The Style Files: Summer Thornton

Known for her fearlessly bold and colorful interiors, Summer Thornton is a Chicago-based interior designer whose work embodies her bold, confident outlook and versatility. Her work has been featured in House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Luxe Interiors+Design, Domino, Lonny, Modern Luxury Interiors and more. Most notably she was named one of the top 50 interior design firms in the world by 1st Dibs. Current projects include a Lake Shore Drive Chicago Co-Op renovation, a Tuxedo Road estate in Atlanta, a Highland Park  tudor in Dallas, a Naples Florida vacation home along with numerous other projects in the Chicago area. Summer is a Traditional Home “New Trad”, was named Chicago’s Best Transitional Designer by Modern Luxury, and a “Rising Star” by the Fashion Group International. She firmly believes that each client’s home should be a reflection of their personal style – their soul, passions, and quirks should be found on the walls and in the furniture throughout the home – so no two projects should ever look alike.

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Summer Thornton: I’d describe my style as lively, always fresh, vivid and enchanting. I prefer to design interiors that say something, that are not afraid to be bold but also don’t take themselves too seriously. The end result is oftentimes unabashed, an exaggerated reality full of contrast, color, whimsy, adventure and romance.

PC: How has living in Chicago influenced your style?

ST: I love Chicago’s turn of the century architecture as a backdrop for the design work we do. I also like the commitment to authenticity and the resistance towards fads that often comes from Chicago-roots.

PC: What does your home say about you?

ST: My home calls me out as a full on romantic. I’m a dreamer at heart and often fantasize about the past in my mind.

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

ST: Editorial fashion and movies are a source of inspiration. I love how these two mediums are telling a story and typically are exaggerated reality. My own home is created around my love of fairy tales. I’m obsessed with the illustrations of Mary Blair. The world’s she created were so colorful and magical. I pin a lot of my inspiration to pinterest here: https://www.pinterest.com/summerthornton/inspiration/

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

ST: Jacques Grange, Studio Peregali, Nicky Haslam, Baz Luhrman, Grace Coddington, Anne Marie Midi, Olya Thompson, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, Lauren Santo Domingo, Marie Antoinette, Carolina Herrera, Florence Welch, Lee Radziwill

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

ST: Authenticity. Be who you are – there’s no need to pretend to be something or someone you aren’t.

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

ST: Coke (the soda!)

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

ST: Honestly,  I’m not sure…I beat to my own drum and took the leap to start my own business when I was just 24 so I didn’t have a lot of years working under a role model.

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

ST: Living authentically & embracing your own style despite what others are doing. Deciding how you want your life to work & flow and putting in the effort to make that possible rather than just going with the flow. For me it is doing what I love, with people I enjoy being around, having time off to dream and travel, time with my family, and time to just be still. Living in a world that I created and enjoying it rather than allowing circumstances or situations dictate the life I will live. It’s about seizing the day and making it what you want it to be.

{A Peek of a Project via Summer’s Instagram @summerthorntondesign}

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

ST: I’m working on what should be a really cool new boutique hotel concept opening in 2021 (fingers-crossed), a book, and several gorgeous projects across the country.

Outfit: Rock & Roll T-shirt, mom jeans and either bad-ass boots (winter) or woven flats (summer)

Style Mantra: Dress simply for day & over-the-top for events and evening

Scent: Gypsy Water by Byredo

Jewelry: My gold bracelet from India that my husband gave me when my daughter was born

Color I never tire of: Sky Cerulean Blue

Flower: Blue Grape Hyacinth

Design Element: Color & Antiques

Era for Design: A mix of 1940s & 1970s

Dream Project: A Russian Palace for a 30-something fashion model

Fabric/Textile: Pierre Frey

Meal: Indian Food

Drink: Mexican Coke, French Rose, and Mojitos

Way to Unwind: Bathtub & Bravo

3 things I love about Chicago: Beautiful Turn-of-the-Century Architecture, People with Midwestern Attitudes, and Interwoven Parks and Nature in the City

Weekend Destination: Michigan in the summer, Palm Beach in the winter

Hotel: Kit Kemp’s Covent Garden Hotel feels like a cozy home in the middle of a busy city (London)

City: St. Petersburg Russia – a total fairytale

Museum: Versailles

Artist: Richard Anuszkiewicz

Song: Crazy (Patsy Cline) reminds me of my grandmother…I like sad songs

Actress: Julianne Moore

Prized Possession: Collection of Italian Micro-mosaic picture frames

Risk Worth Taking: Living with color

Extravagance: Travel & time away from work

Go-to-color: Something I’ve never done before. Right now its Pink & Paprika.

Rule to break: People are often afraid of too many patterns and think there’s some rule about how many to use in a room. There’s no such thing as too many patterns. The more I layer them, the better they all work.

Movie Set: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

I can never have…too much wallpaper!

{Photography Courtesy of Summer Thornton}

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  1. Paloma, i was so exCited to see that you interviewed sUmmer for the design files. I aWays say my pErsonal style is SOMEWHERE between you and her! Thanks for sharing another Great interview.