Winnetka-based architect Celeste Robbins reveals the story behind her debut monograph, The Meaningful Modern Home: Soulful Architecture and Interiors, hitting shelves on Sept. 13.
Located along Lake Michigan, Robbins’ aptly named “Making Waves” project is showcased in the book.
What inspired you to publish this book?
I had just completed ground-up construction of my own modern home, and I decided to open up my doors to a neighborhood walking tour, and the reaction was wonderfully enthusiastic. The visitors expressed the same reactions again and again: “This home is so warm!” and “I didn’t think that was modern, but I could live here!” That’s when I understood I had captured something special, and that this vision of warm modernism—my own definition of modernism—would be my signature. It runs through all nine houses presented in this book, including two of my own homes.
Is there one project in the book that you’re particularly proud of?
Lakeside Mid-Century. This is my renovation of a midcentury gem designed by Winston Elting. The clear form of Elting’s house sat in harmony with the lakeside landscape and honored nature with its materials and design. I knew I could learn from its precise beauty while bringing my own voice to a renovation. While I respect midcentury design principles, I also wanted the house to feel fresh and not weighed down by the past. Ultimately, this project felt like a collaboration across the decades, and the more time I spend in this home the more I soak in its beauty and intelligence.
How has living on the North Shore influenced your designs?
My own home sits in the ravines of Glencoe, and there is a graceful dialogue between indoors and outdoors that nurtures a feeling of being utterly surrounded by the landscape. Where the ravine crosses the property, it creates a level, grassy area that drops off into a thick, steep woodland. That duality sparked the concept of creating two separate moods within the main communal areas of the house.
This new construction in Glencoe offers a peek at Robbins’ architecture and interior design chops.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
While modern design is sometimes associated with cold, alienating spaces, I wanted to shift the conversation to show how the fundamental principles of modernism are more nuanced than one might believe. These principles bring warmth and livability to a home. While the book features nine homes located across the U.S., each one shows modernism can be warm and rooted in a vivid sense of place.
The Meaningful Modern Home: Soulful Architecture and Interiors publishes on the Monacelli Press