The blank-canvas characteristics of a new house—crisp, classic palette; rooms ready for decor of any style—seemed to be just what an East Coast family needed as they attempted to assimilate the stylistically diverse furnishings from their former home in Connecticut into an urban dwelling in Chicago’s Old Town. But the stately new build they fell in love with wasn’t exactly bare bones. In fact, two years earlier, when interior designer Elizabeth Taich collaborated with builder Tim Kerins on the finish selections for the three-story residence—plus a fourth-floor roof deck—overlooking Hudson Chess Park, she knew that the elaborate details of the interior architecture would appeal to buyers with a specific taste. “Tim is a very traditional builder,” she laughs. “All of the crown molding is a good 10 inches high.” His penchant for marble is evident, too. “We went through a lot of slabs,” Taich adds. “In the primary bathroom, the walls are clad in marble, the windows are slabbed in marble. I tried to talk him out of it—and I’m so glad he didn’t listen.”
As it turned out, the classic sensibility with which Kerins imbued the abode was right up the new owners’ aesthetic alley. It also provided the inspiration Taich needed when the couple hired her to furnish the house with both items they already owned—a mix of transitional designs and European antiques—as well as midcentury-style pieces they admired and hoped to acquire. “I found myself repeatedly looking at images of London townhomes that were updated through the use of modern furniture,” Taich says. “I decided to lean into the traditional architectural elements of this home and expand upon them with contemporary touches.”
To the living room walls, she added elegant moldings; for the adjacent dining room, she chose a Venetian plaster finish. In other rooms, she painted Kerins’ millwork with cool colors, from a moody blue-black in the family room to a sea blue in a guest bedroom. Eye-catching wallpapers and embellished draperies complement those hues while introducing a range of patterns, setting the scene for furnishings that provide striking juxtapositions of era and style.
In the wife’s study, a pair of vintage rattan étagères—painted mauve to complement the colorful abstract draperies—rests atop a green-and-ivory rug cut to follow the room’s angles. In the living room, modern Danish armchairs reupholstered in a ribbed blue velvet sit alongside an eglomise credenza as well as a new sofa with rust-colored mohair-velvet upholstery and an air of “French glamour,” as Taich describes it. That touch of French influence carries over into the dining room, where an antique Louis XVI-style gilded console topped with red marble presides. “It’s one of the more ornate pieces the clients had,” the designer notes. It is paired, rather unexpectedly, with midcentury-style dining chairs, a traditional round table and a showstopping vintage chandelier comprising multiple tiers of textured Murano-glass cylinders. “It took four people three hours to hang it,” Taich says of the latter, “but it really sets the mood.”
A light-filled guest bedroom overlooking the park features an antique bed with a graceful canopy—and a warm wood finish that initially gave Taich pause. “When I first saw it, I was a little worried because it’s a very red piece of wood; how do you tone that down?” she says. Her solution was simple and effective: A silver floral wallpaper accented with tiny songbirds rendered in soft brown and red hues provides just enough complementary color to make the bed feel at home. In the primary bedroom, where another antique bed dominates, deep pink and purple fabrics complement the furniture’s dark wood tone, while a platinum-colored grass-cloth wallcovering, shimmering gray carpet and bubble-like glass chandelier keep the mood light.
These rooms represent not just a marriage of styles but also the meeting of a family’s past and present. “I had to ask myself, ‘What can I add that will respect what they already have while also reflecting how they want their current residence to look?’ ” Taich says. “It was a balancing act.” Her success means that whether they’re gathered at the custom kitchen banquette or perched on rattan lounge chairs that have been with the family for years, they’re immersed in an aesthetic just familiar enough to make this new chapter in a fresh space feel like home.