Rising 39 stories above Chicago’s sidewalks, Lincoln Park 2550 is a beacon of elegance. The classical Beaux Arts condominium overlooking Lake Michigan was designed by architect Lucien Lagrange, who added a touch of European sensibility to the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. So it comes as no surprise that in addition to the building’s prime location, a San Francisco couple with two children fell in love with the remarkable details of one 4,000-square-foot unit, which displays 11-foot ceilings, crown moldings, rift-and quarter-sawn oak floors, a Poggenpohl kitchen and—a luxurious bonus—a marble master bathroom.
Although their primary residence is 2,000 miles away, the couple have roots in Chicago: Both attended Northwestern University, and both have relatives scattered throughout the area. “They wanted a place where they could come home for the holidays and spend some time over the summer,” says designer Jennifer Durand, who worked on the project as part of the design team.
Durand, designer Joanna Crowley and principal Jessica Lagrange began a long-distance relationship with their clients by reviewing images of the family’s West Coast home and finding out what the couple enjoy about their residence, what their current furnishings are like and which colors they favor. “They prefer clean lines,” Durand says. “Midcentury style and classic modern pieces resonated, and they also like a neutral palette with a pop of color. They desired a Midwestern sensibility with the fun of the West Coast.” With two teenagers, the couple needed to be pragmatic as well as chic. “To function as a family place, the home had to be a mix of high and low,” Crowley says. This translates to a blend of off-the-floor retail and custom furnishings pulled together by carefully chosen artwork to personalize the space.
To that end, the designers worked with art consultant Kate Lane Ferraro of Gregg Lane Art Management. “For our first meeting, I decided to bring paintings I thought would work well in the clients’ home,” Lane Ferraro says. “It was a bit of a risk if the pieces were not their style, but I felt confident they would be great in the space—and they clicked.” The mostly abstract art complements unfussy furnishings; simple, often graphic forms prevail, such as the foyer’s narrow white lacquer console. Above it is a tall custom mirror, while at the end of the foyer is a white oval Saarinen table—a focal point that defines the open space. “We like the contrast of white with the dark wood floors,” Crowley says.
Just off the foyer, tuxedo-style armchairs in the living room face a pair of soft blue-gray midcentury-style armchairs and sit perpendicular to a custom sofa. At the center of the grouping is a velum-clad cocktail table with antiqued brass legs, while at the far end of the room is an upholstered tête-á-tête. A vibrant citrus shade was chosen for the room’s silk Euro pleat draperies, which frame windows that nearly reach the ceiling. Sunny hues—a nod to the West Coast—are a counterpoint to neutrals throughout, with strategic shots of blues reflecting sky and water.
In the adjacent dining room, a custom walnut table that can expand to accommodate 10 is perfectly sited beneath a square-mount chandelier with crystal spheres—a piece the owners inherited with the purchase of the condo. Here, the designers chose blue mohair velvet for armless Saarinen dining chairs, and Lane Ferraro commissioned a dominant oil on canvas by a student from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “An important part of what we do is find pieces that are the right scale,” she says. “This home is quite large, so I looked for artwork that suited both the scale of the furnishings and the rooms.”
Countering the dining room’s formality, there’s a playful vibe in the den—which does double duty as an office and a guest room, as the dark chocolate sofa opens into a bed. Two textured woolly poufs provide additional casual seating as well as a whimsical shape, balancing out a custom cerused-wood-and-lacquer coffee table with mitered corners. The room enjoys north and east views of the lake, and pops of orange lift the mood even on sunless days. The color scheme is shaken up by a blue plaid rug and a large-scale striped pastel on paper framed by floating wood shelves.
Lake views are also prevalent in the master bedroom, where shades of blue, gray and creamy beige add a welcome tranquility. To lighten up a charcoal upholstered bed, the designers chose a duvet in muted blue gray with silvery tones. Dyed fox-fur pillows lend a glam accent, and modern high-lacquered bedside tables carry a reflective sheen. On top of the tables, shapely glass lamps wear silk shades to match the duvet cover. “We wanted something that didn’t detract,” Durand says. “The homeowners love the lake view and needed the room to be serene.” Perfectly suiting that theme is drapery fabric sporting a soft lilac-and-blue overscale block print with a watercolor look.
At the end of the project, the design team had produced exactly what the couple desired: a pied-à-terre that made them feel as if they were home. After some time—perhaps while gazing into the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan, strolling through the building’s garden or simply having a memorable day in the city—the family decided to stay in Chicago and make the apartment their full-time residence. In the end, the luxurious getaway that felt like a home truly turned into one.
— Elaine Markoutsas