House Tour: Deck the Stalls | Midwest Living

House Tour: Deck the Stalls

A converted Chicago-area polo stable canters into the holidays dressed with live greens, vintage trophies, equestrian paraphernalia and a serious dose of plaid.

Door display

A vintage polo helmet and mallets dress up holiday greenery on a winter door display. 

Well-worn comforts

Cada, the resident black lab, awaits Santa’s arrival in the original tack room.  A studded leather box from days of stagecoach travel now holds presents.

The 74-year-old Lake Forest home was originally a polo clubhouse and stable on the property where Henry Ford Jr. and the Kennedy family occasionally practiced polo during the sport's heyday in the 1930s. Timeworn cedar planks still cover the walls and ceilings of the tack room as well as what were once horse stalls and a warming room. The stable was converted into a residence in the 1970s.

Two-story great room

The hayloft was cut back to create a two-plus-story ceiling in the great room, where Alison and husband Harry deck the 14-foot-tall Christmas tree. Animal print fabrics add sophistication. 

Christmas character

Emily and retriever, Halle, make sure vintage fabric stockings are hung with care. The brick floor is original to what was the barn, but the wood beams were added to match.

Preserving and celebrating the house's rich equestrian history drives all the design choices that Alison, an interior designer and antiques dealer, has made since moving in with her family 11 years ago. Alison grew up on her grandfather's Pennsylvania horse farm, and it was natural to dress the home in a classic style reminiscent of an old-fashioned gentleman's club.

Polo roots

Old photos highlight the home’s roots in polo.

Dandy dining

An antique paisley wool throw acts as a tablecloth in the breakfast room. The napkin holder on the table? A stirrup. 


New England farmhouses inspired the design of the kitchen that occupies what was once four horse stalls. Its centerpiece is a 10-foot-long reproduction of an antique island. The skirts on the counter stools hide chew marks made by Cada when she was a pup.

Holiday crafting

A built-in hutch showcases a snow-globelike decoration Alison made out of an old iron tree stand and a glass bowl (bottom shelf).  Alison also used watercolor paper and mica flakes to make a replica model of the home (top shelf) to add to her vintage cardboard Christmas village. 

A barn bedroom

The old hayloft—open to the great room below—is now the cozy master suite. Suspended from the ceiling with fishing line, curtain rods hold bed-enclosing sheers.

Horsin' around

Alison nailed dinged-up horseshoes to the sides of the staircase. 

Door display

A vintage polo helmet and mallets dress up holiday greenery on a winter door display. 

Vintage decor

Pieces of Alison’s vintage brown transferware collection stand next to a Staffordshire horse in an 18th-century English hutch. Collected feathers stand in for flowers in an old horn cup. 

Inviting tabletop

Christmas tree cookies and hot cocoa, served with pieces of Alison’s plaid collection, are ready to warm up the family after a day outdoors.

Special seat

This monogrammed red chair was a gift to her husband for the tack room. (Alison’s love of plaid is deep: She even wraps presents in plaid papers!) 

Dressed-up saddle

A mini boxwood wreath accents an old saddle in the tack room. 

Holiday table setting

The family’s holiday table is set with shed antlers, embossed leather chargers, vintage silver goblets, polo medallions and inherited silverware. 

Giant pinecone accents

Alison ordered these gigantic pinecones, which measure at least 12 inches across, from Etsy for her exterior decorating.


Interior design Alison Sherman, Evergrove Interiors Ltd. (847) 456-5558;

Tack room Accessories From homeowners’ collection. Similar pieces available through Evergrove Interiors Ltd. Chairs 9005 Jockey club chair. Hancock and Moore. (828) 495-8235; Chair fabric Royal Stewart Dress plaid wool throws. The Scottish Weaver. (877) 359-8369;

Kitchen Cabinets Plain and Fancy Custom Cabinetry. Designing Kitchens, Etc. (847) 680-1193 Countertops Uba tuba granite. Counter stools Linon X-back swivel. Wayfair. (877) 929-3247; Dishwasher Fisher and Paykel. (888) 936-7872; Island counter insets Carrara marble. Range Bertazzoni. (866) 905-0010; Tile Italian crackled subway. Classic Tile Inc. (718) 967-5700;


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