My Style: Kara Mann Takes Us Inside Her Posh Digs

You'll find Kara Mann's interior design genius everywhere from Gold Coast homes to print mags and design blogs. And very soon, she'll be extending her style footprint from here to New York, where she's prepping a soon-to-open satellite office. But before she heads east, we managed to steal a moment with one of Chicago's most prized decor gurus, in the one space that matters more than any other – her own. During our tour of Kara's envy-inducing home, we got all the super-insidery dish on hidden Chicago shopping gems, easy ways to hone your eye, and even her own plans for the future. Warm up your coffee, hang up the phone, and settle in for one of our favorite My Style stories ever.
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What are you most excited about at Kara Mann Design right now?
"Our business has grown exponentially over the past few years, which I’m obviously thrilled about. We’re winning more out-of-town assignments, both nationally and internationally. In fact, I’ve just opened a NY office to handle all of the projects we’re working on there, so it’s been a whirlwind, but a ton of fun. I’d be remiss not to mention how grateful I am for the design teams I have in place in both offices. Their constant flow of ideas defines creativity at its best, and there's no better possible zone for a designer."

On Kara: Rodarte for Opening Ceremony dress, Chrome Hearts belt and bagles, Christian Louboutin shoes.

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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Who's influenced your personal style the most?
"My mother. She created a beautiful home and taught me how to appreciate craftsmanship in everything from furniture to food, and of course in clothing and jewelry. She encouraged creativity and helped me develop my personal style at every turn. "

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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What are the three go-to pieces in your wardrobe?
"My Chrome Hearts leather pants, Christian Louboutin leopard print pumps (Flats? Never!), and Isabel Marant black feather earrings — her comeback has been pure genius."

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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Where do you find inspiration when it comes to your own home?
"I’m inspired constantly: Architecture, textures on found objects, an off-color I see, interesting people, and my clients — because they push me to see design in different ways, which helps me hone my eye — are all a part of that. Fashion also has a huge influence on my design aesthetic. For instance, I love wearing leather, and was recently asked by Moore & Giles to design a leather collection, which has just hit the market and was inspired, in part, by Tom Ford, Chanel, and Chrome Hearts."

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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If you could describe your personal style in 3 words, what would they be? "I'd call it rocker-meets-runway."

On Kara: Isabel Marant jacket, Chrome Hearts belt, Gucci scarf.

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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What's your best advice for a reader who's about to tackle a home design project?
"Remember that it’s your home and it’s important that it reflects your taste and lifestyle. That said, I always encourage my clients to be open to taking a few calculated risks. And keep it fun — try to enjoy the process!"

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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What music is always playing in your house?
"It’s a mix: Dr. Dog, Aretha Franklin, Trombone Shorty, and Atmosphere, to name a few."

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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What do you love most about living in Chicago?
"The subtle-but-very-real sophistication of the people, the architecture, the food, and the cultural institutions. And Rahm Emanuel! He’s an ass-kicker and that’s exactly what Chicago needs. He also might be a little sexy…"

Photography by Heather Talbert.
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Where do you love to shop in Chicago?
"In no particular order: Revival for a wealth of indoor and outdoor vintage furniture and accessories, Jayson Home & Garden for home accessories and beautiful, clever coffee table books, and Barney’s for that great, everyday mix. Agent Provocateur. And Ikram has a great mix of established, edgy designers — Ikram Goldman is a genius at identifying and promoting new designers and their lines. The entire store is a fashion adventure!"

On Kara: All Saints leather skirt, BDG shirt, Christian Louboutin shoes, Chrome Hearts bracelet.

Photography by Heather Talbert.