Let's run the numbers: a 14,500-square-foot estate built in 1911 on 22 acres flaunting five bedrooms, nine (!!) fireplaces, four floors and two separate residences. Now throw in another figure: 36 interior designers to breathe new life into the Lansdowne Estate, transforming it into the 2009 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens.
Every other year since 1985, the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago's Lake Forest chapter has chosen a historic home to morph into a designer showhouse. This year it's the Beaux Arts masterpiece built by Benjamin Marshall for the head of Rand McNally (fitting, considering you need a map to find your way around this manse). Built right on Lake Michigan (with riparian rights to the beach), the Lansdowne Estate boasts sweeping lake views, a grand foyer, coffered ceiling conservatory, solarium, library, wine cellar, spa, sauna and a pool. There is also a separate pool house and a coach house complete with two apartments on the grounds -- but, of course.
From Saturday, April 25 through Sunday, May 17, you can tour the eye-popping property and view the work of the various designers who each claimed an area of the house and ran with their visions. Notable design firms involved include Walker Simmons (who took on the foyer pictured here), Frank Ponterio Interior Design (the conservatory), Matt Lorenz of ML Design Studio (girl's bedroom) and Marshall Erb of Marshall Morgan Erb Design (the fab pool house). An additional seven landscape designers were called in to beautify the grounds, including the entry drive, the front entrance, the pool area, the east terrace, gazebo, boutique gardens, pond and coach house. See the house through the pros' eyes -- tours with various showhouse designers will be available at 9AM Monday, April 27 through Friday, May 1 for $50 per person.
The Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens is open for viewing Monday through Friday from 9AM-2PM and Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM-4PM. A boutique, garden shop and cafe are open during show hours. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the entrance. Parking for the showhouse is only at the Lake Bluff Recreation Center, with shuttle bus service provided continuously throughout the day.