Michelle's Traditional + Fashion Forward

Michelle's Traditional + Fashion Forward

Carolyn Purnell
Jun 26, 2012

Name: Michelle Tisdale (and her chocolate lab Beau)
Location: Uptown, Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years lived in: 5 years; owned

While it's not universal, it is often true that folks gifted with the "good-fashion" gene are gifted with similarly good taste in home design. In the case of Michelle, a radiant seamstress/fashionista, one can certainly see this aesthetic cross-pollination. Her personal style and that of her home generally tend toward the classic, but she manages to keep it updated, fresh and interesting with a bit of glitz and whimsy.

Michelle's sense of style perfectly embodies the feeling of "new traditional," blending tailored, sophisticated, and classic elements that connote luxury and timelessness, without ever verging on the fussy or stuffy. The condo is decorated in a primarily neutral palette, creating a serene atmosphere, and Michelle has added a great deal of richness to the space with carefully selected soft colors and a subtle variety of textures. She's taken advantage of the architecture of the space, keeping the built-ins and tiled fireplaces main focal points, and a mixture of new and antique pieces, decked out with the perfect accessories, makes for a simply adorned home that feels both elegant and cozy.

One should be careful not to conflate the traditional with predictable or dull, especially when it comes to Michelle. She's a boundlessly enthusiastic person, and the sparkle of her personality spills over into her home. Reflective surfaces pop up in every room, and items like a mirrored tray in the living room, a crystal-droplet chandelier in the bedroom, and an antique mirror in the bathroom keep the interior chic, light, and playful. Taking cues from her mother, who always had plants and fresh flowers in the home, Michelle adds doses of vibrant color to the space by way of her green thumb and regular trips to the florist. And everywhere you look, you can spy Michelle's custom, self-designed, hand-sewn, or DIY touches, making clear her also seemingly endless energy, handiness, and creativity.

Unafraid to make the space her own, she recently converted her guest bedroom into a dressing room and inspiration space, which has quickly become one of the most used locations in the condo. (Beau, her eight-year-old chocolate lab, has also taken a shine to the room, and as you may be able to tell from the tour photos, it's one of his preferred places to sprawl.) Michelle is a stylish person with an equally stylish home, but what really comes across when one is in her space is a fresh, easy, and light feeling. This is far from the staid traditionality of a showroom, an overly-staged catalog, or the plastic-covered parlor of a hoary grandmother. These updated classics (and their owner) are exceedingly inviting and fun.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Traditional

Inspiration: My parents' house and House Beautiful magazine

Favorite Element: Fireplaces, built-ins, and my Marketa Sivek painting

Biggest Challenge: Dog hair!

What Friends Say: They like my style; it's welcoming and comfortable — it's "me"!

Proudest DIY: Painting all the woodwork: trim, fireplaces, doors, molding... EVERYTHING!

Biggest Indulgence: The living room hutch that I found at an estate sale. Happy 40th birthday to me!

Best Advice: Buy what you like, trust your taste, and remember: not everyone has to like it.

Resources of Note:


    • All Trim color: BM925 — Ivory White


    • Wall art: Homegoods
    • Bench: Overstock.com
    • Armoire: Antique store in Dallas, TX
    • Rug: Homegoods


    • Couches: The Room Store
    • Yellow Chair: Cost Plus World Market
    • Hutch: estate sale
    • Yellow embroidered pillows: Homegoods
    • Yellow shaggy floor pillow: Homegoods
    • Throw pillows: Target
    • Rug: Homegoods
    • Lamp on hutch: estate sale; shade: Homegoods
    • Coffee table: Craigslist
    • Curtains: Ross, with custom hand-sewn extension panels


    • Paint: Above the rail, BM261 — Northfolk Cream; Below the rail, BM263 — Spring Morning
    • Table: The Room Store
    • Sideboard: Antique store, rehabbed
    • Bench: Estate sale, rehabbed
    • Rug: Salvation Army


    • Paint Color: HC93 — Carrington Beige
    • Rug: Homegoods
    • Lamp: TJMaxx
    • Curtain: DIY with fabric from a garage sale


    • Headboard: Costco
    • Dresser: Costco
    • White dresser: Craigslist, repainted
    • Side tables: Costco
    • Chandelier: Overstock.com
    • Lamps: TJMaxx
    • Curtains: IKEA


    • Paint: BM1550 — Cumulus Cloud
    • Mirror: Antique store


    • Paint: BM470 — Par Four
    • Sofa: Craigslist
    • Desk: Cost Plus World Market, embellished by me
    • Shoe rack: Amazon.com
    • Table: Estate sale, rehabbed
    • Curtains: TJMaxx, with sewn-on extension panels
    • Dog bed cover: Handmade by me!
    • Inspiration board picture frame: garage sale
    • Artwork: TJMaxx

Thanks, Michelle!

Images: Carolyn Purnell

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