The couple behind Threadless eschew boring neutrals for more natural light, plants, and vibrant color in their kitchen remodel.
Ready to update their home in a historic neighborhood in Chicago, Shondi and Jake Nickell—he started the crowdsourced T-shirt company Threadless in 2000, which now produces a wide variety of apparel, shoes, and home goods—tapped Shumaker Design + Build Associates to incorporate lots of natural light and a rich color and material palette into their new kitchen.
The firm started by lightly reorganizing the space to make the kitchen triangle more efficient and create room for a built-in dining area. A small existing rear addition became a cozy sunroom with seating, plants galore, and a gracious connection to the backyard via a new Nana window. A mudroom and butler’s pantry rounds out the new scheme.
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Since the previous kitchen was functional, the Nickells lived with it until the end of its useful life. "After living here for five years, it really got to the point where everything was broken in the kitchen," says Shondi. "We had super-glued all of the cabinets back together and all of the appliances had broken. It was going to cost us serious money just to maintain what was there, or we could invest a little more money and get what we wanted out of the kitchen."
For the 2018 remodel, the firm’s process started with bringing more natural light into the back of the house, where the kitchen is located. "It’s a really grand house and it has a lot of historic value," says Garry Shumaker, who runs the firm with partner Suzanne Shumaker. "It was built in 1894, so one of the biggest space-planning issues we had was how to make a modern kitchen and bring unconventional light and views into a house of this size and age."
The Nickells "have a beautiful formal dining room space but they actually have a pool table in it, so it’s more of a game room," says Suzanne. "So, the kitchen needed to be able to accommodate meals, as well as large family gatherings." The firm removed a fireplace with a small seating area to make way for a generous built-in banquette and table.
Before: Addition Exterior
After: Addition Exterior
After: Sun Room
The color and material palette started with a field tile from Heath Ceramics, in a rich jade green glaze. "Shondi’s favorite color is green and she loves mustard yellow," says Suzanne. "So, we started with that concept and then she showed us a bunch of her artwork that she has on display in the space. We built the color palette from there."
Texture was layered in via a variety of elements, from the Barbara Barry fabric in the banquette, which has a subtle copper glint in the weave, to the leather finish of the countertops and the wood grain in the cabinetry. The couple likes to rotate their art collection throughout their home. "Through Threadless, we get introduced to so many cool artists out there," says Shondi.