{My Buckingham Interiors + Design Showroom at 1820 W. Grand Ave. in Chicago}

Finally, my belated addition to our MG stream of how we became Interior Design addicted practicing Interior Designer’s.

This is the story of a Chicago Material Girl…..

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love beautiful surroundings or crave to have things “just right” in the world around me.  I know that this sounds quasi-ethereal but for those of you who love interior design and fashion, I think that you will understand.  The desire to pick up a simple accessory and change it’s perspective- from one table to another- can be a pretty strong impulse sometimes.  Likewise in a fashion sense, the perfect pair of black boots can just “seal the deal” on an outfit when those brown sandals just don’t feel right.

The quest for more information and experience to craft and hone this interest in fashion and design had begun…….

After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in Fashion and Apparel Merchandising, I set off for a long string of interviews to become a Management Trainee for either Bullock’s, Robinson’s, or The May Company in Southern California.  I couldn’t decide which company to begin my career with….and, as fate would have it, I decided to move back to my hometown of Chicago to begin a career with Neiman Marcus – and with a very special bonus, the man of my dreams as my fiancé! (Who, if you can believe it, was a kindergarten classmate of mine!!)

{My husband John and I in the same kindergarten class in Wilmette, Illinois. Can you spot me? Third row second from the  right.  Edels was the tallest boy in the class and he is in the fourth row second from left}

After several years with Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue and Ann Taylor on Oak Street, all the while living in a tiny Gold Coast apartment, where we had red and gray tool chests from Ace Hardware as side tables, my husband and I transferred to the Lincoln Park neighborhood. This is where we welcomed our first daughter.  The brownstone  walk-up condo was my first interior design project.  I can still remember that stunning black leather sofa  (LOL) and the built-in buffet shelf that seemed ingenious as we didn’t have enough space to hold a piece of furniture in it’s stead.  Anxious to own a piece of real “property” we moved to the North Shore of Chicago and our  son arrived soon thereafter. Funny how that happens 🙂

Our children in front of our second house.  Caroline, Alex and Madi

This first house was the most design fun that I had ever had!  I began collecting furnishings and accessories during all of our family travels and scoured any and all antiques markets for goodies whenever I had a free moment.  Soon enough, friends started requesting me to help find pieces for them.  What a blast!

Some interior shots from the various homes I have lived in- These first images were of my first Traditional Home publication…..

Another daughter, and yet another new house, allowed me to tackle my first gut rehab, along with DIY interior painting and a total redesign. It was an amazing experience and solidified my love for this thing called design. I couldn’t stop searching for another project- and my travels spent accumulating antique treasures and artifacts turned into entire House Sales, where I borrowed friend’s homes, removed all of their existing furniture and replaced it with collections from my world travels. Each room was staged and I sold entire “vignettes” and rooms.  People would ask me to place their new purchases into their homes- and guess what? My first design clients were acquired.

…and yet some MORE photos from the many homes I’ve  renovated and lived in.

Yet another new home in a neighboring suburb on the North Shore of Chicago- which was another entire gut/rehab project, was closely followed by a relocation to Cincinnati. This was at first a devastating event but ultimately turned out to be a wonderful twist to my dabbling in antiques and the world of interior design. Not long into my time there, I was approached by the three owners of an antiques store – one which I had become quite obsessed with and visited often (perhaps a little too often) – to join them as a partner.  Could I do this?  Did I have the knack for filling the store with things that people would purchase on a daily basis?  Would I be able to find markets and little spots to fill the space?  All of my doubt quickly disappeared as I entered the wonderfully crazy world of antiques and got to know the many dealers with and from whom I purchased glorious pieces from all over the country-all to this day.  My spaces were filled and sometimes people would ask to shop my Suburban when I picked my kiddos up from school. You can just imagine how much my children liked that!  A business entrepreneur must start somewhere and things were just beginning for me… I began several client projects for my shop regulars and my interior design passion was reaching a new level.  Then, with bittersweet emotions, we moved back to Chicago and onto my house renovation #5.

Antiquing with Eddie Ross

Gut rehab #5 was complete, and shortly thereafter a family dropped by with their realtor one afternoon and asked us if we would sell.  “Yes” was the answer and we moved around the corner to gut rehab #6. Phew! I was getting lots of great experience and my antiques and interiors work was gaining momentum. I took the HUGE plunge of opening design offices and a showroom in the city. I was also exhibiting my antiques, art, and artifacts at several big shows in Chicago and New York. My design projects were getting bigger and publicity started coming in via word of mouth and some great press.

