hen a Chicago couple’s youngest child left for college, they decided it was time to jettison their suburban house and embark on a downsized, downtown lifestyle. The husband and wife–an investment banker and a retailer, respectively–own a condo in Miami and already knew they enjoyed high-rise living. So when friends recommended exploring the options in their Booth Hansen-designed tower, the couple ended up purchasing the two-bedroom unit across the hall and even hired the same interior designer, Michael Del Piero, to personalize the space.
“They bought the unit thinking the changes would be cosmetic, but they really wanted an extra bedroom,” Del Piero says. She presented them with two plans: one that focused purely on interior design, the other a renovation that borrowed square footage from the large living-dining area to create a third bedroom. The homeowners opted for the second option, kicking off a project that would turn their residence into a standout in the building.
To oversee the renovation, for which Christopher Lawton of Lawton Stanley Architects served as architect of record, Del Piero turned to builder Adam Masters, who has worked on multiple units in the tower. Knowing the structure’s ins and outs played a key role, as he was charged with making changes beyond the addition of a third bedroom: Del Piero’s other priorities included redesigning the entryway with built-in closets hidden behind molding and trim as well as opening up the butler’s pantry to create a walkway to an all-new eat-in kitchen. “Most of the units have only two bedrooms, so this one is really special,” Masters says. “It has an open-space look, and the entry really welcomes you when you walk in.”
Once Masters had the floorboards down and the millwork underway, Del Piero began pulling together the furnishings scheme the homeowners had chosen. “They wanted their home to look good and fit their lifestyle–which is busy with work, family and entertaining–but to also be functional,” she says. “Clients are always thrilled with options on how to use a space, so we like to provide multiuse pieces–like the breakfast table, which can be used as a bar during a party.”
When it came to the color scheme, the wife was drawn to the gray hues of Del Piero’s proposal because it countered the look of the couple’s all-white Magic City home. “We didn’t want that in Chicago,” she says. “Here, I wanted something darker and cozy.” Del Piero delivered by bringing in warmth with a walnut kitchen, soft custom rugs and moments of deep, jewel-like hues amid the gray backdrop. “I like neutrals and tend to use art and artifacts to bring color and layering to an interior,” she explains.
The overall look was influenced by two items from the owners’ previous home: a red rug from Turkey that appears in one of the guest rooms and a blue velvet-upholstered armchair placed in the other. “To make sure those pieces worked, we had to balance them with saturated colors elsewhere,” Del Piero says, pointing to a blue bench in the entryway and a green sofa and ottoman in the living room. A 10-foot-tall mixed-media work by Connie Noyes in the living room and a charcoal nude by Francine Turk in a nearby hallway add yet another layer of interest. “Everything was thought out,” the interior designer says. “The living room’s pair of chairs and stone coffee table drove the design. The materials and textures work together: the sleek stone on the space’s fuzzy rug; the smooth green upholstery with the antique wood trunk.”
An intimate sitting area in the master bedroom provides another quiet retreat, as does the balcony, where the couple relax and watch the sun set. “We came from a house with a very big back yard, which we enjoyed,” the wife says. “Now, we enjoy the view of the city.” To preserve the scenery, Del Piero kept the furnishings low, with soft shapes to add a sense of calm.
Balancing the home’s comfort is a livability quality, with rugs and fabrics that can withstand spills and the couple’s dog. This explains the absence of a rug underneath the dining room table. “I like to see the beautiful wood floors,” Del Piero says. “Rugs get dirty, and the space could get too congested with chairs, table and lighting. Instead, if you don’t have items everywhere, you can focus on special pieces.”
It’s an idea the homeowners now embrace. While the wife is quick to admit the downsizing process wasn’t easy, she now sees it as liberating. “The condo feels homey,” she says. It’s a look as fresh and new to the city lifestyle as its owners. “We started from scratch, and the design really came out as we’d hoped,” Del Piero says. “It’s very cool, well-proportioned and sophisticated.”
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