PHOTOS BY TODD SCHWEBEL
Todd Schwebel designs houses and gardens across the country for a discerning clientele. Many Schwebel Company clients reside in historic houses impeccably restored or renovated by Schwebel and often surrounded by gardens he also designs. In the words of one Schwebel Company client has said, “It’s a treat to wake up in a work of art every day!”
Arrayed against the backdrop of these landmark properties, we asked Schwebel to celebrate the fall season with us by sharing some of his favorite autumnal images and thoughts.
Why is fall so important to you?
For me, good design, good taste, beauty—they’re all grounded in nature. During the fall season we are reminded of nature’s bounty, the harvest, and we gather together with family and friends to celebrate life’s abundance (hopefully in rich, vibrant places, with brilliant leaves everywhere, and enjoying the first fires of the season!).
When did you start decorating and building with green or natural materials?
[laughing] Oh my! I’ve been green since before green was a fashionable movement, or there were farmer’s markets all over town. I’m that old!
But seriously, I grew up in a family with deep roots in agriculture and farming here in Illinois. As a young boy I couldn’t wait to pick pumpkins and corn stalks from our fields during our weekend visits to my grandparents downstate and bring them back to decorate. My grandfather grew a small field of pumpkins on one of his farms just for his grandchildren’s joy every year. I had all the decorations I could possibly use—it was an idyllic childhood for a budding designer!
As for building, we do things the old-fashioned way, always using natural materials, while seamlessly building in all the mod-cons (modern conveniences).
For those of us who follow you on Instagram, we’ve noticed one of your favorite hashtags is #livecolorfully. Tell us about that.
Fall colors are a great example! As I said, the source of all good design is nature. Sometimes I just memorize the perfect brilliant scarlet color of a maple leaf then have it created for some one’s living room or library walls. But I also mean one should live colorfully by engaging, entertaining, and using your beautiful house or garden by sharing it with others. That’s what it’s all about, color. It literally and figuratively makes the world a happier place. God knows we need it these days.
Can you tell us about a current project?
It’s a tale of an old-guard Chicago family that could be it’s own PBS miniseries some day because of this family’s history and contributions to Chicago, but suffice it to say for now, we are gut-rehabbing one of their family houses for a third-generation University of Chicago doctor. In fact, it’s the house he came home from the hospital to as a baby and where he grew up.
I’ve reimagined the dark Edwardian house with four new skylights, a big new open kitchen, five bathrooms, and all with walls of new French doors and windows that open onto a large garden we’re also designing. It’s a transformation!
Let’s talk turkey. Tell us about your Thanksgiving bird.
I’m a briner. Twenty-four hours, please, in an apple cider and bourbon mix. Our turkeys come from the Yordy Turkey Farm in Morton, Illinois. The Yordys have been our country neighbors in Tazewell County for more than 150 years. They are Mennonites. Be sure to try their smoked turkey, it’s great for holiday party buffets.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!