By Stephanie McKean
When asked to write a design column for Classic Chicago magazine, interior decorator Lynn Hummer was the first person who came to mind. Her firm, Lynn Hummer Interiors, is the definition of classic, and Lynn was born and raised in Chicago. She is by any standards one of the chicest women you will ever meet. Beautiful, funny, beyond stylish and completely kind, Lynn has it all. Lynn Hummer Interiors has been in business for more than 30 years and is one of Chicago’s most established and venerated decorating firms.
I met with Lynn at her warm and inviting Lake Shore Drive apartment to chat about her thoughts on design and her career.
S.M. Lynn, thank you so much for agreeing to be the subject of my first column. I’d like to start at the beginning. How did you get started decorating?
L.H. When my youngest daughter was in nursery school it was time to get a job. I went to work for a company in Chicago called Interior Design Incorporated on Walton Place.
S.M. So when you started there you were in training?
L.H. Oh yes, that was the whole idea! I had had plenty of art and design in school but no experience. After about two years I began to get my own clients. I worked there for 10 years before I started my own firm.
S.M. Did the Mart as we know it exist?
L.H. Better then you can EVER imagine. The Mart was just full of things, one whole floor of carpeting! There were three floors of gift shop items with a few fantastic ones that might have say, beautiful china or linens. It was very busy down there, you had to wait for elevators! I have always gone to New York to shop, too, and people there would say I was so lucky to be in Chicago where everything was under one roof.
S.M. When you started having your own clients, what was your first big job?
L.M. A family hired me, and they had three houses to do; a beautiful one in Lake Forest, a ranch out West and a house in the Bahamas.
S.M. A dream client!
L.H. Yes! Not to mention that the woman who hired me is still one of my good friends. She is so funny and fun, and I had the best time working with her. It was something of a spoiler because it happened pretty early on and I thought all projects should all be like this.
S.M. Did you work on all three properties simultaneously?
L.H. No. We started with the ranch because they were building a house on the property. The client and I would go visit the job site and stay in a trailer. It was fun!
S.M. So how did you go about decorating the ranch?
L.H. This was before Ralph Lauren, and it was hard to find “ranchy” things, so it really pushed my imagination. For example, the house was a real ranch house, all logs and such, and I wanted to use Navajo rugs and I couldn’t buy them, so we had dhurrie rugs made in India that were inspired by Navajo rugs. It was a real collaboration with my client. I really believe the more input that I get from the client, the better results. And it was especially true on this project.
S.M. Something I might consider a signature of Lynn Hummer and your style is a painted floor.
L.H. Yes, I do like painted floors. They can be elegant, they can be charming and they can be purposeful. This city apartment has a very long hall with no natural light. By painting the floor, it lightened up the dark hall, and having no rug gave the clients’ three children a place to run!
L.H. Painting this front hall really set the stage for the rest of the apartment, and it doubles as a great space for entertaining. The client can set up tables and use it as a dining room. It’s a fun, unexpected and beautiful place to have a dinner party.
L. H. In my house in East Hampton, the floor plan was very random and needed to be pulled together. I painted thehall floors, upstairs and down, a bold black and white checkerboard and it really worked to unify the space.
S.M. I’ve noticed you also seem to love porches and sunrooms.
L.H. Yes, I do. That was something else I did in my East Hampton house. When we bought the house, it had a deck off the living room. I covered the deck and made it a pretty open porch. Then I built a sunroom on to the end of that. The sunroom is made so that the doors open outwith screen doors that slide into place, so it can become a screened in room. With the doors closed, it’s a room we use almost all year.
S.M. Here is another porch you decorated. What is so successful about these rooms is that your decorating and the porch bring the outside in and add life!
L.H. Yes, I love porches for that reason. They bring the garden in.
This porch is off a bedroom. Who wouldn’t want to wake up and start their day here? You feel like you are in the treetops.
S.M. Your house in East Hampton is lovely. I think people would be amazed it was a spec house. It is so warm and charming and comfortable.
How long did it take you to decorate?
L.H. About 20 minutes! No, we bought it in October and were using it the next summer. It’s been a terrific vacation house for all generations of our family. It’s really a comfortable house with nothing precious. No silver or good china. If something breaks…oh well!
S.M. What is next for you?
L.H. My daughter, who lives out East, is a decorator. We have always wanted to work together. We are hoping that sometime in the very near future that will happen!
S.M. Lynn thank you so much!
Lynn Hummer–In Brief
S.M. What is your favorite decorating magazine?
L.H. World of Interiors
S.M. What is your favorite decorating book?
L.H. Both of the books by Billy Baldwin: Decorates! and Remembers!
S.M. So is he the decorator you are most inspired by?
L.H. Yes. Absolutely. I wish I had his brain!
S.M. What showrooms do you like at the Mart?
L.H. Cowtan & Tout, Lee Jofa, John Rosselli
S.M. Do you have a favorite set or interior from a movie?
L.H. Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart. There was no special room, but the whole house was great. The sunroom, the indoor tennis court, the library, where he sat on the glasses. It was so good, I wish I could see it right again right now!
S.M. And finally, what is the best compliment you have ever received from a client?
L.H. I would say that it is when longtime clients’ children ask me to help them. There is nothing more flattering.
Lynn Hummer Interiors