The Poetry of Architecture:
A modern expression framed within iconic architecture
By Kristin Murphy Romanski
Photography by Eric Piasecki
Aiming to access a clear language of expression, a historic residence overlooking Lake Michigan in Chicago was modernized by Suzanne Lovell Inc. for the first time since the last renovation in the 1960s. Original details of the circa-1923 apartment, designed by one of the city’s leading architects of the time, Howard von Doren Shaw, have been either flawlessly restored or painstakingly recreated to honor the elegance of the interior spaces, while updating the residence to twenty-first century standards. A trained architect-turned-designer, Lovell says, “The goal was to bring the classical details back to what Von Doren Shaw would have intended had he designed it today. We pulled together a team who could use color, style, installation, proportion, and scale to make the apartment modern yet respectful to the past.” Mechanical systems were cleverly concealed behind plasterwork, grillwork, or millwork; materials such as stone, wood, plaster, and metals were sourced from around the world to create a sophisticated platform upon which to present a carefully considered collection of antiques, design furniture, and fine art.
Always immersed in the three-dimensional experience of architecture, design, and fine art, Lovell and her firm pushed the boundaries beyond what could have been simply the presentation of an Art Deco-inspired apartment. “The clients knew exactly what they wanted, asked questions, and focused on meticulous results,” says Lovell. “It was a wonderful collaboration and we were driven to create the home of their dreams; they inspired perfection.” Throughout the process, the presentation of mint condition Art Deco and modern furniture was paramount. The placement of vignettes was carefully considered when selecting each and every piece, with iconic examples complemented by furniture from other eras. For example, in the living room, Lovell’s addition of a lyrical serpentine sofa by Vladimir Kagan makes an elegant counterpoint to the striking straight lines of the circa- 1930s game table in mahogany by André Sornay. In the library, which the clients refer to as the ebony Specimen Room, the Palais Stoclet sofa after Josef Hoffmann was added to complement the spectacular circa-1912 reading chairs from Austria by Dagobert Peche and the gray and white striated, circa-1920s marble coffee table by Edgar Brandt. Other quintessential furnishings in the apartment include a modernist commode by Eugene Printz, with five drawers in palm wood veneer with gilt bronze hardware and base, a rare example of his all-over veneer technique; a circa- 1925 Art Deco mounted Macassar ebony, ivory, and mahogany cabinet by Maurice Jallot; and a circa-1930s three drawer cabinet in Brazilian rosewood and patinated bronze signed by Jacques Leleu.
Lovell consistently unearths treasures for her clients through her relationships with trusted dealers of antiques and design furniture—those who conduct busi- ness in the world of Art Basel, FOG, TEFAF, and the like. Lovell notes the tremendous growth of fine art furniture in the last ten years, with the design and art worlds looking increasingly alike and playing off of one another. Seeing an investment in design furniture of today as not only supporting a living and working artist/artisan, but, as Lovell states, “It’s the antiques of the future!” A favorite example is the circa-2007 bronze limited edition bench in the gallery hall by Ingrid Donat, which, as an example of iconic contemporary design, adds depth to the client’s collection.
In the year ahead, Suzanne Lovell Inc. is looking forward to major contemporary design installations, including a concentrated collaboration with David Wiseman through R & Company, acquisitions by Ingrid Donat through Carpenter’s Workshop, and the list grows from here. “We’re thrilled to have designed limited edition pairs of chairs with Nature Squared that will become available in 2017 and will be featured in Boat International, the world’s leading luxury yacht magazine.” Frank Pollaro is another frequent collaborator that Lovell enlists in the creation of museum-quality heirloom furniture. These con- temporary pieces find the perfect dialogue with the best examples of iconic designs by such masters as Fornasetti, Gio Ponti and Maison Jansen, thanks to dealers like Bernd Goeckler, Karl Kemp, and Maison Gerard.
Lovell sees Sir John Soane (1753–1837), one of the most inventive architects of his time, as an inspiration behind this and other projects. Says Lovell, “Soane referred to ‘the poetry of architecture.’ His words are telling,” she explains: “‘Think and feel as a poet, combine and embellish as a painter, and execute as a sculptor.’ I believe this is what we do every day at Suzanne Lovell Inc.”
Suzanne Lovell Inc., was awarded the 2016 Acanthus Award for excellence in interior design, with Vinci Hamp Architects, for their work on this residence. In the jury remarks, the presenter, The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, Chicago-Midwest Chapter, notes the team’s “mature and confident approach… [and] seamless blend of interior architecture, art and furnishings.” We are delighted and honored that Suzanne Lovell and her team have chosen to publish this project with Antiques & Fine Art magazine.