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Proprietress Suzanne Cahill of Maison Suzanne in Oak Park (206 S. Marion Street) is a spirited entrepreneur and an interior design expert. She is also something beyond this: she is an international fine furniture ambassador, having created a fusion of worldwide cultures in her spacious, light-filled European and Asian antique shop.
Suzanne brings us the world via rare antiques and hand-picked artifacts, a medley of unique furnishings and home décor unearthed during her global travels.
Her goal is trifold: to bring a different cultural feel to homes by expanding the horizons of homeowners; to cultivate an appreciation of distinctive wares from around the world; and to turn her travels into exceptional beauty, modern style, and easy comfort for her customers.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne and chat about her passion for design, the joy she derives from exhuming uncommon goods from exotic locales, and her sincere adoration for supreme craftsmanship.
Before each thoughtful account from Suzanne came an irrepressible smile confirming her affection for all things design, “You have to pursue what it is you’re passionate about, and you must love what you’re doing,” she shares.
A designer with over thirty years of experience, Suzanne previously occupied a special niche, crafting heirloom pieces, custom pillows and upholstery for twenty-five years in Chicago. Eight years ago she decided to return to retail.
“I love the creative process and helping others to fulfill visions for their homes. And I really enjoy everything I have here in the shop: the furniture and textiles; the details in the work, and the history inherent to each piece,” she states.
Maison Suzanne opened its doors three years ago on South Marion Street. While besotted with the bright and airy 8,000 square foot space she occupies, the remote location combined with the depressed economy (and now ongoing construction on South Marion) has made it difficult for her business to develop organically.
“This is a most challenging time for interior designers. Because of this, we are pushed to our limits. We have to be extraordinary. Designers have to be their best,” she explains.
Suzanne impeccably merges her penchant for artful juxtaposition with dialogue of the ancestry of each relic. She believes importing antiques from far-flung destinations comes with the added responsibility of edifying and enlightening her customers.
Transitioning fluidly into professorial mode, she walks to a prodigious piece positioned in the center of her shop and runs her hand gently over its textured surface, “This scholars table is over two hundred years old; it’s constructed of Chinese ironwood, the stone top was designed to be used by calligraphers, the texture was created from weathering, and the colors denote layers of different generations.”
As my gaze migrates round the room, I realize that there are centuries of craftsmanship before me: early nineteenth century settees, an antique Chinese apothecary cabinet, a vintage Indian wedding chest, a table laden with handmade Bengali Kantha quilts, all meaningful objets d’art hewn by accomplished hands somewhere in time.
My design aesthetic seems to be suddenly stretching, expanding; I understand what Suzanne means when she speaks of the difference “between matching and character, placing your own stamp on your home.”
In addition to antiques and international artifacts, the shop is home to a Cahill-designed selection of home décor accessories including customized pillows and seating. Suzanne constructs pillows in brilliant market day colors, fashioned from East Indian textiles, antique Rabari wedding shawls that were hand-loomed, dyed, and embroidered by tribal women.
Equally intriguing are her luxury upholstery pieces, formal Italian chairs reupholstered in casual, utilitarian fabrics: a blue Japanese boro (or mended rag). You’ll also find lighting and artwork (see photo gallery).
Realizing customers' visions via unusually harmonious designs, Suzanne derives great pleasure from the process of creating and designing after all these years, "I’m really trying to bring in the unexpected, to help customers actualize their own unique interpretations in their homes."
For more information or for store hours and prices, visit www.maisonsuzanne.com. Suzanne offers remote personal assisted shopping and interior design services.