Marie Claire MaisonMarch 2018

In Chicago, period pieces and art work flirt endearingly in an early 20th century house. Where history dares to flaunt a surprising ultra-modern look.

The Loop – the famous hub of Chicago, with its spectacular skyscrapers and sparkling lights – seems miles away. Instead, it is only a few kilometers from here. We are in North Lincoln Park: an oasis of peace and tranquility where life moseys along, oblivious to the frenetic rhythms of Downtown. Early 20th century red brick villas, neatly-mown lawns, cars creeping slowly across the residential streets. A little farther off, pleasure crafts allow themselves be rocked by the quiet waters of Lake Michigan, which offers priceless relief from the heat in summertime (when the temperatures in the city hit boiling point) and an open passage to the icy winds of Canada during the long winter months. And a view of the bay, so vast it looks like a sea, is the panorama afforded by this building of 1923 by one of the most renowned and prolific architects of the time: Howard Van Doren Shaw. Interior designer Suzanne Lovell – famous for her lavish projects, ranging from Chicago to the Dominican Republic and passing through Florida and the state of New York in between – has renovated the apartment, highlighting the original features and freeing it from the signs of the last intervention, carried out back in the 1960s. The result – spanning six hundred square meters and occupying an entire floor of the building – is a modern concept in a classic frame, full of irresistible stylistic elements dating to the first decades of last century. Here, the spaces are flooded in a kind of elegance that is graceful yet daring, a perfect match for the sophistication of the owners of the house, a couple who work in the fields of finance and philanthropy, with two adult children. “We recreated the details paying close attention to their original form and feel, but without losing sight of our objective: to create a home that meets today’s standards. Indeed, the plants in the home rely on advanced technology, although they are hidden behind mouldings, friezes and carved wooden decorations. All designed to create a sophisticated setting beautiful enough to glorify the owners’ important art and antique collection”, explains Lovell. The resulting combination of architectural lines, design and art is perfect.

Lovell has also changed the layout, sacrificing some environments to extend others (such as the master bedroom) and has made some structural changes; in the hallway, for example, she has accentuated the barrel vaulted ceiling, drawing attention to its majestic presence. “The principals drew up a list of their requirements: the project had to recover the Art Deco atmosphere, pay close attention to detail, use fine materials and contain references to contemporary style”. Here, symmetry becomes a leitmotiv that never risks becoming boring, as it is energized by accessories that “break up” the monotony. For instance, in the living room the curvy sofa by Vladimir Kagan provides a stark contrast to the dignified charm of the 1930s card table by André Sornay, while Construction, the kinetic installation in brass, by Sidney Gordin, interrupts the regular geometries in the foyer. This space is a true masterpiece, reminiscent of the entrance to a museum, but pervaded by the kind of warmth characteristic of a home. Lamps in alabaster and a lacquered side board by De Coene Frères spice up the space, giving it the delicious flavor of the olden days, and interacting with a modern-style console and several new century pieces, such as the bronze bench by Ingrid Donat. Original state-of the-art photographs and paintings help bring the whole project into the here and now. The black and white patterns on the floor and ceiling file past in a divine rhythm, and the immense leather lamp by Jacques Adnet, made in Paris by the artisans of Hermès, crowns the scene. “Choosing the furniture was a long, hard process that kept us busy for over two years”, continues Suzanne, who scoured boutiques, antique shops and galleries in the United States and overseas (Bernd Goeckler, Karl Kemp and Maison Gerard, in particular), also attending the most prestigious events: Tefaf, Art Basel and Fog. The decoration follows a path marked out between different eras and genres, all merging to form one exquisite stylistic equilibrium. Iconic furniture by exclusive designers– Jules Leleu, Edgar Brandt, Eugène Printz and Jacques Adnet – sit casually alongside the artwork of international celebrities. The photographs of Andrew Moore and the paintings of Karen Gunderson, Raffi Lavie and Esteban Vicente are worth a mention, as are the scenes created by Ingrid Donat and Richard Buckminster Fuller. Suzanne Lovell has paid tribute to the words of Englishman Sir John Soane (1753 – 1837), who suggested that his architect “colleagues” should “think like a poet, decorate like a painter and execute like a sculptor”. A creed that has always been the secret to creating living spaces with the skill of a master.

By Silvia Icardi
Photography by Eric Piaseci

Marie Claire Maison
Edizione Italiana – Marzo 2018