Interior designers David Hopkins and Aaron Miller were midway through their reimagination of a Victorian brick row home in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood when their clients, a stylish couple with a young daughter, called with some big news: They were expecting a second baby, and they wanted to completely renovate the kitchen before the child was born. Could such a big job be completed in less than six months?
“Absolutely,” Hopkins told them with conviction. “I knew if they didn’t do it then, it might not happen for years.” Although the classic white kitchen had been redone by the prior owner, who had installed floor-to-ceiling cabinetry, thick stone countertops and intricate moldings, it felt too traditional for the current owners, a trader and a producer of film and television commercials. In fact, the entire home had been painted in beige tones that seemed o -brand for the clients, especially the wife. “She’s a fashion plate,” Miller says, recalling the distressed jeans and kimono the wife was wearing during one of their first meetings. “She wanted it to look ‘editorial’ and not too precious,” Hopkins adds. In other words: graphic, with bold pops of color and pattern. “We like vintage and modern–kind of the extremes,” says the wife. “We’re not afraid of color and we don’t like cookie-cutter style.”
In the formal living room, an antique chair upholstered in its original deep yellow velvet pops against white walls and glossy gray moldings. It joins a neutral white sofa and daybed around a new Petit Granite limestone replace mantel with exposed joints and radius corners. “It’s appropriate to the Victorian proportions, but stripped down and simplified,” Miller says. The yellow fabric was actually inspired by the owners’ collection of vintage National Geographic magazines, which line the built-in shelving along one wall in the adjacent dining room. Yellow silk draperies echo the slightly deeper shade of the 1945 edition and stand out prominently against the peacock- blue walls. Says Hopkins of the limited light in the space, “This is a sexy nighttime room.”
In the adjacent family room, the designers found a place for the owners’ Chesterfield sofa and chair, which they deconstructed and transformed into a single longer couch that better suits the room’s dimensions. A pair of ultra-realist faux trees with red-painted trunks and matching gravel ground covering add an unexpected punch of color. From the second-floor family room, where bright blue window moldings and hand-painted lines on the walls create a dynamic backdrop for the owner’s orange sectional sofa, the design flows into a bright closet-turned-office. “I wanted a crazy wallpapered room, but David wanted to freestyle it, and it makes such a big impact,” the wife says. “It looks busy at first, but it’s actually the most peaceful room.” Her wish for a bold wallcovering was granted in the guest bathroom, where stylized paper with a green-and-black malachite pattern was applied. In lieu of sconces, a pair of tall metal lamps on the stone countertop casts a moody glow.
When it came to the kitchen, builder David Epstein says, “It was a tight timeline, but my guys were ready to go.” To save time, Hopkins reconfigured the existing perimeter cabinets, so they were able to order the countertops early in the process. Now lacquered with black paint, the traditional perimeter cabinetry juxtaposes at-faced upper cabinets in gray, white quartzite countertops and large subway tile with a crackle finish. The designers’ intern spent nearly two dozen hours putting together patterns for the hexagon floor, which has been interpreted in a larger scale for a more modern look. “Victorian amplified,” Miller calls it. Along the opposite wall, a three-armed brass chandelier with black shades illuminates a new built-in channel-back banquette and faceted blue metal chairs around a custom steel table with a weathered, initial-carved tabletop that was salvaged from a pub near Stanford.
Working under such a tight deadline was not without its challenges, but the designers fulfilled their promise to deliver a brand-new kitchen by the time the baby arrived. “It felt like a race,” the wife says. In fact, the contractors were tearing o the construction tape when the happy parents first walked in with their newborn daughter. “They have an amazing ability to nail it on the first try,” the wife says of the design team. “This is a little creative oasis, and beyond that, it’s a great family house. We really snagged a gem.”