Expert Tips on Creating The Elegant Entertaining Space You Need
A sophisticated couple worked with designer Laura Tribbett to create a house perfect for entertaining
Andrea and Marco Ellis bought a River North row house in 2020 that looked move-in ready. “It was a beautiful house built in 2007,” Andrea says. But the layout needed just enough tweaks that in the end, the couple took on a full-scale renovation. “We reimagined the space to make it something that works for our family in the long-term.”
The power couple—she’s CFO of an online gaming company and he’s a prominent plastic surgeon—entertain frequently. They also have a toddler son, and they liked that the house worked as well for a kid’s play date as it did for a cocktail party. The couple had collaborated with interior designer Laura Tribbett, founder of Outline Interiors, on their previous house, so they called on Tribbett and builder Keeper Development to tackle the redesign of the four-story house.
The biggest idea was perhaps counterintuitive for a couple who wanted a lighter and brighter living space. “There was an interior courtyard on the second level,” Tribbett says. “It was Andrea’s vision to reclaim that space, which then gave them room for a larger kitchen, a walk-in pantry, and a spacious powder room.” A NanaWall between the kitchen/family room and a generous terrace supplies plenty of light and provides this main living space with an open feel even when the accordion door is closed.
Tribbett designed the kitchen with a double island—an imperative for Andrea—who uses it for casual entertaining. “The island closest to the stove is the prep zone. Then she has a whole second island for charcuterie boards or a bar and bartender,” Tribbett says. “She didn’t want a double island because she saw it on Pinterest. There was a purpose behind it.”
Although monochromatic, the kitchen is far from ho-hum. “We wanted an element of jewelry in the space,” Tribbett says. “The pendant lights, the hardware, the counter stools, the hanging shelves—all the brass accents tie it together.”
Moving a staircase, which had to be done when the courtyard was reclaimed as interior space, also provided additional space on the upper levels. The third floor—with the primary suite, their son’s bedroom, and a nursery for their soon-to-arrive second child—gained more space for the couple’s walk-in closet. On the fourth floor, which is divided between an en suite guest bedroom and a lounge and bar area, the square footage allowed for a new powder room.
In deciding on the house’s palette, Tribbett already knew what each partner liked. “Andrea’s style is contemporary casual and she likes soft colors,” she explains. “While Marco likes bolder statements.” Most of the house reflects Andrea’s light and airy style with lots of neutrals and interesting blues, but the fourth floor, which is affectionally known among their friends as “Marco’s lounge,” shifts the mood to something a little more intense and dramatic. Instead of white walls, the walls are painted chocolate brown with the wall behind the bar covered in a woven wood wallpaper. The graphic rug and curved lines of the furnishings complete the room’s modern Art Deco vibe. It’s a space that accommodates an afterwork cocktail for the couple or watching sports with a large group.
The Ellis family moved in just 15 months from the start of the project, which Andrea credits to the team’s communication. “Laura has a tremendous eye, plus she’s great at sourcing,” Andrea says. “She also understands budgets and timelines, and is organized and incredibly detail oriented.”
The relationship worked so well that when the couple found out that Andrea was expecting their second baby, they called Tribbett and she started working on the new baby’s nursery. “This was our first gut renovation and I learned a lot,” Andrea says. “I would do it again. It’s awesome to see an idea come to life!”