House Tour: Summer and Josh’s Pumped Up Traditional

published Oct 9, 2008
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Name: Summer and Josh Thornton
Profession: Summer – Owner, Summer Thornton Design, Josh – Advertising
Location: Lincoln Park
Size: 700 square feet
Years lived in: A little over 1
Type: 1 bedroom condo in 1890’s brick and greystone


(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Those of you who joined as at our last Design Meetup know Summer. She was one of our guests, giving us the scoop on what it is like to run her own design business in Chicago. It was clear from her responses to our questions that she absolutely loves what she does – from the research (magazines – I get them all!) to the shops (Scout is a favorite). But what really came through during the panel was her love of fabric – the colors and patterns that, according to Summer, provide the central inspiration for the rooms she designs.

Photos: Evan Thomas

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


It’s not a surprise that her own home reflects that passion. When Summer agreed to a House Tour of the one bedroom apartment she shares with her husband, Josh, in Lincoln Park, we thought the timing was just right – Color Month is the perfect time to take a look at just how well color and pattern can work in a smaller home.

Summer excels at using design as a practical problem solver to improve the overall space. For instance:

– To add some architectural interest to the rooms, she installed the molding in her living room and bedroom to accommodate the wallpaper panels – and with an eye on practicality, she let the width of the paper dictate the size of the molding frames.

– To mask an unattractive AC soffit that ran through the living area, she designed a custom built in shelving unit which runs floor to ceiling, covering the soffit at the top, but allowing ventilation through the screens. Josh and his dad pulled off the impressive DIY.

– Since the closet area is clearly viewable from the main room when the bedroom door is open, Summer brought the wallpaper right in to the closet. This way, both the bedroom and closet doors can be left open, the view is still attractive and the impression of more space is created.

– To keep things fresh and interesting, she stores alternate fabrics for key items and makes the switch seasonally. Her coffee table is upholstered, and she simply switches out the velcro’d cover when she wants a new look – same with pillow covers, bedding and drapes. This low cost, small space friendly plan allows the apartment to feel totally new as the seasons change without switching out anything but the fabrics.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


Summer’s Survey:

My Style: Pumped up Traditional – Classic shapes invigorated by bold color, layers of pattern & a few modern pieces.

Inspiration: I take most of my inspiration from beautiful fabrics, I am really motivated by colors and how they relate to one another. It is also always inspirational to work in great architectural spaces.

Favorite Element(s): The entire wall of original floor to ceiling windows and abundance of natural light is what sold us on the place! Oh yeah and the sunsets visible from the cozy turret.

Biggest Challenge: Walking up 4 flights of stairs with groceries!! But design wise I would say dealing with some of the mid-80’s renovation details that had been added, like an ugly soffit to provide central air.

What Friends Say: : I think our friends are always surprised by how much they like the wallpaper. Most of them still have images of their grandmother’s, and this, is certainly quite different.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)


Biggest Embarrassment: Our kitchen! A terrible 80’s disaster yet to be tackled!

Proudest DIY: My husband and his Dad built these amazing built-in bookcases to disguise the soffit in the living room. They turned out really great and they look like they have always been there.

Biggest Indulgence: My pair of French Antique Bergere chairs that sit across from our sofa. I told Josh I loved them so much I would die in those chairs!

Best Advice: Go big or go home! I am a big believer in taking the design all the way. People sometimes think you can change your entire room by just painting the walls. That is a good start, but you have to consider every detail in a room to make it really work!

Dream Source: Parisian Flea Market

Resources: Everywhere! I am constantly on the hunt and it doesn’t matter where I am. Anywhere from the Mart to a junk store in Kentucky… I shop everywhere!


Thanks, Summer and Josh!