Chicago interior designer Jessica Lagrange launched her eponymous firm in 1998. Seventeen years later, she’s a leading lady of design, whose portfolio reflects an uncanny ability to create beauty all along the style spectrum, from hyper-traditional and ultramodern. So The HighBoy was delighted to have Lagrange’s sharp eye create our booth for the Antiques, Garden & Design show at the Chicago Botanic Garden this week. And we even managed to snag a few of her inspiring ideas about how she approaches her work. Read on.
If you had to choose one word to describe your design style, what would it be?
I don’t believe in having a specific style; there’s so much ‘great style’ out there that falls into every time period that it’s impossible to confine to myself to just one specific timeframe or aesthetic. Our philosophy as a design team is to put our clients’ style first in a project, and help them shape their homes based on their own vision.
In designing your own home, you were committed to conserve the building’s historic character. Can you elaborate on the importance of architectural preservation?
It’s critical to maintain the integrity of a structure so it can inform future generations. In my home, a row house designed by architect Louis Sullivan, we donated the façade to the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, which means we must maintain its period details exactly as they were when the house was built. We’ve done the same thing inside, even though it isn’t mandated, and we were even able to restore some of the architectural elements that had been removed from the home and ended up in The Louis H. Sullivan Architectural Ornament Collection at Southern Illinois University. They were ceiling medallions, so we had casts made of them and put them back where they belonged. However, our décor is a real mix of historic and contemporary pieces.
What is your all-time favorite design period of the past? How do you incorporate it into your contemporary interiors?
While we don’t have favorite design periods, we do have favorite strategies and one is to mix it up a bit—even in interiors that are pristine. Something that’s totally purist, like a monochrome palette or a room full of authentic modernist furniture, can be boring and lifeless if you don’t add a few surprising elements. It can be anything from an ornate fauteuil to surprising textiles, but good design is all about balance with a little excitement for substance and soul.
We know you’re a master of designing spaces that are elegant and rich. Any secrets on how to exude luxury and staying on budget?
Going to antique shows that offer a diverse range of pieces at so many price points is one great way to work a budget. But also, it’s important to know where to splurge and where to save. For instance, it really pays to spend on things you’re going to keep forever, such as a breakfront or sofa, and save on smaller pieces or accessories.
What’s your favorite all-time antique or vintage find? Where did you use it?
I adore my dining room chandelier, a gilded wrought-iron fixture that has parchment shades and real wax candle sleeves, and it was very fairly priced; I bought it at the Chicago Botanic Garden antique show years ago. But I can’t say anything is an absolute favorite. Our team always teases about the fact that we’re so fickle about favorites—and for good reason. There’s always something new and intriguing to be passionate about.
Photography via Jessica Lagrange Interiors.