The 2023 Lake Forest Showhouse is a pop-up design wonderland, full of creative possibilities and inspiration. The lavish estate was originally designed by Walter Frazier in 1969 and has been updated and re-imagined by 33 interior designers and 8 landscape architects. Nashville-based designer Evan Millárd was one of several designers who worked with PAGODA RED to select extraordinary objects for their spaces. Showhouses often highlight the design community itself, as well as the meaningful relationships between designers and their colleagues, sources, and communities. Millárd told PAGODA RED that these relationships are central to his love of showhouses—and we think his West Cottage Retreat reflects how this approach can lead to truly special homes.
House Beautiful recently chose Millárd as one of their rising stars for the Next Wave Class of 2023, thanks to his “eye for creating jewel-box interiors.” Millárd designed his first showhouse for House Beautiful in 2018 and has gone on to design for showhomes in Nashville, Atlanta, and Lake Forest. Designing for a showhouse is notoriously labor-intensive, with design, install, and take-down often happening in less than five months. Millárd told us that he believes this effort is worth it, since it “really helps to foster a sense of community, because you’re going through this entire process with like-minded creatives.”
Intentionality and community underscore every aspect of Millárd’s serene, layered West Cottage design. His decision to keep the cedar paneling from 1969 was made in collaboration with Cynthia McCullough and Elizabeth Krueger, who also designed rooms in the cottage. Millárd told PAGODA RED that “there was really something special about the room when I walked in . . . it felt warm. It felt like it had a soul…. I actually wanted to keep the cedar planking and I wanted to select items that complimented the space as it is existing.”
The paneling became a refreshingly unexpected backdrop for a 20′ mural painted by the Nashville-based painter John Besser, curiosities from Trace Mayer at Museum Bees, and antique objects he discovered at PAGODA RED. The space is elegant and laden with details to discover.
Since Millárd lives in Nashville and was simultaneously designing the Lake Forest Showhouse and the Southeastern Designer Showhouse in Atlanta, he worked with our design concierge Michael Keeley to source a variety of objects for the retreat. Among them are 19th c. black lacquer snack boxes, an 18th c. bronze vessel, and a woven willow fisherman’s basket. These choices brought pattern, texture, and a sense of history into the retreat. Millárd’s use of antiques makes the space feel personal—as though the owners themselves collected these objects over the years.
Millárd told us, “I’m always drawn towards … pieces that are special and unique, that celebrate a moment.” These are often found through his relationships in the design community—whether it’s an art gallery owned by a friend or a local business discovered through Instagram.
Of PAGODA RED, Millárd enthused that “working with Michael was so smooth. . . [he took] care of the needs we have, and also the ones that might be coming down the pipeline.” Millárd believes that “antiques give a space life—they give it history and make a space so very special. When there is intentionality behind the selection, it adds a completely different layer within a room.”
Millárd’s use of Asian antiques reflects this, particularly in the kitchenette off the main room. Here, a magnificent trove of PAGODA RED treasures awaits. He told us that he intended for them “to be gallery-like in style.” On the counter, a mirrored floral tea tray unifies the rustic & elegant aspects of the small space. Enamelware teapots bring color to the shelves, while 19th c. brass braziers add a metallic glint to the opposing wall. Millárd purposefully grouped similar pieces so that “Your eyes stop, stare, and look. They bounce from one teapot to the next teapot, giving your eye a place to rest.”
Millárd aims to design “spaces that really create a feeling and an emotion for each client to enter.” The West Cottage Retreat does just this—it’s calming, but so richly textured and intentionally layered that it’s also captivating. The retreat stands out not just for Millárd’s skillful pairing of disparate elements like cedar planking and antique teapots, but because his enthusiasm for design and the design community shines through in every jewel-box detail.
The Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens is open through June 4th 2023. All proceeds from the house benefit the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago. Tickets can be purchased here.
Shop the PAGODA RED objects chosen for the Lake Forest Showhouse by Evan Millárd & other top designers.
Interior Design: Evan Millárd /@evandmillard
Photography: Jeffrey Johnson / jeffreyjohnsonpictures
SHOP EVAN MILLÁRD ‘S PICKS