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42 | SUNDAY BREAKFAST THIS INTERIOR DESIGNER HAS FINE TASTE Though, Julia Buckingham admits during brunch at Convito Cafe, her palate can fail her

■ by simon murray

walking into the Merchandise Mart and not knowing what the process was to get a sample of fabric. As we sit down for brunch, Julia Buckingham has a confession to make: She Her Buckingham Interiors and Design company now has more than hates sitting (and she’s not much of a foodie either). 10 employees working on over 40 projects in Chicago, the North And the restaurant, Convito Café in Wilmette — one she regularly freShore, and around the country — and as the lead designer she quents—doesn’t have her favorite menu item: a cinque formaggio grilled oversees everything, down to the smallest detail. She regularly cheese. Instead, the interior designer, business owner, and inventor of travels with her partnerships with Cosentino (a Spain-based the trademarked Modernique style orders a margherita panini and an company specializing in quartz counter-tops), Traditional Home Arnold Palmer. As we wait for our food to arrive amidst the loquacious magazine, and what might be the most influential book club in lunch crowd, Buckingham philosophizes that maybe only one of your the world of interior design. senses can be overly sophisticated. For her, it’s not the palate. It was at one of these recent get-togethers that this book club of “Unfortunately my husband, who likes to cook, bears the brunt of 12 designers enjoyed a casual breakfast with Kate Kelly Smith, that,” she says. But that doesn’t mean she lacks taste — especially when senior vice president and publishing director at Hearst Design it comes to designing a room or home. Once a self-described soccer mom, Group, to dissect Arianna Huffington’s new book, “Thrive.” Buckingham is now known as the mother of Modernique. “[Kate] asked me, ‘Julia what is the first thing you do in the “It’s a real fusion of antiques, vintage, and modern,” she explains. morning?’” Buckingham’s candid response: “Check my phone,” “The Antiques and Modernism Show [in Winnetka] is the epitome of it.” she says, laughing. “Sometimes it’s even at three in the morning. There’s just a constant influx.” Buckingham — who will be the guest speaker at the show’s VIP brunch on Friday, Nov. 7 — is also the spokesperson for her own design aesthetic Of course, Buckingham’s reply was antithetical to Huffington’s that was once fringe but has been steadily gaining more and more message of unplugging, unwinding, and disconnecting from exposure and now could be considered (dare I say?) trending. work, “but everybody in the group knew that’s exactly how I So an inherited dining table (“Something, say, that once am,” she says. And no way is her intimate relationship with belonged to your grandmother that you absolutely love and hate Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram going to stop, either. But there is one thing she is skeptical about: blogging. equally”) to her trained eye can become a white lacquered, high sheen, French country table. The idea that you can Though she says blogging changed her life in terms of give something life by repurposing it is a central premise national exposure, a part of Buckingham feels that wave of pseudo-experts has crested, which has a lot to do with of Modernique. And, be it an individual piece or accessories an oversaturation of the market. that make up a room, “the mixing of those things doesn’t skin tightening have to be complementary to the same genre or century.” “I’m not exactly sure how important it is anymore,” She admits that at first many people were confused by it. she says, though the blog that she still maintains with a wrinkle reduction This is not traditional design, per se. But she couldn’t change sampling of interior designers from around the country, sun damage reversal the way she saw things. Material Girls, has been named one of the best national Now, whenever she opens a magazine she sees a ones by House Beautiful magazine. skin texture rejuvenation blending of the old and the new everywhere. Before blogging, in her first year at the University of “There’s a hesitation to do something that’s maybe Arizona, Buckingham and a group of girls were getting different than the way you were raised or the way your a friend ready for a date. To the surprise of the man who came to the dormitory looking for his date (and finding in parents introduced you to design,” says Buckingham. “It’s really about the idea that there aren’t any rules anymore.” her wake a clutch of curious girls), he instantly recognized a Buckingham might be the best example of this inner renewal. blonde-haired woman in the group from growing up with her Only seven years ago, the Chicago-based interior designer — who on the North Shore. That man is now Buckingham’s husband Julia Buckingham illustration by barry blitt just inked a licensing deal with the home furnishing company of 28 years, John. Global Views — repurposed herself. Though her mother had In their Victorian home on Sheridan Road in Winnetka, dragged her to estate sales up and down the North Shore as a little girl, she didn’t act an 11-foot tall, zinc profile from a building façade in New York City hangs with authority on her love of design until her youngest child was in high school. She vividly remembers in the foyer. Talk about true love. ■

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The North Shore Weekend EAST, Issue 104  

The North Shore Weekend (East Zone) is published weekly and features the news and personalities of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Northfiel...

The North Shore Weekend EAST, Issue 104  

The North Shore Weekend (East Zone) is published weekly and features the news and personalities of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Northfiel...