Marie Kondo would be impressed. For some of us, sparking joy means never parting with an incredible wardrobe or life-affirming furniture collection. But when the homeowners of this Chicago condo made the move from their 6,000-square-foot family home on the North Shore, they brought just two or three pieces of art.
Much of that vetting had to do with interior designer Donna Mondi. “Part of what made it easier is that we engaged with Donna and we were so excited about what was happening with the design,” says the wife. “We knew this home was going to turn out exactly the way we wanted it, so I think it was easier to let go of possessions.” On the eve of becoming empty-nesters, the clients, a couple with two college-age sons, decided to relocate to the city. Their new urban existence meant cultural thrills–restaurants, the theater–but they also wanted an outdoor space and a comfortable place that could welcome the kids (and plenty |of their friends) home at any time.
They found their ideal perch at No. 9 Walton, the headline-making luxury high-rise designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture. “The exterior does bring back some of that 1920s and ’30s European splendor that used to be so popular in Chicago,” says Mondi. “And the building itself is absolutely gorgeous, so taking cues from that was fun, along with creating a transitional design.”
Well-traveled and adventurous, the clients said the magic words. “The first comment that I remember vividly was, ‘We’re not afraid of color,’ ” says Mondi. “And I thought, awesome, because we get a lot of clients who want white, gray and black. And we love them dearly, but when somebody says, ‘We’re not afraid,’ it’s like, Let’s go!’ ”
That chromatic verve is displayed in the living and dining areas, where a down-for-anything spirit rendezvouses with sophisticated intentions. Hits of teal, a splash of orange, a zingy Pierre Frey citrine–the scene is composed and inviting without excess or contrivance. Though it appears as if Mondi tailored the palette to echo the evocative Josephine Cardin photograph above the fireplace, the opposite is true: The piece was discovered later via Daniel Kinkade Fine Art.
Mondi’s instinct for eclectic and unexpected elements meant more than conversation pieces. “It would have been easy with that sexy, sculptural sofa to do something more rounded and glamorous,” she explains of the informal hide-covered chairs, “but one of my design philosophies is, when things start to get precious and beautiful, you have to add in a little bit of grit and earthiness to keep things grounded so that you’re not operating on one plane.” She applied the same deftness in the master bedroom, where curated pieces and “an ethereal” commissioned metal sculpture by Eric Gushee elevated the space to rousing textural effect.
The advantages of inheriting a new unit with excellent finishes, including a kitchen designed by O’Brien Harris, meant the interior modifications were minimal. Mondi added built-ins around the fireplace in the living room, tailored to fit a pair of bronze statues from the couple’s collection. Her team devised a closet featuring antiqued mirror doors in the vestibule of the master with art reflected on the opposite wall. Most heroically, she designed the much-adored media room fronted by steel-and-glass doors. After dressing the walls in a rich wallcovering and painting the ceiling a navy lacquer, Mondi added generous cognac leather seating and a few chic throw cushions so friends could spread out. She was equally committed to personalizing the sons’ rooms, taking meetings with each. “I love designing with young adults because they definitely care,” she says.
As the hosts of gatherings and game-day parties, the couple needed the home to perform beautifully. The mood of the place is “modern, but practical; elegant but comfortable,” says the wife. “We don’t want anyone to be afraid to come in and sit down.” And since the family are enthusiastic sports fans, Mondi added another fun element. Given the all-glass backdrop, a creative solution was needed so they could still catch the game while grilling outside. Mondi delivered with a custom pop-up cabinet so understated, you’d never believe it accommodates a 65-inch television.
The interiors of an apartment with such awe-inspiring views could easily fade into the background. But Mondi’s most dramatic scene could take on any urban vista. “We still want you to have these moments of wonder inside the home because that’s where you’re living,” she says, noting that the sight line from the foyer to the dining room is one of those moments. “You look down this long hall and your eye is instantly grabbed by a gorgeous chandelier, a cool hammered metal chair, a pop of chartreuse. We wanted to create that vignette to entice people to come in.”