Featured,  Form

Layer and texture

Amy Kartheiser, principal designer at Amy Kartheiser Design in Chicago, Illinois, discovered a love for design while working on a personal project. Though her background is in business, Kartheiser grew up with design in her blood and when working on her first condominium—involved in designing an entire interior from floor to ceiling with the help of her mom, who is also a designer—it resulted in a devotion to the craft that would shape her current Chicago-based studio upon its establishment in 2014. 

The firm is known for transforming Chicago residential interiors into rich, dimensional, and personalized living spaces through a unique blending of modern and traditional elements. At the core of this skill is the transformational quality of texture, which Kartheiser has developed a deep admiration for throughout her approximately 20-year career.

“I think what I’ve realized throughout the years is not everything needs to be perfect,” Kartheiser said. “Something that I’ve learned about more in layering and textures [is] that you can do more with a room than have it more streamlined . . . it doesn’t have to be perfect to look perfect.” 

Amy Kartheiser Design is an interior design firm specializing in residences that are beautifully functional and crafted in mood and personality tailored for each client. Much of the leverage behind forming an interior’s personality is, for Kartheiser, applied by textural relationships that evoke specific feelings; whether it is the shelter and comfort of a family gathering room—which may feature wool, fleece, or mohair—or the sophisticated polish of an entertainment space—which may require silk or linen. The firm’s design influence can be seen in many northern and southern regions of Chicago, and one residence in the village of Winnetka is an example of its textural artistry, especially within the serene master bedroom.

Despite a cooled palette of gray and white, the room exudes warmth. The grass-cloth wallpaper creates a canvas for the bed’s own medley of textural layers, from its headboard composed of woven wood, to its linen, velvet, and wool dressings. Faux fur and plush, honey-colored decorative pillows make cozy accents, and the room is warmed further by the lacquered night stand’s metal hardware, and a curvy accompanying mirror above. Though the room is meticulously crafted, Kartheiser noted there is a playful nature of layering textures and uncovering new combinations. 

“I almost feel like you can make any combination of texture work because [here] we have faux fur, silk, linen, wool, and you can kind of see how you can play with it all,” Kartheiser said. 

“When I’m going through [designs] with my clients, I’ll actually layer the fabrics on top of each other before I give the presentation. … I’ll see how it all lines up together and that will help me : is this the feeling I actually want to get out of this room?” Kartheiser added. 

Inspiration for these aesthetic combinations—some of Kartheiser’s favorites comprise Lucite and brass, and wood combined with metals, mirrors, and glass—can arise from just about everywhere, she said. These days, she is continually inspired by frequent international travel, sourcing inspiration—and occasionally materials—from areas in Morocco, France, and India, among others. Also familiar with Chicago’s rich reserve of artistic and design resources, however, the designer noted that some of the best finds can be discovered close to home. 

“Especially living in Chicago, we have so many opportunities to go visit art galleries, to go visit rug galleries, to work with custom wood workers and tile galleries, and we have a lot of artisans who make really interesting [items]; whether it’s ceramics or art—and not just painting,” Kartheiser said. “There’s a lot more areas to cover, which is wonderful for us.”


Text: R. Collins

Photography by Werner Straube Photography