{Another one of my own homes on Chicago’s North Shore- photo courtesy of Traditional Home}

In 2008, I was a guest blogger on Material Girls, and shortly thereafter, invited to join as a permanent member of their team – what a thrill! I still love planning and writing the blog and have met so many amazing people through it – it has opened up creative doors that I never knew existed. From the Material Girls themselves, to other design bloggers, to the readers, and to the many clients that have found me through my posts, each one of you continually inspires me.

My current house circa 1910

{My current house now in Wilmette, IL}

Fast-forward to house #7- (an 1870’s Queen Anne), which is a home that I have wanted to inhabit since I was a little girl- 5 blocks away on the same street as my childhood home and 8 blocks from Edels childhood home.  Note the nod to our eldest daughter’s alma mater, the University of  Southern California-  I cannot live at home without acknowledging the Boston University of our son and our alma mater (Yay!) that our youngest daughter has decided to attend in the Fall, University of Arizona. Flag photo’s do exist here but due to short content cannot be included ;).

Almost a year ago, I opened another design office and Showroom, now in the West Town neighborhood of the city. And this year as thrilled to be invited to participate in two amazing Chicago Interior Design coveted venues  – DreamHome at the Merchandise Mart, and the 2011 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens – I have truly reached a place in my career that makes me take pause. I will always remember my first projects, contacts and clients fondly as they have all been a part of my “dream” business journey.

{Buckingham ID Foyer at the Chicago Merchandise Mart DreamHome}

{Buckingham ID Grand Entrance at the Lake Forest Showhouse}

What a fantastically convoluted journey this has been! I feel so thankful to have reached this point in my career – as you can see, there are a number of ways to “become” an Interior Designer, many of which are non-traditional. How lucky I am to be working in a field that embraces the different and unique, as well as encourages people to create their own paths. I can’t wait to see how the next chapter in my book will read. The best part is that I have my family and my Buckingham ID Team along for the ride.  Couldn’t do it without you all…John,Caroline, Alex, Madi my beloved Fam- Nancy, Paulina, Colette, Shannon, Whitney, Amy, Marla, Christa and Rachel my beloved BID team. And of course to my beloved clients that have shared their homes and families- you are my real inspiration. We have had an amazing ride!

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14 Comments to 'Buckingham ID, A-Z'

Maya 24 May 11 at 10:30 pm

Julia – I am so lucky to have worked with you and watch your journey. You have opened my eyes to so many things. Good luck with your continued success!

Rita 25 May 11 at 9:40 am

What a wonderful story! Congrats on all of your well deserved success!

Jessie 25 May 11 at 10:35 am

An inspiring story. Looks like you have an innate talent for design and people. Keep up the amazing work!

H.G. The Countess 25 May 11 at 10:46 am

Wow, I loved hearing your story, and I loved seeing your many homes. Your current home looks eerily like my grandmother’s childhood home in Wilmette!

MaterialGirls 25 May 11 at 10:51 am

J- I love how you and John met in Kindergarten! What an adorable story! It was great to hear your incredible journey and I’m sure it will inspire many!

design elements 25 May 11 at 11:16 am

wonderful to read this post especially the Chicago Merchandise Mart DreamHome..I worked for a lawfirm in Chicago some years ago. wonderful time! every time I visit your blog it reminds me of Chicago…warm hugs


Lisa 25 May 11 at 1:47 pm

Wow sounds like an amazng journey…so interesting to read.

Jess 25 May 11 at 2:52 pm

What a journey! I love that vintage panel on the wall. I think a Jolie Papier panel would look marvelous in there too, I found mine at a huge discount on DecoratorsBest.

Love it!


debra phillips 25 May 11 at 6:04 pm

congrats on the lake forest showhouse!

keep goin girl there is no where but up for you. congrats!

theaxx 25 May 11 at 11:06 pm

ooo, i love that bright pink chair!!!

Alex 26 May 11 at 6:28 pm

Love your style. I’m pretty sure I understand what the word “envy” now means… Really beautiful. Thanks for sharing your inspiring pics!

Julia-Chicago 26 May 11 at 7:51 pm

Thank you all for reading!
The opportunity to see the process in words- feels like it was just yesterday that I began this journey.
Just imagine, when I first started my interior design business wall covering’s were so NOT in vogue 🙂

jan 26 May 11 at 9:41 pm

Julia’s current home, which was featured in our magazine, Chicago Home + Garden, will be in our book, Chicago Spaces, coming out in October.

Ellie 03 Jun 11 at 6:12 pm

Yay BU!!! I just graduated 🙂

It was really cool to see all the houses you’ve moved in and out of!!

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