Friday, February 3, 2023 Feb 3, 2023
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A Highland Park Cottage With An Airy Swedish Design

Designer Michelle Nussbaumer creates a light and airy Swedish design in a couple’s West Highland Park cottage, along with sources for recreating this casual look in your house.
By Jennifer Davis Dodd |

LIGHTEN UP: The secret to this Swedish-style interior, designer Michelle Nussbaumer says, is the mix. Here in the master bedroom, as throughout the house, icy blue walls create a light-colored backdrop. Simple painted furniture and white fabrics give off a casual vibe, but a sprinkling of glamorous pieces, such as the mirrored table and plaster torchier, raise the bar. This look could never be called quaint or country.


Simple & Swedish
Robin and Warren Wilkes’ West Highland Park cottage is light, airy, and sophisticated. Just don’t call it French.

TWO OF A KIND: The subject of the portrait above the fireplace is Warren’s mother. Painted and simply upholstered Louis XIV-style chairs flank the fire. Mirror-topped tables and aqua Murano glass pieces add easy glamour to the room. Michelle had two straight-backed Swedish-reproduction chairs covered in two fabrics, creating a striped or color-blocked effect, to add a bit of modern flair to the space. The backs of the chairs are covered in a more traditional small blue-and-white check.

In a city smitten with French and Italian styles of decorating – and the regal, traditional furnishings and fabrics that implies – Robin and Warren Wilkes’ light and airy Swedish-inspired interior is a breath of fresh air. “Robin and Warren hadn’t been married long when we started this project,” designer Michelle Nussbaumer says. “We were working to build a home for the two of them, to combine ‘his’ and ‘hers’ and add new pieces to create something that would reflect both their tastes. Though Warren loves contemporary design and Robin is drawn to antiques, they both have a very European sensibility. They’re cosmopolitan but relaxed, and we wanted their home to reflect that.”

Michelle’s answer was a minimal, blue-and-white Swedish design. “We wanted to create a beautiful but comfortable environment,” she says. “Swedish is a little more rustic and livable than French; the color palette is lighter, the lines are cleaner, and the painted finishes are more relaxed.”

But this is no quaint country cottage; Michelle’s design is sophisticated, with a definite contemporary edge. “There are very few modern pieces in this design, but we created a contemporary feel by keeping things simple and sleek,” she says. Furniture plans are uncluttered, even sparse. The pieces themselves are clean-lined and simply finished. Fabrics and upholstery are solids or quiet blue-and-white patterns. Accents and accessories – in blue and white, dove grey, or aqua – are kept to a minimum.

SMALLEST DETAILS: Two of Robin’s own sketches hang above the crisp white buffet. Her collection of blue-and-white porcelain pops against the dining room’s clean color palette and simple furnishings.

“In small houses and small rooms, simplicity of design is key,” she says. “But when you have to use fewer pieces, quality and integrity are important. Each must contribute to the whole and make a statement.” Michelle’s statement-makers are French ’40s, mirrored, and gilt pieces, which add glamour, and slick materials such as metal and glass, which keep the design from becoming too luxe or too feminine. “We really tried not to overload on feminine touches, to keep the design clean for Warren,” Michelle says. “Though Warren and Robin alone tend toward different ends of the spectrum, they both have a great eye and appreciate good design, whatever the mode. Once we established the color palette and the core Swedish-inspired design, we were able to add a mix of the materials, styles, and periods that appeal to each of them to create a cohesive interior that they’re both happy to come home to at the end of the day.”




Designer Michelle Nussbaumer’s tips for beautiful interiors.

JUXTAPOSITIONS: In the bedroom, metal nightstands, simply hung mirrors, and rock-crystal lamps are a glamorous counterpoint to the wooden-screen-turned-headboard.

Build your design around quality antique or vintage pieces. Pick pieces with quality and integrity. If you can’t find antiques, consider custom-made furnishings.

Color is key. If you’re not confident in your own color choices, seek professional help.

A simple furniture plan using clean pieces and minimal accessories will give your room a contemporary feel, even if there’s isn’t a “modern” piece of furniture to be seen.

Choose sisal rugs over patterns for a cleaner look.

Go for the best quality you can afford – in furniture, in fabrics, in trim.

The most interesting interiors include a mix of materials, styles, and periods – and pieces with personal meaning.


How to Get The LOOK


1 A light hand with silver paint dresses up this ivory sueded-cotton French fauteuil. $1,079 at Covins Furniture, 114 Preston Royal Village. 214-368-4260. >>


2 Guilt-free gilt: this silver wooden chest is only $660 at Circa, 1311 Inwood Rd. 214-630-5185. >>


3 The Swedish look is all about painted furniture. Pie-crust tilt-top ivory table, $1,449, at Covins Furniture, 114 Preston Royal Village. 214-368-4260. >>


4 Murano glass in an exquisite shade of blue. $350-$1,800 at Jan Showers & Associates, 1308 Slocum St. 214-747-5252. >>


5 Embrace the patina of this antiqued French ’40s-style Syrie table or ask for it with pristine, new mirror pieces. $1,833-$2,666 at Ceylon et Cie, 1500 Market Center Blvd. 214-742-7632. >>


6 Lighten up with this glass-globe lamp. $1,150 at Gabberts Design Studio, 13342 Midway Rd. 972-233-3232. >>