When clients hire London-trained, Chicago-based designer Shelley Johnstone, they’re getting a lot more than someone to help pick out the final furnishings. Her work includes projects where she’s had a hand in the initial architectural design and layouts, as well as spaces that are just in need of a slight refresh, and everything in-between. In all her design work, the goal is always timelessness, so it’s no surprise that elegant European-influenced interiors with a fresh modern twist have become her calling card. As the perfect complement to her collection of Chairish picks, we asked Shelley to reveal some of her favorite things, ranging from paint and high/low decorating tricks, to apps, hotels, and the best vintage hunting ground in Chicago.


Interior Designer Shelley Johnstone on Chairish
Portrait by Werner Straube

What do you love about shopping on Chairish?
It is an easy online stop to find unique and interesting pieces.

Is there any particular product category where Chairish is your go-to?
At Shelley Johnstone Design, we search all categories depending upon the project we’re working on. But we particularly love the accessory section.

Favorite thing about designing with vintage pieces:
Layering a mix of vintage and new pieces gives the room depth and interest.

Elegant Living Room With Marble Fireplace and Twin Brown Velvet Armchairs with Fur Throw Blanket.
Photo by Werner Straube


Favorite way to add drama to a room:
For a little wow and drama, we love a bit of Lacquer. Anything from entire rooms, to ceilings, chairs, or lacquered tortoiseshell coffee tables.

Favorite source for design inspiration:
I know this may sound like the answer du jour, but travel has always been my greatest source of inspiration! The sights, smells and sounds of a new place leave irrevocable memories that are so vivid and tactile that you want to incorporate that inspiration into your work. Especially color.

Favorite paint color:
My favorite color is Benjamin Moore 2107-10: Chocolate Candy Brown. I have used this color for my home office for over 20 years. Of course, it’s lacquered. It swaddles the senses with its depth and rich, earthy warmth.

Dining Room with Orange Patterned Wallpaper and Large Crystal Chandelier.
Photo by Tony Soluri

Favorite pattern (and how you love to use it):
I love a Linen Block print used on pillows, seats of chairs, and table linens. It pairs well with vintage velvets and stripes.

Favorite design rule to break:
I tend to respect balance and beautifully edited spaces. Other than that, I tend to not worry about any other rules.

Favorite color combo:
Classic blue and white. For me, it is timeless and never gets dated. It is always fresh, clean and happy.

Orange Patterned Wallpaper with Large Flower Painting Over Coffee Table with Pink Roses
Photo by Tony Soluri

Favorite way to mix high and low:
Table settings are my favorite place to mix high and low. I love beautiful table linens and china, but then will use simple bamboo flatware and colored glasses. On the other hand, I’ll use a simple batik print tablecloth with formal crystal and flatware. Mixing the high and low makes for a more interesting tablescape.

Favorite way to work a bit of vintage into a room:
I love a vintage coffee table or a pair of vintage chairs placed in the space. Both add a little history and interest.

Can you share with us any big projects you’re working on in 2018?
I am finishing a large Adler estate in Lake Forest with a favorite client who makes my job a true joy. I am very lucky to have the best clients a designer could hope for.

Contemporary Kitchen with Twin Gold Hanging Lanterns and Wooden Barstools.
Photo by Werner Straube


Favorite travel destination:
Capri, Italy.

Favorite hotel to check in to:
Hotel La Scalinatella in Capri, and both The Carlyle and The Lowell in New York are my favorites.

Favorite weekend activity:
Anything with my family.

Favorite app:

Traditional Kitchen Dining Area With Blue Patterned Cushion Bench and Rattan Table Decor.
Photo by Werner Straube

Favorite morning beverage (and how you take it):
Almond Milk Hot Chocolate with foam on top.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
A Venti Almond Milk Hot Chocolate with Extra Foam on top.

Favorite thank you/hostess gift:
I love to bring a great design book that has been signed by the author for that more personalized touch. I will often buy a few copies of books and ask the author to sign them all to have on hand for just this occasion.

Favorite saying/quote: “Honesty is the Best Policy.”

Green Powder Room With Large Wicker Basket and Gold Side Table.
Photo by Werner Straube

Favorite entertaining essential:
A gracious hostess who makes all of her guests feel at home.

Favorite artist:
Mark Rothko.

Favorite thing to collect:
Memories with my family.

Traditional Home Entryway with White Sofa, Patterned Pillows, and Hanging Art.
Photo by Werner Straube

Local Favorites: Chicago, IL

Favorite restaurant:
Le Colonial for lunch, RL Restaurant for dinner.

Favorite hotel to recommend to visiting friends:
The Peninsula.

Favorite local culture hub:
The Art Institute of Chicago.

Favorite local attraction:
Cloudgate (“The Bean”), by Sir Anish Kapoor, in Millennium Park.

Favorite local flea market/vintage hunting ground:
Anna’s Mostly Mahogany in Highwood, IL.

Shelley Johnstone
Photo by Tony Soluri

See Shelley Johnstone’s Picks >>

Lead photo by Werner Straube

October 26, 2018

Chairish is the design lover's indispensable online source for chic and unique decor, art, furniture and home decorating inspiration. Shop our expert curation of exclusive and diverse inventory with 1,000+ new arrivals daily. Happy hunting!