Chicago Tudor Style Home | Rae Duncan Interior Design


November 19, 2020


For the first RDID blog, I am going to tell you about my own home, our project, Tudor with a Twist. My family moved from Lincoln Park to the adorable little village of Kenilworth in the North Shore. I have never lived in the suburbs and like every other house I’ve owned, it was essential I make this one my own.


I’m not a big fan of Tudor style and the home I picked was so boring and out of date!. The amazing thing about it though, was an exceptional floorplan, some amazing original millwork, and enormous rooms- oh and on the beach!, well almost. I have never seen such large
bedrooms in an old home. Coming from a small rowhouse, the size and scope of the project was intense and very exciting- especially designing my own home while keeping total focus on current client projects. There were a million problems along the way, of course….but the best part of doing my own home is always VERY FEW CONSTRAINTS! So I let my imagination run wild and this is what happened….

My first big decision was what to do with the millwork. I am a HUGE fan of lacquer and Fine Paints of Europe so I quickly settled on that- especially for the fully paneled dining room! And blue, which I call a neutral, one of the easiest colors to incorporate into a space- and a feel good color to boot.


I went full lacquer in the living room and my home office as well, but black. Which was the next big decision. I needed to get contemporary, bring it into the present. do something different, especially with the ugly old oak trim….The whole house now has satin black trim except for the lacquered rooms and flat black floors. I love the contrast and I LOVE dark, dark floors.


My designs are often bold and often very colorful. I love color. I love living in color. It gives space a lot of wonderful energy and is a super fun for my kiddos. I love color as much as I like black, probably….Don’t be afraid of color!! When I first started my business, every home felt like an RH store. Beautiful but boring as hell. Speaking of RH, you may notice my dining table is from there, from my last home. I dressed it up with some blue and gold mirrored glass, cut it a little fancy, and voila! Re-use what you can, dress it up, limit waste. Building is one of the most polluting industries, really important to always keep that in mind and it’s not just about using green products. And if you do go neutral- make it interesting- funk it out like I did in the master bedroom.

Don’t be afraid to paint it black. Also, play with finishes. Again, funky with the neutrals…This room is matte black. It came together somewhat randomly from problems that arose with furniture and fabrics. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t freak- problems always lead to an even better place. Constraints shake things up, keep you dreaming….In this house, we kept finding more and more structural and electrical problems. Bad bones. Let it inspire.


My living room is the most colorful room. Lots of neutral but whacky fun furniture and rich coral drapes. My favorite designer, Alissa Johnson, said to paint the ceiling green! I could not love that decision more. People, don’t leave out the ceiling…it’s an often forgotten space but contributes so much to the composition when addressed well. My favorite color to wear, but least favorite color to live in, is red, but that’s a topic for another day. It’s looks a bit crazy in photos, but my guests say its their fave.

I decided to go wild in many of the rooms but keep the main space neutral with my fave white, Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. Also, I have a large art collection, which I want to stand out.


Use every inch- I love sneaking in water/ tea stations and extra storage everywhere I can. I put built ins everywhere I can. DURABILITY! FUNCTION FIRST! The purpose of space is to improve our lives. Improve the way we feel and function. Designing without these 2 things coming first, is wasteful and useless. People spend a lot of money on their homes, it should last twenty years, regardless of kids and pets. It’s my standard. Build like it’s a hotel. And it’s less wasteful.


I personally have 3 dogs, 2 parrots, 4 baby turtles, and 2 young kids, but, as you can see, fancy, shmancy design that withstands tremendous abuse is so possible. Fabrics like Kevlar or actual Kevlar, sealants, and being very careful about materials all contribute to the perfect 20 year set up


Covid got you down? Throw a home gym into a spare bedroom…


Have fun with furniture. You can always redo it. A showpiece is the BEST. The absolute best. I love Timorous Beasties. It’s the Brand of RDID. You could say I am in a graffiti rut for the last decade…check out these fab custom cabinets in my living room from Vanguard Furniture. Accessorize and style- Finishing touches are incredibly important- window treatments complete a room.

And if you can’t commit to the furniture, funk out your fixtures! Lighting matters bigtime. Beware- in old homes, you are opening a can of worms…I went through 3 electricians on this one!


Hey- trim does not have to stand out- sometimes it just doesn’t feel right. Go with your gut. You know what I learned so much on this one- have a through line, but don’t be matchy matchy- things do not need to be the same to go together….this funhouse is such a joy to live in

Do not forget to sneak in a second floor laundry room into an old closet- It’s a must have these days!


A special den for the kiddos on the second floor? YES!! Best idea ever! We split a small bedroom w/closet into a den and laundry room. Always think outside the box- things you think are crazy or too expensive often aren’t. Always go big and price everything under the sun in your estimates- then pick and choose. You want to have the big picture cost wise. I’m surprised by pricing one way or the other all the time.


The process of design takes a long time and can be exhausting. It’s okay to do things in pieces. I needed to get my family in the house, so I’m saving the kitchen and baths for later- It’s awesome to just give things a quicky makeover though so you can stop obsessing. Actually, that’s never happened to me, but it helps my brain to bring things to “acceptable” until I’m ready to rock. If windows or anything makes a space dysfunctional- get rid of them. You have the power.


What's next? The really fun stuff....