Tinley Collection, Ulyana Rug, Stark Carpet; Emerald Designer Edition Interior Latex Paint, Sherwin-Williams Color Studio; Livable Luxury Collection, HOLLY HUNT

Do you see other colors on the horizon? The new jolt?

I would say for the last couple years, seeing a wash of color in spaces will be interesting. For example, a person really enjoys jewel tones – maroon with ochre and a persimmon color. For blue in particular, mixing a few shades of this blue color, and accentuating in different layers, allows a new way to interpret color.

Choose one: simplicity, flexibility, comfortable – which speaks to you more?

I would usually say simple. I think there is elegance in simple lines. But I think through COVID, I’ve realized the power of comfortable – a great mattress or a good chair. Comfort is so subjective the individual. In our industry, finding something comfortable that has a level of simplicity is a real challenge. Design offering both is impactful and important.

(Left to Right) The Heather Sofa, George Smith; Mansfield Park Fabrics and Wallpapers & Gloriana Velvets, Osborne & Little

Your history, in a snapshot

The genesis of our firm was in real estate. And during the recession, things really shifted in the market. A lot of clients were staying put in existing homes and condos and wanted to make them work.

We are primarily a residential firm. We also do soft commercial – a jewelry boutique, for example. We have a 4-person team. Our office is in the Ukrainian village, which is close to theMART.

On a personal note, three years ago we purchased a vacation home in southwest Michigan. We call it the Flamingo ranch. Not only do we get to stay there, we get to rent it out. A lot of people renting were in the Chicago design community – we made sure it was a unique experience.

What makes the home so unique?

We were working with an existing shell. The house was originally built in the 1940s but was partially renovated in the late 1960s and again in the 80s. For the most part, the home was well kempt. But the bathrooms and kitchen had a very specific style. For instance, the bathrooms were done in all tile and pink fixtures. Versus gutting the spaces and starting fresh, we embraced the pink. It opened us to the levity and joy within the space. It’s why people enjoy staying there. There’s casualness and fun within the space.

What are the new essentials at home?

I think that one of the major notes I’ve seen is that people really want spaces that are multipurpose, and similar to what you have in typical work environments – e.g. a place to have lunch, to have a zoom call, to be comfortable, to plug in. In addition, it’s important to have a space within your home to have your own identify or serenity. 

About Filip: The Chicago based design firm is a two man team, Steve Somogyi and Filip Malyszko. For over a decade, the duo have specialized in full service strategies for new construction and renovations. Their goal is to create unique schemes for homes, offices, and retail spaces with an emphasis on quality and elegance.

Filip Malyszko

Steve + Filip Design

with Brynn Olson

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

First impressions of Gold Rush?

Clients have a knee jerk reaction when they hear gold or brass. It can transport you to an outdated time. This grouping shows the gold spectrum. There’s always something for everyone. Each of these would be incredibly successful in any scenario because the beauty of it is the contrast. Gold is here to stay. We’re talking about just putting that one Brizo faucet in a powder room that’s completely slathered in cool gray tile. That juxtaposition is quite sophisticated. It’s the yin and the yang.

(Left to Right) Eric Kuster Metropolitan Luxury Collection, Atelier Gary Lee; Birch, Lapchi Rug Design Studio; Kintsu Bath Collection, Brizo and Delta Chicago

What influences the shift in thinking? Does it happen over time? What’s the trigger?

My background is sociology, so I’m constantly fascinated by studying people and why they do what they do. Interior design combines some of that – psychology and sociology. Humans constantly create change – as they grow and change in their life. Their family is growing. Or they’re becoming empty nesters. So, while we are attached to what we know and what’s comfortable, there really is a human element of changing and adapting. That’s what comes to mind. If you have lived in a space that’s all cool grays and black and white. Sometimes, you crave something different.

There’s that adage, people never change. But they really do. And it’s a good thing.

(Left to Right) Strauss, Wired Custom Lighting; Textura D’Oro, Artistic Tile

Three words?

Some people could see glam, but if you look under the hood, it’s…




If you were to personify this group, what comes to mind?

This reminds me of the natural elements. The warm glow of fire. A beautiful sunset. This screams earthiness when I see it.

What’s your background? How did you come to be where you are today

My background was more academic, but my mom was my first art teacher. I’ve been doing art since I was small. In high school I was commissioned to do large scale paintings on buildings. And. my grandmother was an interior designer – Chicago-based back in the 50s and 60s. It’s in my blood.

I’ve been greatly influenced by the south. Right after I graduated from Vanderbilt I moved to Scotland. I remember flying home and descending over the Birmingham, AL airport and it hit me like a ton of bricks. The area is really green and really gorgeous. And it took me going across the sea and living in beautiful Scotland to have that realization.

