When faced with the unconventional, designer Lauren Svenstrup always feels right at home. She built a career composing personal (and personable) spaces that honor the idiosyncrasies of every client. So Svenstrup knew she had a true partner in crime the moment she stepped inside this Chicago bachelor’s high-rise penthouse. The new space was bare—except for dozens of balloons gently bouncing around. Abhorring the plain white box of his apartment, the client had them delivered to fill the abode with buoyant color. “I realized then that bringing quirk and whimsy into his space was important,” the designer recalls.
“My day job is very numbers focused,” the client explains. “So when I’m outside of work, I enjoy expressing my artistic side.” Inspired by this playful spirit, the designer focused on infusing the owner’s joie de vivre into every corner of the home.
Color proved key, beginning with coating the foyer in a lacquered black. Borrowing from Frank Lloyd Wright’s love of architectural contraction and expansion, Svenstrup wanted to conjure a cocoon-like entrance that would swell into the living room’s abundant light and space, making the transition much more impactful.
In the main living area itself, “we wanted a wall color that would be a continuation of the sky,” the designer says, so her team visited the space multiple times in different weather to find just the right shade of pale blue. Chicago decorative artist Erin Murphy then covered the industrial support beam with a faux silver-leaf finish that diffuses the sunlight and composed a ceiling mural of floating abstract forms in white and gray. In turn, the designer favored jewel hues and fabrics “with lots of luster” for the furnishings, from the salmon-velvet sofa to the green-vellum coffee table.
Pink found its way into the main bedroom as well. With its blush walls and snowy shag rug, the space contradicts modern expectations of a bachelor pad—think minimalist, monochromatic and sleek. Yet paired with black-metal accents and chocolate-velvet upholstery, the overall effect feels sophisticated without sacrificing lighthearted frivolity. As for the color choice, “there was a lot of ‘why not?’ in this project,” Svenstrup notes. “He is very into fashion and is not afraid of color and texture.”
This haute couture sensibility also generated some outside-the-box choices in silhouettes. “I naturally gravitate toward a sculptural approach, but the client’s preferences leaned even more so toward that,” the designer says. “He wasn’t focused on oversize comfort pieces, so we wanted his furniture to feel like art.” As such, they range from sharp Cubist shapes to sinuous, expressive lines. See the bedroom’s asymmetrical butterflied headboard and the entry’s geometric rug. The dining area in particular revels in eccentricities, from the triangular chairs to the mismatched pendant chandelier to the bulbous banquette perfectly curved around the corner. Appropriately, the surreal Miss Aniela photograph White Witch Awakening enjoys pride of place here as well, a window into an interior filled with a live zebra running amok amid taxidermic animals. The client instantly fell in love with it, and the image became a frequent reference point “because it captures what I was trying to create here, where there’s always something that’s a little unexpected,” he explains.
The photo also became the centerpiece for the art collection he curated with Svenstrup, favoring diverse mixed-media works and odd objets d’art like two giant tessellated marble globes. Each piece was carefully placed to enhance its unique qualities. The Michael Rex wire sculpture, for example, dangles by the window to cast dramatic shadows across the living room. And the bubble-gum hues of a Grecian-inspired nude tapestry by artist Mia Weiner perfectly melt into the bedroom’s pink walls. Svenstrup also commissioned maker Brittany Sazonoff to create the Yves Klein-inspired blue blocks, a wall installation that integrates into the existing kitchen’s modular lines.
Layered in eye-catching details, the home feels a far cry from its white-walled origins—though the client still occasionally fills the apartment with balloons, along with many party guests. The home finally suits the lively festivities unraveling inside its walls. “It’s fun to finally share this view and space with others,” he says. And for Svenstrup, there’s no greater pleasure “than seeing our client in their element, how something we designed so perfectly embodies who they are.”