Airy Urban Condo with Neutral Palette


“You walk in, and—bam—it’s all glass and Downtown Chicago,” says Tom Segal, who, along with David Kaufman, designed this airy condo that presides on the 14th floor over the heart of the city. “It’s breathtaking.” The space is in The Montgomery, the former headquarters of Montgomery Ward and a landmark of modernist architecture by Minoru Yamasaki. And despite some cool modern influences, like the open plan with rooms along the axis of the floor-to-ceiling windows framing an urban vista, it’s also cozy and inviting, an accomplishment that residents Bradley Sharps and David Wallerstein knew wouldn’t be a simple feat.

“We wanted it to be elegant and formal, but warm, and that’s not easy in a place that’s all glass,” says Sharps, who’s known Segal since they met years ago in a more humble domesticity: a college dorm. “Brad has always had a great eye,” Segal says of Sharps. And Sharps has always admired Segal’s “architectural sensibility;” Segal designed his first residence as well. But for this new place, all that the couple was bringing to the project—aside from decades of trust and friendship—was a still-expanding collection of colorful artwork.

The designers started off with a neutral palette of gray, tan and brown, all in warm tones, not only to soften the residence’s hard edges, but also to serve as a backdrop that wouldn’t detract from the art. “Gray especially gives you a contemporary feel without being cold,” notes Segal. The living room, where a limestone fireplace is the focus, features an angular sofa and two pairs of chairs with either wood armrests or frames, the natural material bringing warmth to offset the expanse of nearby glass and the concrete beyond.

Textures throughout the condo are luscious and touchable: The living area’s geometric-print Tibetan carpet has a silky finish; the den’s wallpaper is grass cloth; and in the master bedroom, striped-velvet upholstery in the same colorways has a luxurious sheen. Wood paneling extends to the ceiling above the headboard, continuing the richness of the ebony-stained Tasmanian-oak flooring throughout.

Kaufman points out that creating groupings of furniture that float in the space, rather than pushing them up against the walls, or facing the windows, was intentional. “It actually helps create a more intimate environment within a seating area,” he says. This arrangement also makes it easier to admire the spindly bronze sculpture on one side of the fireplace in the living area, for example, or the painting by artist Calman Shemi on the other.

Because Segal and Kaufman were involved in the project while the building was still undergoing renovations, the designers were able to collaborate with the residents right down to specifics. “They focused on every detail,” says Segal, “and didn’t leave anything to chance. We went over every doorknob, every tile, so that every detail was an expression of a dressy, highly thought-out, modern aesthetic.”

“I’m very particular about what I want,” says Sharps. “I notice every- thing, like the plate behind a doorknob at a hotel. Tom and David really met us where we wanted to be, as far as involvement,” he says.

Sharps and Wallerstein, whose joint business affords them the oppor- tunity to travel together around the world, added an eclectic touch by incorporating some of their prized possessions into the mix. A wood stool in the master bedroom was a find from Kenya; a marble foo dog from Vietnam stands guard near the fireplace; and an ink drawing in the den was picked up in Hawaii. Even the foyer’s gray Venetian plaster walls were influenced by the design of the Ritz-Carlton’s Hotel Arts Barcelona.

For some, the reminders of faraway destinations and the allure of the skyline may encourage wanderlust. But, according to Sharps, the best views are contained inside—specifically, in the direction of the living room. “I look at it a lot,” he says, with a laugh. “Because the whole place is open, I can stand in the kitchen, and I get to see most of the rooms.”