I got my light bulb moment when I moved to Chicago after Vanderbilt. I moved without a job. I wanted to get here first, plant roots and figure out what I wanted to do. And I moved into Lincoln Park brownstone with roommates. I started to redecorate and then I went back to school for interior design.

I’ve been in the industry since 2008, worked at Nate Berkus Associates for 5 years before starting my firm.

What is it that you love about what you do?!

The most amazing thing about what we do is always going to be serving our clients. Seeing their faces, getting their feedback. I’m a big proponent – how you shape your space is how you’ll shape your day (that’s our tagline). It is quite palpable, what we do. It shapes behaviors. And the byproduct is connecting with our clients on a deeper level. There’s so much value in helping people as it pertains to interiors. It makes my heart sing.

About Brynn: After starting her design career with Nate Berkus Associates, Brynn Olson opened her own firm in 2012. The firm has been recognized as the Fashion Group International Rising Star in Design, is a recipient of Wayfair’s National Trade Tastemaker Award, Modern Luxury’s Best of Design Award and as the Merchandise Mart’s One’s to Watch.

Brynn Olson

Brynn Olson Design Group

with Amanda Reynal

Check out all of the Designer’s Take series HERE.

First impressions on New Traditionalist?

It’s the perfect example of the saying “what is old is new again.” Our industry has embraced several years of clean lines, shiny finishes, minimal embellishment and geometrics and now the pendulum is swinging. There will always be a place for that aesthetic as well, but in today’s world there are many different styles and movements that have gained traction. 

(Left to Right) Exclusive Print Collection, Pindler; HOUE Click Dining Table, Anacara Company; Q617 Cabinet, Interior Crafts

What are some of the details of this category?

Romantic floral chintz, brown wood furniture, and ladylike details all feel fresh and inviting. We are enjoying a return to more classic forms which have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the past years. This is an example of how we are transitioning back to colorful accents and layering patterns and forms instead of the simpler sculptural look of the Regency and Midcentury periods that have been so popular.

The thread that pulls everything together is the muted color palette with classic watered-down colors. It’s very soothing yet it is also dynamic, and not quiet.   

(Left to Right) Coco Coffee Table, Summer Classics & Gabby; Terrace Collection, Samuel & Sons; Great Room Sectional Series, Century Furniture

What words come to mind on viewing New Traditionalist?




Layers of Multiple Materials

(Left to Right) Sanderson Collection with National Trust, Zoffany; New Biltmore Door Style, Bentwood of Chicago; Colinet, Moen Design Center

What’s special about layers?

Currently, we are all home more than ever before. With there being so much uncertainty in the world, it is natural to seek domestic comfort. A return to luxurious details and visual interest creates an inviting environment that welcomes us home.

This movement has evolved organically, through a subconscious need to harken back to times that were less uncertain. Everyone’s looking for an escape and a haven. Ever since Covid-19 hit and we started staying put, I feel gratitude for our home and having my family all together. Having a place to live that is comfortable and functions well – everyone’s trying to achieve that.

Highlights from your history?  

I was brought up in the northeast, so my background and training are rooted in the world of classical American architecture and design. I began my career in Manhattan with a storied design firm that focuses on antiques and custom everything! We often used bespoke furnishings created by master craftsmen and hand printed fabrics. We worked in conjunction with top architects and builders with impeccable skills and I learned how to focus on both details and the big picture. I also studied at the New York School of Design to formally learn the principals of interior design and decoration.    

After relocating to Des Moines almost 20 years ago, I was able to translate the life experience and design knowledge I gained during my years as a young designer/project manager into growing my business from the ground up. Today, we aim to translate our clients’ needs into reality while respecting and acknowledging the setting and architecture of the home, both with older home remodels and new construction.

What is it that you love about what you do?

Ahh, I love the many phases and the entire process from conception to completion. There are so many possibilities at the beginning of a project, with the big picture and schematic designs and then as we realize our vision, I love scheming using fabrics, lighting, furniture, and finishes. I also appreciate the relationship and partnerships we develop with our clients and the teams we put together to complete each project. The combination of working with construction and interior architecture – and then bringing in the decorative aspect to make a comprehensive space – it’s the best part about what we do. There is nothing more rewarding than when our clients adore their environments that we created with them.

About Amanda: Amanda Reynal founded ARI in 2001 when she relocated to Des Moines. Her well-traveled aesthetic and astute knowledge of interiors and the design world has distinguished her work for over 25 years. Acknowledging the context of each space, her work is grounded in traditional design concepts layered with modern sensibility blending sophistication with practicality.

Amanda Reynal

Amanda Reynal Interiors