Winnetka Studio Renovation

Oh, how I love a good remodeling project! In my next life, I want to be an interior designer.

I recently got to redesign and remodel the interior of my studio in Winnetka, Illinois, my “home” studio of the last 18 years. It is a photographer’s dream space, with 20 foot ceilings, wood rafters and lots of gorgeous light.


This reno was a tricky one as it is in a 100 year old building (originally a large laundry), with original brick walls and floors that are anything but plum.  Within an expanse of 10 feet, there is literally a change in floor elevation of 4 inches! The brick was awesome, but its dark, orange-ish color was all wrong for the modern look that I was after and did not lend itself well to serving as a back drop for my photos.

So I twisted the arm of my landlord until he gave me permission to paint the brick a gorgeous, super soft light grey. You’ll see in the photos, it looks almost white. Those who are sticklers for preservation might be screaming right now, but I feel a bit entitled, after 18 years, to put my own mark of history on those old walls.

To go with the soft gray brick, I chose to rip out all the carpet that had seen way too many dogs and babies over the years and just refinish the ancient cement that was underneath.  Industrial chic, I told myself. My initial thought was that this floor treatment would save tons of money.  Wrong.  This turned into a big deal, with all that patching, grinding and sanding, and, to put it mildly,  no one in the building appreciated the dust nor the scent of the finish. It ended up costing twice as much as carpeting, but I absolutely love the look! So much easier to keep clean and hygienic and definitely gives off a really cool vibe. Winter boots, you have met your match!

To increase my storage space (the entire studio, including the proof viewing room, is under 1700 square feet), I ripped out a too-narrow storage closet, instead floating shelves from the wall and covering the entire unit with 100″x 100″ long delicious “washed belgian linen” curtains from Restoration Hardware. There are breaks between the panels allowing for easy access to the shelves.  I LOOOOOVE the way the curtains and other soft goods in the studio soften up the otherwise austere cement and “white” brick. Next, with all that additional storage space, I converted what was the largest storage closet into a luxurious new dressing room.

For furnishings, as I so often do, I turned to my go-tos, Restoration Hardware and Room and Board.  I love the mix of vintage/salvaged with sleek and modern/contemporary.  The vintage, juxtaposed against the modern, provides a certain coziness and makes the edges of the room a bit rounder and fuzzier, if that makes sense!

Two of my favorite pieces in the main studio are the rugs.  One is a vintage Turkish rug, which, up until 3 weeks ago, called Istanbul “home” and the other a mod black and white cowhide rug. Another odd mix which seems to work.  A vintage clothing rack and two round sparkly chandeliers complete the look.

The renovated studio is now just so light, fresh and clean and it has such a positive energy.  It feels like space where my brain has the air and light it needs to be creative. It’s elegant, a bit irreverent and comfortable all at the same time.


We’re having a fabulous champagne reception in this newly renovated space on April 19th. Stay tuned! 

– Julie

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