An Interview with Summer Thornton, One of Chicago's Premier Interior Designers
Summer Thornton's office looks a lot like a Thornton-designed home. It's bright, full of color and chic patterns, and positively bursting with joy. When looking towards the future of interior design in Chicago and the world, Summer is our go-to gal. We sat down with Summer to chat about all things design while broker Lauren Mitrick Wood noshed on some of her favorite candies...Skittles!
What is your design philosophy?
Summer Thornton: I’m always inspired to tell a story and I love to tell a different story all the time! I love projects that take me somewhere new and I love an adventurous client! My philosophy is all about diving in deep and making your home something that excites you.
What inspires you?
Movies…sometimes I wish I was a set designer bc they get to take a certain style and period and take it all the way there! I am constantly inspired by movies and how the sets and costumes tell a story. I also love to follow fashion and artists bc they tend to have more adventurous color palettes than most interior designers.
Do you have a favorite project? Why?
My own! It is always exhilarating to create something for yourself and the people you love. My house is a love story to my family and I love how it embraces us and brings us joy.
What was a request that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
I had a client that liked intense primary colors. I’m known for color but primaries aren’t in my go to bag of tricks. She pushed me even more with color and I loved the results!
How has your design aesthetic changed since you started? I like a more layered look than I did when I first started out.
In three words, how do you describe your design style?
Romantic, fearless and joyful
In three words, describe your personal style.
Floral, colorful, costume
What is your dream project?
Ooh tough…I’d love to do something in Venice…I think it’s the most romantic city in the world. I love the idea of how the color would change with how the light bounces off the water of the canals.
If there is one item you suggest your clients invest in, what is it?
Vintage lighting changes everything
Who is your favorite artist to use in your projects?
Right now I’m obsessed with Alex Katz
What is your favorite local store to shop for projects?
What is your favorite room in a house to design and why?
The living room. It’s usually my jumping off point.
Who is your ideal client?
I like to say I love a rebel without a budget!
Your office is simply stunning, can you tell us about your favorite design elements in your space?
I love the light and the ceiling height! It’s an old Victorian building and I like that it feels like a home.
We know you love a good Mexico trip. If you could go to one place in Mexico for a vacation where would it be?
My favorite spot is Sayulita. We are starting to build a house there on the beach. It’s a fun little surf town with creative people, good food and perfect weather! I also love Careyes. It’s probably the most beautiful place in Mexico!
What is your favorite Mexican design that you utilize at home or in your projects?
My house has tons of Mexican inspiration and collections. I collect a cross from every city I visit in Mexico and mix them in with my family photo wall. I also love to make pillows out of any old Mexican textile I can find.
Tell us why you chose to live and work in Lincoln Park.
I’ve lived here since I moved to Chicago 16 years ago. I love the history of the homes here (please stop tearing them down!) and the tree lined streets.
Text by Eric Grant
Photography by Alina Tsvor