STYLING – Grace Leelim | Chicago, USA
INTERVIEWER – Nika Levando
PHOTOS – Julia Latkins & Rachel Loewen
Grace and I met during one of the most important, albeit hectic, moments of my life: preparing for my wedding day. I had been searching for a wedding dress for only a short time, when I finally realized that any of the dresses I thought I wanted would ultimately succumb to an expensive alterations bill and a chopped up version of a dream dress in attempt to fit my 5’0 petite height. After a few interesting visits to Ultimate Bride, Jenny Yoo, etc., I turned to my trusty digital companion, Instagram, and stumbled upon Lee-Lim; an account that seemed to breathe soft, still, beautiful fabrics against modern lines, tailored hems, and the sophisticated minimalism I tend to gravitate to. Beyond the screen, I found Grace, her impeccable taste, her attention to detail, and then finally my dream custom wedding dress that she designed. The dress (or two dresses) that she created for me, in turn, cultivated a friendship we have shared with our husbands that has encountered a wedding, new homes, and most recently a baby! (congrats Grace and Seung!) I am so beyond thankful for finding Grace, but also incredibly sad because very soon Grace and her family will be moving to northern California (hi Napa!). Not to worry, though – The Lokal will follow Grace and her immense eye for design and curation once her family is settled on the West Coast. Since starting Lee Lim, Grace has jumped into the world of interior design and has worked for clients large and small across Chicago. Her keen and impeccable taste breathes the same knowledgeable sophistication into her own interior design aesthetic, as I once encountered in her dresses. Read below about her inspirations and the choices she is made in her own home!
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND ABOUT YOUR HOME; HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED THERE?
I WAS RAISED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, went to high school in Maryland, and came to Chicago to attend The School of the Art Institute. After graduating I worked in New York for several years, so you can say that I find roots in many different cities and places. My husband, Seung, was born in Korea but raised in Chicago, and we met through a mutual friend during my last semester at SAIC.
When we were first dating, Seung and I went for a bike ride along the lake in Wilmette and he showed me bits and pieces of the beautiful area he grew up in. I loved the neighborhoods and decided fairly early on that if I were to ever purchase a home, it would be there.
We were city dwellers for a very long time, but when it came time to purchasing a home, I found myself searching the North Shore area and ultimately fell in love as soon as I stepped into our house.
It is so close to the city, which is necessary as we both work downtown, but remote enough to get some space and peace. We have been living here for 1.5 years now.
WHAT INSPIRED THE DESIGN OF YOUR HOME?
OUR ETHNICITY IS KOREAN but we were raised in America, so our entire lives have been a synthesis of those two cultures. The aesthetic of our home is similar in that sense, where we merge our love for Korean and American traditions and practices to create a very balanced environment.
This also came into play with the functionality of the space since we find function just as important as form. We designed the space to have practicality and beauty simultaneously.
For us, home is a place of stillness and movement. I definitely lean more on the still side, as I need endless amounts of time to myself, and Seung is constantly in motion. He has boundless energy that lights up a space, so we designed the house to facilitate that electric intensity but also promote peace and calm.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE INTERIOR DESIGNERS?
I LOVE A LOT OF HOSPITALITY DESIGNERS because of their ability to seamlessly blend form and function. The space has to be beautiful, but also needs to be practical to serve so many different types of people. Avroko has been a long time favorite; they designed many restaurants in Chicago, including two of my favorite interiors: Duck Duck Goat and the Izakaya at Momotaro. I am also an avid fan of Dimore Studio, a duo from Milan who uses color, texture, and mood lighting in such a sensual way (they did the Pump Room, which is now Booth One). I have always admired the way Roman and Williams combines old world luxury with whimsy – they designed the Chicago Athletic Association.
WHERE DO YOU BUY FURNITURE AND DECOR FOR YOUR HOME?
WE HAVE A BROAD RANGE, from vintage finds to local workrooms, to contemporary retailers like Room & Board and CB2. I love working with and supporting local craftsmen and upholsterers – what they do is an art form that is slowly diminishing as fast manufacturing overseas is becoming increasingly in demand for home goods.
Our wall-mounted sideboard in the breakfast area is a custom piece that I designed and had an immensely talented woodworker fabricate, as well as the ottoman/coffee table in the living room, which I had an upholsterer make.
I FOUND OUR EBONIZED PAUL MCCOBB DINING TABLE on Chairish from someone in the city who lives in a Mies Van Der Rohe high rise, so it was a memorable excursion picking up the table and hearing her story on how the table grew with her over the years.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CORNER OF THE HOUSE?
I LOVE WHERE OUR BREAKFAST TABLE IS, which shares the same line of sight as our living room. There is a moment of magic in the morning when you sit with a cup of coffee and soak in the early morning light – it feels very peaceful and invigorating at the same time.
WHAT IS YOUR MORNING RITUAL?
WE TAKE THE WEEKEND MORNINGS much slower than we do on the weekdays, which are usually limited to getting out the door as fast as possible to beat traffic into the city. On the weekends I like to take Mocha out for a walk, open all the doors and windows if it is beautiful out, play music on the record player and brew coffee or tea while I wait for Seung to make breakfast. Seung loves to cook and is the main chef of the house, so he is usually whipping something delicious up in the kitchen.
HOW OFTEN DO YOU CHANGE ANY OF YOUR INTERIOR DETAILS?
IT IS IN MY NATURE to move things around and add/subtract details constantly, especially when I feel a space needs to feel freshened up. I think this happens at least once a month!
I love that a space can transform by moving the layout of furniture, like the blue velvet club chairs in the living room. They have moved from across the sofa to the sides several times depending on how serious or playful I want the room to feel.
I think the beauty (and sometimes curse) of owning a home is that it is never truly finished – there is always something to adjust, improve, change.
WHEN YOU WANT TO MAKE A CHANGE IN YOUR INTERIOR, WHAT DO YOU CHANGE FIRST (PILLOWS, CURTAINS, ETC.)?
UPDATING AN INTERIOR CAN COME SO EASILY by changing the pillows that you have, especially the scale (going bigger or smaller) and colors. Pillows are often one of those things that come as an afterthought and can seem pretty pricey for what they are, but they definitely complete the language of a space. I also love adding plants to a space to brighten and fill corners as well.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE FURNITURE AND HOME DECOR BRANDS?
ONE OF MY FAVORITES IS the Danish lighting brand “Louis Poulsen”. Their ethos is to design to shape light, so each of their products are made to produce light without the source (the bulb and innerworkings) showing, creating an atmosphere that is always ambient and never harsh. I am particularly sensitive to light (both natural and artificial), so when I discovered this company and their dedication to excellence in their craft and something that I aligned with, I fell in love. The fixture in our dining room is a Louis Poulsen piece, as well as the white lamp on the breakfast sideboard.