Counting residential interiors, commercial design services and custom furnishings among their repertoire, Chicago’s Shea Soucie and Martin Horner have earned the international acclaim that follows their multifaceted projects. This year, their firm, Soucie Horner Ltd., celebrates a sensational 20 years.
The breakfast area in a young Chicago family’s high-rise is sophisticated and kid-friendly. PHOTO BY: DUSTIN HALLECK
Soucie Horner Ltd. is a Chicago design favorite. What’s your origin story?
SS: We met at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in a studio class. I walked in and it was full of people with tattoos and piercings who were trying to stand out and look artsy. And then there was Martin, sitting there in a navy blue blazer with this nice haircut, and I thought, ‘Who is this person?’ He was the one I was curious to know.
MH: And you were wearing a black turtleneck and had these bows in your hair. [Later] we did a study abroad program together in Paris, and that’s when we decided to have our own business together one day. We were sitting at a cafe in Montmartre drinking wine, and we were like, we’re going to do this! It wasn’t really even a question and it didn’t seem like a crazy idea. It was just like, well, of course.
SS: And now here we are, 20 years later.
Interior designers Shea Soucie and Martin Horner. PHOTO BY: WERNER STRAUBE
After two decades in the biz, what has changed in interiors and what remains steadfast?
SS: It’s funny, I don’t really think that much has changed for us. We’ve certainly grown bigger and our work is all over the world, but our clients have always been discerning and they’ve always pushed us to deliver beautiful projects on time and on budget. That’s always going to be the case.
MH: I also think the internet has had a really big impact on the design world in so many ways. Nowadays, clients who want to be involved have so many options at their fingertips to see what’s available, to learn from what they see and to bring their ideas to us in ways they really couldn’t when we first started.
With such a vast portfolio of residential interiors, commercial design and custom products, where do you draw your seemingly endless inspiration?
SS: My gosh, we’re inspired by everything—everything. I think we’d both say travel is our No. 1 inspiration. But then there’s restaurants and food and art and music; hiking in the woods; other cultures. My kids—my kids inspire me every day. They look at the world so differently and that’s an endless source of inspiration for me.
In this powder room find patterned ceramic tiles, a carved stone sink, wall-mounted brass plumbing fixtures and hardware. PHOTO BY: CHRIS EDWARDS
How do you keep your designs fresh, exciting and relevant, while also respecting the core codes of Soucie Horner?
SS: Our company tag line is ‘Defining Lifestyle through Design.’ What that means is the space you live in, the products you live with, the environment you’re part of—all those things, when designed well, can have a profound impact on your life itself. Th at is our core belief and it never changes no matter what kinds of designs we’re creating.
MH: No matter what the design might look like, it’s always going to be timeless and elegant and gracious. Whether it’s a house on the beach in Naples, Fla., or in the mountains in Aspen or in Winnetka—it’s always going to be those three things.
A seating vignette focal point at the end of a Chicago high-rise hallway. PHOTO BY: DUSTIN HALLECK
Is the client relationship one of collaboration?
MH: We want them to be involved; we want them to share ideas and make our designs even better by giving us their own thoughts and ideas. Because, really, their projects are about them and their families and the kinds of lifestyles they want to live.
What has been your most memorable commission to date?
SS: If I have to pick just one, our first international project. It was a house on the beach in Mexico and was the third project we’d done for one of our very first clients. Th at thrill of working in another country was a real milestone for us.
MH: For me it would probably be a prewar apartment we did on Park Avenue in New York City. Th e owners were huge art collectors and their project was all about taking these old, dark, small rooms and turning them into a light, bright, almost blank canvas for their art. It was a real challenge—in a really good way. I’ve always been especially proud of that project because it was an exercise in restraint. We created a beautiful family home out of those rooms, but we did it in a way that allowed the art to be the real star. Plus, I mean, Park Avenue! I felt like we’d made it.
An 1880s Lincoln Park home was meticulously restored to its single family roots after having been divided into a seven-unit apartment building in the 1970s. A custom SHIIR rug grounds the entry hall. PHOTO BY: DUSTIN HALLECK
The dream project?
MH: I’ve always wanted to run an inn, an elegant bed-and-breakfast.
SS: Mine would be a Parisian apartment.
What’s on the docket for 2021 chez Soucie Horner?
SS: We’re doing a lot of work down in Naples, so we’ve begun staffing an office there to manage all those projects. Naples is exploding right now and we’re right in the middle of it, and it’s super exciting for us.
As you look to the next 20 years at the crux of Chicago design, what lasting impact do you hope to have on the industry?
SS: When you go beyond the project work, it becomes more about how we can use our business and our office to make a difference for the greater good. That’s become really important to our employees, especially after the events of last summer, so we’ve made it one of our company initiatives to build philanthropic activity into the work we do every day. Th e mentoring that can happen when you bring a young person from an underserved background into your orbit, when you spend time helping them define their goals for their future, then help them achieve those goals, it’s truly life-changing— for them and for us. We’d like to harness the power of our office and the passionate people who work for us to leave a mark on the industry in that way. souciehorner.com