he project had the elements of a designer’s dream: a plum location in an iconic downtown Chicago building and a client with sparkling style (and a personality to match). Embarking on a new chapter in her life, the buyer sought a haven for herself and her two adult daughters that would accommodate her varied interests, from rescue dogs to fashion to entertaining. “She was actively seeking a place downtown so she could window shop while walking her dog and also where she could host friends,” says architect and designer Joan Craig, who happens to be the client’s longtime friend. “She called me one day and said, ‘I think I’ve found it.’ ” And found it she had. But the style of the sprawling space didn’t fit the client’s vision. So she enlisted Craig–along with designers Gemma Parker, Amanda Flood, Annelise Nielsen and architect Erich Wefing–to transform it.
Although the apartment needed a cosmetic makeover (“There was an inverted cove light in the entry hall that looked like a flying saucer,” says Craig), it did have strong bones and the perfect layout. Two separate bedroom wings, each with its own entrance, meant the owner’s daughters could share the space with their mother during their frequent visits while simultaneously enjoying a sense of privacy. The main objective for the design overhaul? Shine, shine and more shine. “The client asked for a home that would be reflective, with lots of mirrors, shimmer, silver and pale colors,” recalls Craig. “With windows facing all four directions, many overlooking the lake, the apartment is naturally bright–but she wanted more.”
Craig called in builder Richard Green to help make the space feel even brighter and happier. The residence in its original state was, according to Green, “generic, with no real personality.” After the renovation, which involved recreating the entry hall, redoing the closets, upgrading the finishes, altering the bathrooms and painting the cabinetry, he says, “It became much more dynamic and really depicts the client’s way of life and sense of style.”
To achieve maximum shine, Craig used polished stone, high-gloss paint, black lacquer, silver cork and antique-mirrored walls throughout. She kept to a mostly neutral palette in order to maintain balance, pulling from the panoramic views of lake and sky and enveloping the home in shades of sand, cream, champagne, pale blue and yellow. For the decor and detailing, Craig drew inspiration from both the building’s decadent Art Deco sensibility and her client’s personality. “Part of it is portraiture,” she explains. “My client is super elegant, but also effervescent and just sunny. She likes to have a good time, and I wanted to capture that spirit.”
While that Ã©lan is apparent throughout the home–through flashes of metallic embroidery, dazzling light fixtures and polished marble surfaces–nowhere is it more evident than in the dining room. “We wanted that room to be very bright during the day and to gleam in the candlelight by night,” says Craig, who paneled one wall in large-scale bricks of antique mirror and covered the rest of the room in silver cork paper to enhance the glimmer of light on all four wall surfaces.
Similarly, the powder room has a sumptuous jewel-box vibe inspired by the galaxy. “We wanted to evoke a feeling of the infinite,” explains Craig. The room was built around an unexpected find–a stunning slab, black with a sprinkling of silver and stars resembling the Milky Way, which Craig and her client stumbled across at a stone yard. “Going to the stone yard is like going to the market on the morning of a dinner party,” she says. “You go expecting to find the most beautiful artichokes for an appetizer, but instead you see incredible ramps and asparagus and wind up doing something totally different.” Green and his team had to remove the walls in order to lay down the slab as flooring, but the result was well worth it. “It’s a really sexy room,” Craig says. “When you close the door, it’s like Versailles.”
To ensure she didn’t go overboard throughout with the shine, Craig paired the glistening finishes with organic fabrics, like soft wools, cashmeres and even gently worn stones. The sitting room ottoman, for example, has the appearance and feel of a giant boulder. “She loves the way it looks, and I’m really proud of it,” Craig says of the final result. “It’s so gratifying to see a client–and a friend–grow into a new home, a new life and enjoy new passions.”
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