A Chicago Penthouse Apartment Filled With Modernist Art


“I love a little chaos in my life,” laughs the owner of this 51st-floor Chicago “sky home,” at which she, her entrepreneur husband and young daughter spend a couple of months a year to be near extended family. “We actually just finished working on two other homes at the same time, but this one is our sanctuary.” Achieving that tranquil feel in a modern high-rise penthouse was largely thanks to architect and interior designer Alex Jordan. The owners had previously worked on several projects with Jordan, including the Gold Coast home from which they were relocating, as well as with his partner, Dan Smieszny, who was responsible for the architectural design drawings. Completing the team was project director Nadine Fatora and project manager Eric Schulz, who also had experience working with the owners on prior jobs.

“Our goal was to create a modern turnkey city residence that was not only beautiful to look at but comfortable to live in as well,” Jordan says. “It was a partial gut remodel: We reconfigured the entry, dining room and a hallway to the bedroom wing, redid the master suite, and performed a heavy facelift on the kitchen.” New floors, lighting, window treatments, paneling and other finishes rounded out the project.

Filling those reconfigured spaces was a matter of blending new pieces in with the owners’ significant collection of contemporary art as well as French Art Deco and modernist furnishings, much of which Jordan helped his clients acquire over the years. “It can be a throw of the dice,” he says. “Sometimes you need to rescale pieces and move them around to different rooms.” Initially buying quality furnishings made it easy for Jordan to find each item a home. “We made the furniture work for the place instead of the place work for the furniture,” the homeowner adds.

Another major consideration was that the rooms feel inviting and warm. “As formal as our homes can look to some people, we are extremely laid-back and really have no sense of formality,” the owner says. “Our homes are used more for leisurely purposes.” With that in mind, a variety of seating options in the communal living room encourages lounging, reading or watching television.

The family room, which features a restyled sofa and custom leather ottoman, doubles as the daughter’s playroom, sectioned off from the fully up-to-date kitchen via a unique sliding glass door system.

Down the newly revamped hallway, the master suite is separated for privacy by doors that are rarely closed. Here, the highlight is the master bedroom, where the apartment’s astonishing lake and cityscape views can best be seen, most notably from the large picture window behind the bed. “It’s our headboard,” says the homeowner. “In the evening, the sunset is reflected around the room.” A set of iron and woven leather-upholstered screens provides a subtle partition from the adjoining sitting area. “It is really a very ethereal space,” comments Jordan.

Aside from the challenges of transporting materials, furniture and other items up to, and down from, the 51st floor, the construction process went rather smoothly and creating this space was a win-win. “It was a really good team,” says Schulz. “We knew what to expect and were all on the same plane in terms of the finished product.”

In final assessment of the project, the owner notes: “One of the great things about Jordan and Smieszny is that their work is timeless. When they set out to do a project, you know it will roll with the times and stay up to date for years to come.”