Nothing makes a job easier for a designer then when she already has a thorough knowledge of her client’s taste and lifestyle. It’s an added bonus when the homeowner hands over the reins, entrusting her to create a home that fulfills every want and need. This was the case when a friend and client asked designer Donna Mondi to outfit the interiors of a new three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment in the No. 9 Walton high-rise on Chicago’s Gold Coast for her and her two daughters.
In fact, it was that innate sense of trust between the two women that allowed Mondi the freedom to design the space as she saw fit. It also helped that they have similar tastes. “Her style, like mine, has an edgier side,” Mondi says.
Making the most of a small space–the 2,700-square-foot apartment is a far cry from the owner’s previous abode on the North Shore–can be a challenge, but “creating flow from room to room is what we do,” Mondi says. The main living space, which includes the living room, kitchen and dining area, are all easily distinguishable, yet the consistency in tones and textures serve to unite each space.
Mondi sought to blend the building’s sophisticated European glamour with the duo’s shared preference for quirky yet elegant decor that eschews tradition. Although the palette is mostly monochrome, discerning bursts of teal enliven the space. “I knew the owner liked black and white, but that can fall flat if you’re not careful,” Mondi says. “So I used teal to pop in some color.” The shade appears on elements such as the library walls and the living room chairs. Funky touches, such as a graffitied Shakespeare bust in the living room and feathered wallpaper in the foyer, also up the ante.
Texture played an important role in making the residence more dynamic. Mondi worked with mohairs, velvets, shearlings and leather to ensure even the neutral aspects of the home were compelling. “Donna understood what I had in the past and how I just wanted to tweak it a bit and do something fresh,” the client says. “When she suggested using mixed metals, at first I said I couldn’t do it–I was always the kind of person who saved my golds for Christmas, and I’m more about chrome, steel and silver.”
The designer proved her point in the kitchen with polished-nickel accents, which play perfectly with the brushed-brass finish of the dining area’s chandelier. She repeated this concept in the powder room, pairing polished-nickel plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware with gold lighting and mirrored accents.
Given that she was designing a space for three women, Mondi could have easily settled on a classic dainty look, but that was neither her style nor the owner’s. “I’m not an overly feminine designer,” Mondi says, “but I like playing with scale.” To this end, she incorporated elements like a floral-on-silk wallcovering in shades of gray and black in the master bedroom. “It’s dramatic and sophisticated,” the designer says. “It’s not cute or too feminine.” Other chic touches, such as a sheepskin bench and an antique-brass- and-crystal chandelier, also provide a balance, making sure the room is anything but cutesy. “I lay down at night and notice every single touch, from the wallpaper to the light fixtures,” the owner says. “I love the drama.”
In the library, Mondi designed a custom built-in painted the same soft teal of the room but with a higher-gloss lacquer finish. She also paired an Eames chair the client already owned with a newly purchased one. “The beautiful thing about buying an iconic chair is that you can buy one five or 10 years later, and it’ll look as good as the original,” the designer says. Although the space was intended to be a place for the daughters to complete their homework, Mondi says, “their mom loves it so much that she’s not sure she wants to let anybody but her use it!”
The daughters’ bedrooms, meanwhile, represent their personalities. The oldest, who is 23, was given the freedom to design her own suite. The youngest, an 18-year-old devout Chicago Blackhawks fan, lined a wall with framed players’ jerseys, so Mondi matched the feature using a palette of black, white and red with bursts of gray. In a thoughtful touch, she surprised the 18-year-old with cyclonite angel wings–referencing her love of crystals–which were placed above the bed.
“The warmth and love I feel in my 18-year-old’s room– that’s Donna,” the owner says. “I feel very blessed by our situation and the fact we can work together marvelously. There was so much trust.”