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Behind the Curtain with Elizabeth Stamos

After working for some of Chicago's top firms, Elizabeth Stamos opened her namesake company in 2013, and boy are we glad she did! Her balance of colorful and classic, new and old, masculine and feminine, makes for timeless-yet-fresh spaces that we love to peruse. We were excited to see her featured in this summer's Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago as well as in this month's House Beautiful with the "bath of the month." We recently took a little time to get to know her a bit better, and peek "behind the curtain," so to speak.

What about Chicago do you enjoy most over the holiday season?

I love how festive things get downtown; it just gets me in the holiday spirit! I live right off of Michigan Avenue near all of the lights, window displays, Christmas markets, and parades. Even though our city is pretty cold, it’s lovely to cozy up at home with a mug of hot cocoa and listen to Christmas music with the snow falling outside and lights sparkling in the distance.

What are you finding particularly inspiring for 2014 holiday decor and parties?

I am currently loving a mix of natural elements like pinecones, spruce leaves, and natural wreaths, with a bit of gold detailing to offset it. The combination looks clean and festive. The gold really gives the organic elements some oomph, and makes everything seem more special and sparkly! Here is some imagery to give you an idea of where I am heading with our party planning and decorating this season:

Elizabeth's holiday inspiration via Pinterest

What would you say is your signature style and area of expertise?

Gosh, that is really a hard question because all of my current projects are really quite different! I don’t know if I have a particular style, I would say it is more of a range. I think my experience has enabled me to create rooms with a variety of different feels, and there are many different styles that I love and get really excited about. I love putting a fresh take on traditional or transitional spaces. I love everything from rooms with a masculine feel (think distressed leather sofa, club chairs, cigar rooms) to really girly spaces with lots of color. I love mid-century design, antiques, and clean-lined furniture… as you see, I’m all across the board. I do think that the best spaces are a mix designed to reflect the personal aesthetic of the people who live there. I really try to make the rooms I design a reflection of my clients’ taste, just interpreted through my filter.

My area of expertise is definitely residential design. I was trained in high-end residential which was a fantastic experience. Now not only can I do that, but I also have a lot of experience playing the high/low game, creating a similar feel for clients on a budget. (I’ve had a lot of practice with that in my own place too!)

"Judson Avenue Victorian" project

Can you describe your design process and how you get to know your clients and/or evaluate fit?

I start by really looking at my clients, how do they live, what are they wearing, what are their likes and dislikes, not only in design but in life. It’s really just listening to what they want. Are there particular colors that they love or hate, or a hotel that they fell in love with? I also try to gauge what styles they are going for with word imagery, such as circling different descriptors that they want their home to feel like (collected, preppy, modern, serene, etc.). As for my process, I can’t give you all of my secrets… you’ll have to work with me to find out!

What items do you typically recommend a homeowner “splurge” vs “save” on?

Splurge on big pieces like a really comfortable sofa that you can live in, or a classic dining table, or a great bed and mattress. Splurge on statement pieces like art or photography that you can keep for years to come, or buy a yard or two of designer fabric and get some great pillows made. These little things can really make a space! Save on things like side tables. Many places have great inexpensive options that you can incorporate. Do some vintage and antique hunting for interesting yet inexpensive dining chairs and lounge chairs. Recover or refinish them and they will add a lot of interest to a room without breaking the bank! There are so many options out there now that are readily accessible over the internet. You just need to look!

"Bucktown Internet Marketing Office" project

Do you have any design rules you always follow? Any big “don’ts”?

I always say ‘the devil is in the details,’ and I believe it! I go to painstaking efforts to make sure every part of each project is thought about and considered. My process may be a little longer (and slightly OCD) but I think it shows in the final product. I am always amazed at how one thing can spark an idea for something else, which then sparks an idea for something else. You learn in each phase, and the final outcome always benefits as a result!

My "design don't" is accent walls! I never do accent walls, they drive me nuts! I think they totally break up a room and I struggle to find context with them. Yes, your eye instantly draws to them, but not in a way that I would really want for one of my spaces. There are so many other things to do instead of painting or wallpapering one wall. Add a striking piece of art, or a vignette, to make a well thought out design moment instead. A room should be layered, cohesive; it should be a collection of many things that slowly draw attention as you look around. Not just one screaming moment, in my opinion.

"Bucktown Internet Marketing Office" project

What are a few of your favorite local sources?

Love Jayson Home, that is always a favorite. I also love The Find, Revision Home, Coyle & Herr, and Classic Remix.

What inspired your own home?

My home is a mix of pieces and art that I have loved, and collected over time. I like my home to feel comfortable and inviting, so nothing is too precious, but I do like some fancier touches here and there. Think cozy distressed leather sofa, faux fur throw, brass details, lots of books. Though it might sound cliché, I do get a lot of inspiration from travel. I love textiles and how each culture has such deeply rooted traditions in their textile weaving, or dying, so when I travel I try to find at least one piece each trip to bring back. I also love a good antiques hunt. I spend more time than I care to share hunting for finds online and in stores. There are so many great pieces out there just waiting to be refinished or reupholstered and given a new life. It’s a total addiction. I have way too much in storage! But when I find something special, I can’t help myself! One of my favorite pieces is a vintage sideboard I found for next to nothing. I had it refinished in black lacquer with gold details and now it looks like a million bucks. I’ve used it as a buffet, and it is now our TV stand in our living room.

Isn't Elizabeth just as lovely as her designs? If you're interested in working her you can learn more about her business, and inquire about her services, through her designer profile.

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