At Home With: John and Maura Stoffer in Chicago

woman and man standing in their kitchen

The photography duo and Chicago members share how they made a mid-century ranch a family- and camera-friendly home

By Jess Kelham-Hohler   Monday 15 July, 2019

When it came to designing their family home, it’s clear that for John and Maura Stoffer, having not one, but two sets of photographer’s eyes was an advantage.
 
The Chicago couple, who went on their first date in fifth grade, started shooting weddings together in 2008 — two years before they got married themselves. Today, they work together and independently on photographing weddings, portraits and interiors, with John also shooting Soho House Chicago’s Instagram content. 
 
After moving between different rental apartments, four years ago, the duo was able to apply the interior design lessons they’d learned through photographing other people’s houses to designing a home of their own. 'We bought the house from John's grandparents as they were transitioning out of the unfriendly Chicago winters and into predictable Arizona sunshine,’ Maura says. ‘Our daughter, Frances, was about nine months old at the time and we were in desperate need of some walls and closed doors in our home.’
 
Here, Maura, who shot the images of her home with John, shares how they transformed a grandparents’ home into a warm, minimalist family hub.
living room with fireplace and piano
Did you make a lot of changes to the home?
‘Definitely. The only way we could see ourselves living in this home was to make it our own, which meant raising our ceilings, getting rid of lots of carpet and putting in new windows, a new kitchen and a new bathroom. Thankfully, John's mom is a designer and really held our hands and guided us in the whole design process.’
 
How would you describe your interiors aesthetic and where do you find interior design inspiration?
‘Simple, clean, only the essentials. We are inspired by the age and style of the house — a 1950s mid-century ranch — while putting our own, softer touches on the space, like the herringbone floors and the leather cabinet pulls.’
 
What does home mean to you? What did you want the space to be for?
‘Home is family. Making meals while kids sit on the counter. Seamlessly transitioning from the kitchen to the living room, and then back to the kitchen. A space that brings us closer together while having the ability to retreat.’
espresso machine and shelves
With two kids, how does this house suit family life, and which are the spaces you spend the most time in?
‘Well, our entire home is basically our kitchen/living room. We spend a lot of time at the counter and on the couch together. The fun thing about living in a ranch is that our yard is an extension of the house, it's basically another room of the house. We spend a lot of time on our deck.’

What are your kitchen essentials and how do you make the space practical but stylish?
‘We love to cook and entertain. John's love language is making coffees and cocktails for friends and family. Coming from charming (read: old) rental apartment after rental apartment, really anything feels luxurious in our book. Having a predictable oven and refrigerator is lovely. But we cannot get by without our espresso machine. The first thing our daughter does in the morning is turn on the machine for us. She knows what we need!
 
I also very much love our open shelving that we found at CB2. We have no upper shelves built in to our kitchen, so I was so thankful to find these, and they fit perfectly. We like to style them but also need them to be practical. I like to make sure our "stuff" is only things we use regularly.’

Tell us about the art in your home.
‘Framing Frances' artwork is a really simple way for us to show her how proud we are of her. I want to encourage her to do the things she loves — one of which is painting and drawing. We also just think she's very talented.’
How do you think your creative work plays into the design of your home?
‘As photographers we are always thinking about light. Light can change the way a photograph feels in the same way it can change the way a room feels. With our windows and doors, we tried to maximise the amount of soft natural light that comes in.’

What do you love about Chicago?
‘I have heard it said many times — but it definitely rings true for us — that Chicago has everything you could want in a big city while maintaining a supportive and encouraging community without toxic competition.’
 
Has spending time in the Houses influenced your own interiors style?
‘Oh yes. We are founding members of Soho House Chicago and John has been capturing all of the images you see on the @sohohousechicago Instagram feed for three years now. We have made it to quite a few of the Houses and really appreciate the uniqueness of each one, while still being true to the overall story. From each, we've discovered the beauty in detail and have been inspired to embrace eclectic-ness and to experiment with how each piece fits together. I also love how the design embraces the context of the city it's in and lets that speak to the overall design of the House.’
 
What’s it like shooting and working together as a couple? How did you both shoot this feature?
‘We make a great team, although it has taken us a few years to discover. We each have different strengths and different ways of communicating with and understanding our clients. For this shoot, John set up technical overall shots that feel pleasing to the eye because of the mechanics and thought behind each one. I set up shots that make you feel like you're in the space.’

 
Images by John and Maura Stoffer
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