Shelley Johnstone: Livable Luxury
With more that 20 years in the industry, and an international roster of clients, interior designer Shelley Johnstone of the eponymous firm Shelley Johnstone Design is one of Chicago’s brightest style stars. Known for creating elegant, modern spaces with a strong European influence, her designs are equal parts luxurious and livable. “I like to create beautiful, timeless spaces to be lived in and enjoyed,” she says.
Though she grew up in Wisconsin, Shelley’s design career began across the pond. “I feel really fortunate to have attended the Inchbald School of Design, and have had the opportunity to intern both with an interior designer and also a fabric house while in London,” she says. “The experience taught me a great deal… I’ve mixed the beautiful European craftsmanship with the fresh American crispness to make it my own.”
In the designer’s own dining room above, vintage opaline lamps and a vibrantly-hued fu dog, rest on an antique sideboard. Walls are upholstered in a Fortuny-style damask and antique chairs are updated in chocolate-toned Edelman leather, while a glamorous Niermann Weeks chandelier hangs above. Her expert blend of pieces from various European locales and periods results in a fresh, highly-personalized room. “I really love to mix continental styles because it makes the space feel more interesting and timeless,” she explains. Unsurprisingly, we’re particularly fond of the way Shelley also folds in objects and furnishings from Asia. Whether it be blue and white vessels, or a pair of drum shaped garden stools, her sophisticated layering has us seeing these design-world staples anew.
A perennial standout at The Lake Forest Show House, Shelley has been a featured designer in the highly regarded event six times. In the shot above, she transformed a simple foyer into a spectacular jewel box—thanks, in part, to an artfully painted ceiling, one of her signatures. In an interview with Veranda Magazine, Shelley explains how the juxtaposition of contrasting materials combines to create a deeply atmospheric space. “The glamour of the shiny finishes, the casualness of the sisal carpet and basket, and the elegance of the silks and velvet together create balance and interest,” she says. “Fine craftsmanship and attention to bespoke details create an interesting, layered interior.”
In the above vignette, the same masterful layering creates a striking moment within what could easily have been a forgotten corner. Couture-like finishes such as an upholstered wall and ribbon trimmed drape, coexist with a humble sisal rug, monumental chinoiserie planters and a whimsical gilded chair.
In another glimpse into the designer’s own Lake Forest home (above), her trademark juxtaposition is evident. Timeless elements like a greek key motif and subdued color palette are enlivened by a touch of animal print and a few, perfectly-placed brass accents. The seamless execution speaks to the designer’s refined eye, sharpened perhaps, by her love of world-travel. “I’m always inspired by travel, museums, books and art,” she says.
Our favorite takeaway from this inspiring designer’s approach to lifestyle? Her commitment to elevating and celebrating the everyday. “I really enjoy always having fresh flowers and scented candles lit, and making even the simple feel pretty,” she says. “It’s an easy way to make a house feel like a home. I use the pretty stuff for everyday, why not make every day more beautiful?”
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