Ciao Amazing Ladies!
We are continuing our Chicago tour and today I am sharing info on a beautiful place called the Cuneo Museum and Gardens. Robert arranged the tour for us. He is always finding the cool things to do. We both love architecture and antiques so this is right up our alley.
Situated in a nice suburb of Chicago called Vernon Hills, the mansion was built in 1914 and finished in 1918 for Samuel Insell, the founder of Commonwealth Edison. The house had all of the modern amenities including electricity throughout the home, an elevator (that must have been quite the conversation starter back then!), fancy steam heat radiators throughout the house, and incredible design. I can’t tell you what the décor was like in its original state, because poor Mr. Insell went bust and the house went to foreclosure. John Cuneo Jr. bought the mansion in 1937. Cuneo made his money in dairy and printing (he printed all of the Hearst Magazines).
What is particularly nice about the Cuneo Museum is that almost all of the original furniture and housewares are still in the house, so you get to see how they lived and their style. It is so hard sometimes to walk through a historic mansion without furniture and imagine it lived in. The Cuneos were very religious, as evidenced by the many religious paintings throughout the house and the built-in chapel for services. Their religious commitment is further evidenced by the fact that they left everything to Loyola University. I am amazed and skeptical about these kinds of donations. On one side, I think it is great to have an organization that will maintain the house as a museum. But on the other, I am sad for the fact that the house remains ghost-like, unlived in and abandoned in a way.
One look at all of the family photos on the wall, and you can tell that this was a house filled with love. Everyone in the photos has kind, warm eyes and smiles. Of course, they aren’t going to leave behind photos of grumpy kids! You also feel a warmth and good energy when you walk around (I sound SOOOO California). It is true though. Some places like this feel cold or creepy, but this house resonates warmth.
The house is beautiful. And I’m not just saying that because it is pink!!! My favorite parts were the gold-foil bathrooms! Oh how envious I am of these elegant bathrooms. Apparently, the walls were covered with gold foil because they gave off a warm glow that was flattering to people. I walked in and I can tell you that this is absolutely true. Now I want a gold-foil bathroom. The husband is going to love that!
I also became obsessed with the etched mirrors in the bathroom and Mrs. Cuneo’s dressing room. This is an art form that I wish they would bring back. It is absolutely stunning. I also adored the sunrooms. There are two in the house, one for dining and the other for entertainment. I don’t know why every house doesn’t have a sunroom. The floor to ceiling windows are so divine and to be surrounded by natural light is amazing. Of course, having a gorgeous view outside to look at helps. The ceilings are ornate (Murals by John Mallin) and would be over-the-top in today’s design, but I found them to be lovely. It was also fun to see such accents as the gold-plated dinner service for 40 and the gold piano and giant gold candelabras that were created for Napolean.
Outside, the gardens were serene and very pleasing. Female statues reflected both strength and romance and the garden flowed well. The grounds were designed by Jens Jensen who designed Grand Central Park in New York.
Overall, I loved the family’s taste and it was a really fun outing. They even let us walk around on our own when the tour was done and I loved this casual, relaxed atmosphere. More tours should be this good. The guide, a young lady who was definitely smart, was a bit off-putting by her descriptions of “rich people” back in the day. She sounded a bit snide and condescending. Hey, it’s not their fault that they made a fortune in print and milk!
I love these kinds of tours also because it gives me design ideas. Eventhough I do not have a mansion or the funds for a gold piano, I walked away inspired. I am going to investigate the gold foil idea and I am determined to look into the etched mirrors. I know some companies do some lovely etched mirrors but I want something elegant. We’ll see what I find.
For lunch, we went from a fancy, elegant mansion to a hot dog joint. Robert said I should experience the famous Portillo’s so off we go. Inside, the décor is House of Blues meets MCDonald’s. I didn’t care for the décor. But hey, it’s a fast food joint so you get what you get. Dick Portillo (aptly named since he got his start in wieners – haha), opened a small hot dog stands in 1963. It became so popular that now he has the largest privately owned chain in Illinois – 47 restaurants. Impressive. Robert told me everyone comes for their Italian Beef sandwich but I went old school and chose their hot dog. It was pretty good. I wouldn’t say it was the best. The best hot dog I ever had was in Rio. Yes, Brazil. They have hotdog carts along the beach and they put the craziest stuff on it – mayonnaise, French fried potato stix and parmesan cheese. It looks gross but tastes like heaven.
The lines at Portillo’s are crazy. I myself would not wait in such a long line but I am an impatient, type A personality. Plus, I didn’t think the hot dog was all that. It’s like Pink’s in L.A. I finally decided I had to try one and we waited in the line for about an hour, only to find out that it was about as tasty as a hotdog you get at the ballpark. What a disappointment. The other line I do not understand is at Sprinkles in L.A. the cupcakes are good but nothing to obsess over. Of course, people do which leads me to believe that I am one of the few smart people on the earth or that I am missing something. I consider myself to have a good palate – maybe that’s my problem.
Tomorrow is the last day in Chicago!!