When two forces coalesce, the results can be downright delightful. Summer Megdadi and husband Dr. Zuhair Alsakaji compromised: She wanted to build a home, he wanted to buy—and their Munster, Indiana, choice is indeed a delight. But it’s Summer’s combo of expertise in engineering and artistic panache that gives their home star status.
The couple came here from Jordan 21 years ago, bringing with them medical and computer science degrees. They settled in Chicago, Zuhair to establish a medical practice and Summer to get a degree in environmental engineering, then working as a Chicago bridge inspector. Add Summer’s aptitude for art inherited from father and grandfather and you have a fusion of the practical and the artistic that continues to inform the evolution of the home they bought in 2014.
Zuhair opened a practice in Merrillville, and Summer opened her own boutique art business. Visit their home and you’ll likely be offered coffee on a small tray with flowers preserved under glass, just one of her creations. Glance up at the window treatments and you get a sense of the scope of her imagination. At the coffered ceiling a one-and-a-half-foot deep, gold drapery material—the color inspired by the gold leaf often used in her paintings—is gathered in loose accordion style above the arched windows, with a floor-length fall of material on either side and matching those in the informal dining area. Summer sewed them all.
With children ages 9, 11, 17 and a visiting 21-year-old, Summer keeps the clutter contained with attractive bins holding the kids’ games and such in the spacious yet cozy family room with double fireplace (the living room is on the other side). “I try to keep things convenient for the children but organized, too,” says Summer, who has a pretty box holding the girls’ hair ties and combs on a table in the foyer so they can add them before going out the door. “It’s kid-friendly but nice for me, too.”
The home is just shy of 6,000 square feet, with five bedrooms and six baths—a considerable space given that Summer has already completed much of the remodeling herself and has plans for more. “Our thing is to solve problems,” says Summer, who’s decided the wall next to the staircase in the foyer must go, to provide a better flow of movement. She prepared and installed crown molding on walls and other areas for definition.
In the kitchen she painted the walls and added one of several chandeliers, amped up with crystals she chose and affixed. On the blue-gray granite-topped island a collection of more crystals and colored glass is ready for more main-floor embellishments as well as jewelry projects. Above the stove is more of her artwork: a large mosaic of very small stones from the Jordan River that form the Chicago skyline. She had an alcove created to take the place of some of the cabinets, and for nearby angle walls she found double arched glass doors and added curved metal panes.
A buffet-style granite shelf lets her be near the kids while she’s working on the computer and the kids do homework. With warm weather here, doors provide easy access to the patio from the kitchen and the formal dining room just off the two-story foyer, where $8,000 covered such items as lowering the huge chandelier so the metalwork could be painted gold and crystals added. Carpeting was replaced with tiles here and in the dining room.
Zuhair and Summer enjoy entertaining: “We love to cook! We can spend three hours on just one meal, and we’ll cook a whole lamb for hours,” she says. A small kitchen in the garage comes in handy.
Upstairs, Summer is working on remodeling the spacious master bedroom, though she likes the red-painted walls. A small room with a couch is a favorite place for Zuhair to read, and French doors open to a balcony. The kids have their own bedrooms, baths, and walk-in closets. Summer is emphatic: “It can’t just be good-looking—the house has to be practical.”
Her broad range of artistic expression includes the bold and the fanciful in the basement she finished to accommodate her studio for her business, Cadou. Here, items are made for Chicago boutiques CHIARoScURO at Chicago’s Water Tower Place and Hilligoss Galleries in Michigan Avenue’s Westfield Shoppingtown, and Ms. Elle's in Highland. Friends will often beg to buy items right in the studio, “because they couldn’t find them anywhere else”—acrylic panels with epoxy glaze over real leaves; wine glasses with stems in fine gold-and-rhinestone mesh; gold-leafed demitasse-and-saucer sets; trays; bridal bouquets—all amidst an arresting inventory of glam materials.
Meanwhile, there are plans to upgrade the back yard, and Summer will add the family’s names in calligraphy on the five-side vaulted ceiling in the informal dining area. Then there are her other designs for the other ceilings . . . and all of it, says Summer, “is fun!”