James Miller, a Chicago interior designer specializing in restaurant decor, uses his place as a furniture warehouse. He buys furniture, moves it into his loft and then sells it to his customers. The two-story residence once was a blacksmith's shop.
"My home is a transition point," said the 43-year-old bachelor. "For example, there was a contemporary daybed in here [the guest bedroom], but I just sold it."
Miller mixes Louis XV, 18th-century English, Oriental and contemporary furnishings throughout his home. When you enter the foyer, for example, an 18th-century English blanket table and wooden Regency table are combined with a 4-foot-tall fabric elephant from India. Miller calls the elephant his "guest closet" because friends throw wraps on its back.
The living area is decorated with two modern green sofas, a striped wing chair, an antique library table and a couple of juxtaposed Lucite coffee tables. In the dining room, a quartet of mauve-colored Chippendale chairs are tucked under a Louis XV marble table to assemble a dining set that doubles as an entertainment center when the designer has guests.
To give the area a little more atmosphere, gigantic Early American and modern paintings climb to the top of his 24-foot-high walls. "I put the pictures up high, so no one would steal them," he said.
Although he has people over a few times a week, the noted restaurant designer hardly cooks. "I only prepare very simple things -- in fact, I think that's why I like decorating restaurants so much -- I'm always eating in them." Miller has added his personal design touch to such restaurants as Arnie's and Sweetwater in Chicago.
On occasion, he paints residential rooms peach, mauve, apricot, cream yellow or beige. These hues -- often found in restaurants -- work to complement people instead of furniture, he said.
In his own second-floor bedroom -- which overlooks the living room -- Miller colored the walls mauve. A queen sized tuxedo sofa, however, used for sleeping and watching TV, has been covered with a quilted green felt bedspread. Across from the sofabed is a wood Art Deco sideboard, and nearby stands a tall glass etagere lined with knickknacks and books.
The white and mauve master bathroom -- originally a sunroom -- is perhaps the most peaceful spot in his private retreat. His marble tub faces large windows and overlooks a beautifully landscaped backyard. One window is made of mauve and orange stained glass -- the others are clear.
Off the bathroom lies his office -- complete with a drafting board and portrait of himself. Down the hall hides a tiny guest bedroom -- minus the daybed. This room houses a wicker desk and Victorian-style oak display unit. Although the St. Louis-born designer admitted he is getting a "little tired" of the musical furniture routine, he said he still enjoys shopping for new wares. "If you buy good things -- quality items -- they're always worth something."