Timeless Elegance

Tradition reigns supreme in this European-styled Illinois residence.

By Melissa Mauzy
Photography by Anne Matheis


For homeowner Olga Mandis, tradition is everything. From her interior décor style to the family memories she recreates each holiday season, tradition is sprinkled throughout her charming Illinois home. Mandis and husband Nick purchased the house nine years ago and immediately knew they were going to put their personal stamp to reinvent the place. The couple hails from Europe and Olga has always been inspired by history, architecture and traditional décor, so it made perfect sense that their new home embraces their European roots with an Old World feel. “If you know your roots and strong preferences that is how you define your style,” she explains. “I like heavy furniture, lamps with shades, sconces, chandeliers, draperies and fine china.”

To enhance the Mediterranean flair, the Mandises worked with Light Bright to transform the fireplace as well as adding built-in cabinetry in the sitting room, custom columns and crown molding throughout. Most of the furnishings, accessories and artwork were purchased while the homeowners were traveling and visiting family in Europe. Mandis says she loves to scour hidden antique shops to find little treasures you don’t see everywhere. “I know when and where I purchased each item in this home,” she says. “Collecting the pieces makes them more meaningful.”

With a true knack for design, Mandis says she always has a clear vision in her head of exactly what she is looking for in the home, plus she has the patience to wait until she finds just the right piece. Given most of the elements of the home were purchased and shipped from Europe, the Mandises waited anywhere from three months to one year to get items. Olga says the sitting room sat empty for nearly a year waiting for everything to arrive.

But when everything finally made its way to Illinois, the results are simply stunning. Splashed in rich burgundy and tones of gold, the home is a showpiece of ornate furnishings, luxurious fabrics, stunning chandeliers and irreplaceable treasures while still feeling comfortable at the same time. It is no wonder that Olga would have the same clear vision and over-the-top style for her holiday décor. 

Though she changes up themes every couple of years, Mandis’s theme for this year is timeless elegance, which really plays up the burgundy and gold plus lots of velvet. Themes in years past have included royal baroque, golden elegance and chateau blanc. While many of her holiday decorations are reused from year to year, Olga says she finds new items throughout the year and buys them whenever she finds them, even if it is in July. “There just isn’t enough time if you wait to buy until Christmas,” she says. 

Incorporating everything from garland, wreaths, sprays, and candleholders, Olga even makes some of her own décor. “I will purchase a more generic floral piece and add my own touch,” she says. Like the arrangements in the dining room, for example. Simple holiday greenery is transformed into a seasonal showstopper with the addition of sparkling poinsettias, sprays of gold foliage and glittering pinecones. Carried throughout the dining room, the florals are displayed in multiple ways from matching candelabra centerpieces to a dramatic dining spread decked with gold candles to an adornment on the stunning chandelier. Olga then used the same hued and nature-inspired elements throughout the rest of the dining room décor. 

Lighted miniature trees and gold reindeer add merriment to the sideboard, which is displayed under a painting by famed Greek artist Theodore Ralis titled “The Muses” and purchased from the Athens Art Gallery. A bronze statue on the sideboard was handmade by Joe Ikonomakis, another famous Greek artist. 

For Olga, the dining room table is always formally set. Arte Italica dinnerware and glassware is properly set atop a vintage handmade silk embroidered tablecloth. A baroque-style charger from Neiman Marcus makes each guest’s place at the table over the top. Gold artichoke ornaments used as place settings add a special touch, as do the Michael Aram black orchid napkin rings. The Mandises try to entertain during the holiday season, and friends are always in awe of the jolly décor. 

With so much holiday ornamentation to display, Olga will take down a lot of her normal accessories to make way for Christmas. And, she is rearranging things all the time. In the sitting room, simple holiday additions like red candles, greenery and garland surrounding the fireplace mantel complement the intricate furnishings, which are a part of a luxury Italian lacquer furniture collection from Europe accented with solid brass. The sitting room draperies are a signature piece in traditional décor, and Olga handpicked all the fabrics herself.

A beautiful Louis XVI-style oil painting titled “The Duchess” by Peruvian artist Barrientos is hung above an iron double console table with hand-forged iron scrolls and topped with granite. The accents displayed atop the table are all about balance and symmetry, which are a huge theme for Olga throughout the house. “I like symmetry and almost everything in the home is in a pair,” she explains. “The balanced, completed look is very important in traditional style.” Anchoring the ends of the console are black-and-gold candelabra lamps with shades by Jeanne Reed.

In the entry foyer, the grand tree is the stunning showpiece that finishes off the holiday décor. Olga loves to drape her trees in rich fabrics, and her deep, plush burgundy choice perfectly complements the timeless elegance theme for this year’s tree. “I like to include little decorative elements in the tree like the masks,” she says of her decorating technique. “I also find ornaments to fit my theme and always include lots of gold.” 

While decorating for the holidays is always a big affair at the Mandis household, for Olga it is more than just setting the table, adorning the tree and sprinkling in her special finds. Christmas for the Mandises is all about family and tradition. “I want to make memories as a family and pass those memories down to my kids,” she says. “You always remember those little traditions you had growing up. They are a precious link to the past.”  

Built ins, fireplace, crown molding, woodwork: Light Brite, 618-224-7314