Here at KMI, we adore the details. Sure, we’ve rolled our eyes at the nooks and crannies that don’t make sense, but it’s the quirkiness that makes them special. Jessica and Noel’s home is no exception. They came across this Oak Park home and knew that the well-maintained interior was worth taking a chance on. While it's an old Victorian home, the previous owners had stripped it of original details and added an addition that did not relate well to the original home. Jessica and Paul still saw potential though and knew with a little help from KMI over time they could transform it into the home of their dreams.
Working with Kathryn Murphy Interiors was transformative! She somehow managed to wrangle the goat rodeo of ideas trampling around in my brain to create something beautiful and inspiring. She strikes the perfect balance between collaborator and decision-maker.
Our first step in refining this room was to make it make sense. We removed a handful of windows that didn’t elevate the space to make room for a gorgeous vintage mantel and new built-ins. Giving themselves permission to remove elements that did not add value to the space (those windows looked out over AC units and siding) helped them see how the space could evolve.
We started with an odd layout and a blank slate
KMI: How long have you lived in your home? What drew you to it in the first place?
J: We have lived in this home for about 2 years. Before moving here, we had lived in another home in Oak Park for almost a decade. We loved that home and the location, but during the pandemic, we realized we needed more space. We considered doing an addition but decided to look at other homes on the market before going forward with that huge project.
The interior of the home was in excellent condition, even though it was dated. It had more than enough space for our needs, and it was a blank slate. I wanted a home that I could gradually transform over time, rather than a home that was fully "done" to someone else's tastes.
KMI: What plans did you have before the design process? What pain points (functional or aesthetic) were you excited to address?
J: This room was added to the house in 1990, just before the Historical Preservation regulations forbid this type of construction. It looked like it was tacked on to the side of the house as an afterthought, and it didn't seem to flow with the rest of the home. The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make it make sense for our family in 2024 while staying true to the home's Victorian roots.
We knew we wanted this room to function as a workspace, and we wanted to take advantage of the large size and interesting layout to embrace other functions as well.
Before I began working with Kathryn, my home made me feel overwhelmed and disoriented. Now that we have this room finished (and other projects in the pipeline), my home makes sense. I have a clear vision of what it can be, and it's a joyful process to watch it unfold.
We use renderings throughout our process to help our clients envision these bold changes. Their first glimpse of what was possible started here.
These renderings helped Jessica and Paul visualize how the structural changes and eye-catching choices would work for their goals. It's challenging to envision wallpaper this bold from an 8 x 11 sample, so these renderings were key. Seeing your space wholly imagined for the first time is such a powerful part of the design process.
KMI: What inspired you to create this space?
J: We chose this room to start with because it was the room that made the least sense in the house, and we couldn't quite figure out what to do with it. The dark academia vibe stems from my obsession with the cozy yet fusty studies you might see in English countryside manors. My husband and I initially bonded over our love of books and reading, and we've always dreamed of having a quiet, dimly lit space where we can retreat with our books or writing projects. My husband envisioned reading in front of a roaring fireplace. However, our house did not have any fireplaces, but I knew I wanted to add one somehow. Without having any idea how the heck I would do that, I impulsively purchased an antique fireplace mantel at an architectural salvage store, which sat propped up against our living room wall for a full year.
We’re suckers for a design challenge and adding Jessica’s dreamy fireplace was right up our alley. Not only did we feature the fireplace, but we personalized it more by adding built-ins for their collections - eclectic elements that personalize their space. And when it came time to style the room their book collection was clutch.
This is a space for repose, entertainment, and delight. Every detail is intentional. It feels lush and cozy, layered with pizazz and personality.
J: Though the fireplace is the piece that ultimately made the room make sense, it was the most challenging to implement structurally. But Kathryn expertly handled every single detail, from helping me select a gas insert and managing the installation, designing the built-in shelves and workspace to surround the fireplace, and project managing the task of covering up the existing windows (with new drywall and insulation on the interior and siding on the exterior).
KMI: What are your favorite parts of the new space?
J: The fireplace, where I'm currently lounging in front of as I type this. The wallpaper. It is stunning. The gold background color is the perfect bright contrast for this dark room, and the cranes are both beautiful and macabre.
J: The workspace, is tucked away in the corner (which I requested due to my ADHD) so my distractions are minimal. My desk is not easily visible from the lounge area of the room, so I can relax with a book or chat with friends without the visual reminder of work.
Knowing Jessica’s need for this space to function as both retreat and productivity led to another interesting challenge: having a secret office. Something valuable and necessary, but hidden. The built-ins are not only a visually appealing element, but they hide the not-so-glamorous office supplies.
KMI: How did you feel in your home before this change was made? How do you feel now?
J: Before I began working with Kathryn, my home made me feel overwhelmed and disoriented. Now that we have this room finished (and other projects in the pipeline), my home makes sense. I have a clear vision of what it can be, and it's a joyful process to watch it unfold.
It has helped me to figure out how everything else falls into place in the rest of our home. That is all still a work in progress, but now I have more concrete ideas for what I'd like to accomplish. I learned a ton about interior design and felt very inspired by this entire process.
Collaboration is a foundational part of our process—really understanding how you want to live and move in your home, what inspires you, and what makes your space feel like home.
KMI: What is your advice when hiring a designer?
Seek recommendations from people you trust. When speaking with potential designers, ask yourself if you can trust them to make decisions for you. Assess whether they seem to understand your vision/aesthetic goals. Kathryn managed to capture the overall aesthetic I loved with the colors, textures, and lighting.
KMI: How would you describe working with Kathryn?
J: Transformative! Kathryn somehow managed to wrangle the goat rodeo of ideas trampling around in my brain to create something beautiful and inspiring. She strikes the perfect balance between collaborator and decision-maker. She has a calm and steady presence that preserved my sanity as I navigated multiple home renovation projects simultaneously.
Home renovation may not be for the faint of heart, but we hope to make the process as seamless as possible.