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By Lacey Sikora
When Kristi Kebinger and her family moved to Oak Park from Massachusetts in 2017, they were excited by the village's historic architecture. Their previous home was a new construction townhouse that was low-maintenance but failed to capture the traditional feel that Kebinger prefers.
She loved that the older homes in Oak Park had history on the inside and the outside. After spending a few years making their new Oak Park home their own, Kebinger realized the experience was leading her to a new career and a new creative outlet.
Long intrigued by the world of interior design, Kebinger immersed herself in the field and researched ways that she could learn more about the area and share her interests with others.
Just as the world came to halt when the pandemic hit, she was finally ready to share her love of traditional décor via a website, Grandeur on Grove (grandeurongrove.com). Though publishing during a pandemic was not something she ever anticipated, she knew that, like her, many others were taking refuge in their homes and seeking new ways of forging a community.
Drawn to design
Even while she pursued other subjects in school, Kebinger says she was always interested in home design and a little envious of friends who went into the field as a career.
"I went a different path -- working in law and politics, and I crafted in my free time," Kebinger said.
Her love of design took off when she met her husband, who hails from England. She says that travelling Europe with him and visiting castles and grand country homes piqued her interest in traditional furnishings and fabrics.
When the couple was house hunting in Oak Park, the home they saw on Grove Avenue checked all the necessary boxes with a modern kitchen and update baths, but it also grabbed them with their historic charm. After viewing 30 houses in one weekend visit, Kebinger said of their choice, "When you know, you know."
The couple was eager to make the home fit their style, but first, they wanted to make it comfortable. With plans to insulate the attic, they tore off energy-inefficient drywall in the attic to make a fun discovery.
What appeared to be one stained-glass window on the third floor was originally three windows. Two of the original windows had been boarded up and drywalled over. They restored the windows and continued to look for ways to highlight the 1906 home's past.
In the dining room, a blank wall seemed to be missing a focal point, and Kebinger's stained-glass specialist determined there had once been a window on the wall that had been removed. She had him create a stained-glass window with a tree motif for that wall.
That new stained-glass window became an integral part of the design of Kebinger's dining room. She commissioned custom wallpaper from artist Susan Harter in a pastoral scene and then painted the ceiling a soft blue to mimic the sky.
She furnished the room with a dining set she inherited from her great grandmother and reupholstered the chairs with the help of her mother. An antique Italian sideboard rounds out the space that she calls her favorite room.
"It's very calming," Kebinger said. "You feel like you're in the English countryside."
Another point of pride is her upstairs bathroom, in which she combined florals and geometrics and added some wainscot in a nod to the home's history.
Along with public spaces, she's also tackled her son's room and added European flair to other rooms in the house.
"I've always been hugely interested in fabrics and patterns," Kebinger said. "It's fun having the space to this with this house."
Now a stay-at-home mother with her special-needs son, Kebinger says she found the time to work on her house in between taking him to various therapies. She became frustrated with the lack of inspiration on the internet for a style like hers.
"I couldn't find what I was looking for on blogs or Pinterest," she said.
She decided to create her own website to serve as a portfolio and share with people who might share her style.
"I love European style, but how do you make it work in a more modern home with a dog and a kid and a husband who likes modern things?" Kebinger asked.
For two years, she worked on getting photos of her project just right. She says her perfectionism was keeping her from ever reaching the goal post of publishing the website, so she gave herself a goal of spring 2020.
Then, the pandemic hit. She wasn't sure if it would be callous or frivolous to go forward with a home design website during such a serious time.
"I asked friends and family, and their feedback was that people were looking for distraction," Kebinger said.
She initially geared the website to family and friends and realized that others who were in their homes all the time might be seeking inspiration as well.
Kebinger had planned to work on her website regularly while starting classes in interior design at the College of DuPage this fall. The pandemic has slowed but not halted her timeline.
With her son home from school for the foreseeable future, she plans to continue to post on the website, but perhaps at a slower pace. She also plans to take classes online, and she's seeking a designer to work with in order to learn the ins and outs of an interior design business.
"It's disappointing to have my plans derailed a bit, but I'm definitely going to keep up with the trajectory, just on a modified scale," Kebinger said.
She adds that the pandemic is also making a lot of people take renewed interest in home design and says a lot of time at home is fueling an increased interest in projects at home.
"It's my passion, but it's also a time a lot of people are in their homes more and using their homes in different ways," she said.
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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