A Designer’s Home Taps Into Tokens From Her Travels

HOME TOURS | BY | June 17, 2019

House Details

Style: Contemporary

Produced By: Shannon Sharpe

Photography: Dustin Halleck

Interior Design: Cari Giannoulias, Cari Giannoulias Design

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or many of us, the objects we collect during our travels are simply tchotchkes, little more than household clutter. Although they seem essential when they’re discovered in a remote Italian village or that street market in Tunisia, once we get them home they just seem to take up space. But for designer Cari Giannoulias, such tokens of wanderlust aren’t superfluous; they’re carefully curated–and the basis for the design of her family’s Lincoln Park house.

Travel mementos, family keepsakes, antiques and artwork are what form the narrative throughout the residence, which Giannoulias and her husband purchased after finally conceding that their young family–including three children under 10–had outgrown their Gold Coast home. “This house is a portrait of our lives,” says Giannoulias, who, prior to becoming a designer, worked in the entertainment business with Danny DeVito’s Jersey Records, the Sex Pistols and Universal Pictures. “From my upbringing in Palm Beach and my former life in the movie and music industries to my husband’s Greek heritage, the goal was to create a warm environment that tells the story of our ongoing journey.”

Giannoulias and her husband knew the Lincoln Park property was “the one” as soon as they saw it. But that didn’t mean the designer wasn’t going to put her own stamp on it. “I turned to my husband and said, ‘I will probably rip everything out of here,’ ” she laughs. “But the bones were great, plus it had beautiful curb appeal and the layout worked well for us.” Still, she remained true to her word.

On the ground floor, Giannoulias did away with the original millwork and wainscoting throughout and gutted the kitchen. She also sectioned the family room into separate lounging and dining spaces, making the most of the ample skylights to create a breakfast nook. Her biggest challenge, however, was the master suite upstairs, which was originally split into two sections–a bedroom, bathroom and closet on one side, and a massive outdoor space on the other. “It was all very crammed for the size and scale of the house,” Giannoulias says. “It just felt like an afterthought.” Working with architect Mike Shively as a consultant, she reclaimed much of the outdoor space for the bedroom while still retaining a sizable patio.

Once the structural work was complete, Giannoulias’ focus turned to the decor. “Everything in our home has meaning,” she notes. “There’s not one room where I just accessorized for the sake of accessorizing. Through our lives, through our travels, through our heritage, we’ve accumulated pieces that we are very careful about putting into our home.” Some–like the Moroccan tables and Spanish beds in the children’s’ rooms–are inspired by the far-flung places Giannoulias has visited. Others have deeper roots. “My husband is Greek, and we have a very close relationship with that country,” she says. “We are eventually building a home there, and it’s this heritage that I have taken on and fallen in love with.” Part of that heritage shows up in the form of colorful beads known in Greece as worry beads. “The old men there flip them around in their hands–it’s this very masculine, very traditional thing they do,” Giannoulias explains. “We’ve collected the beads over the years. We have vintage ones and some that have been in the family for a long time.”

Other aspects of the home are reflections of Giannoulias herself. On the mantel in the sitting room is a photograph by Burk Uzzle, known for his captivating images of the 1969 Woodstock festival. A hippie at heart, Giannoulias had always been fascinated by Woodstock and all it embodied. After she phoned Uzzle, the two struck up a friendship, and though he usually only sells his work to galleries, she convinced him to let her buy one.

Even the color palette represents different aspects of Giannoulias’ life. The breezy pastels, soothing neutrals and warm wood tones in the family room, dining room and kitchen recall the designer’s past living in the coastal climates of Florida and Los Angeles. Conversely, the dramatic black walk-in closet in the master bedroom upstairs channels her “edgier” years in the music business. “Yes, the closet is a little more rock-and-roll than the rest of the house,” she laughs. “But that’s because when I’m getting dressed to go out at night that’s what I want to convey. I really like mixing different elements and striking the right balance.” Texture also has its own narrative throughout the house, from Italian marble and tactile tadelakt (a traditional Moroccan plaster wall finish) in the master bathroom to a Noguchi paper pendant in the family room. “Varying the textures helps with the landscaping of a room,” Giannoulias says. “I don’t want everything to feel one-dimensional.”

Though she’s pleased with it for now, Giannoulias believes the home will always be a shifting canvas, to be updated as the family’s lives–and travels–unfold. “It’s the unexpected treasures you find that really make the house feel more curated,” she says. “I think that, in order for a house to feel lived in, it has to be a mix of different things in your life. We’ve had many houses before, but this is definitely our home.”

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