They don’t make them like they used to” has been said about everything from cars to movies. And, of course, there are always those who would argue newer is better. When it comes to buying a house, however, Nick and Ariele Scodro are very much of the first camp. The young couple, who have a baby daughter, ended their search for a new home when they found themselves romanced by a 1927 condo in Lincoln Park, impressed with the structure’s level of detail and quality of materials.
“We looked at a couple of places with newer construction, but they weren’t right,” Nick recalls. “I grew up in a Chicago brownstone, and the aesthetic of a vintage building coupled with high-quality construction was something we both wanted–and this building had it.” To match the character and sophistication of the structure’s French Renaissance architecture, they envisioned interiors with overtones that nod to the City of Light. “Paris has a cohesive set of design principles, but it’s also at the forefront of what’s new,” Nick says. “We wanted that blend of old and provocative.”
For help, they turned to the person responsible for Nick’s appreciation of good design: his mother, designer Kim Scodro. Making it a family affair, she brought along fellow designers Kathryn Scodro–Nick’s sister-in-law–and Jessica Leibovich, who had worked with Kim and the couple on a previous job and took the lead on this project.
“We already had a handle on their style,” Leibovich says. “Ariele likes neutrals but also has a playful side, while Nick values function.”
The trio began by working with architect Stuart Shayman and builder Anthony DiVittorio to reshape the floor plan so it was better suited to modern life. “We started out structurally and looked at what spaces could be changed or removed,” Shayman says. He transformed a maid’s office into a combination breakfast nook and office, for example, and flipped the positions of the dining and living areas in the great room, which received coffered ceilings and beams. “There was no overhead lighting in the dining space, because the existing thick plaster ceilings had no wiring,” Kathryn says. “Adding the beams with electrical access meant we could suspend a fixture that helps delineate and brighten the room.” Taking cues from the home’s original millwork, the team accentuated the family area’s stone fireplace with picture-frame molding for Parisian flair and introduced new kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.
The refreshed traditional elements offer a perfect backdrop for a blend of old and new decor with interjections of the unexpected. In the entry, for instance, a tufted chaise–another nod to French design–with Lucite legs is juxtaposed with walls sheathed in silver-and-white paper. “We took the traditional shape of the chaise and simplified it with rounded edges,” Leibovich says. “The wallpaper — introduced in 1963 — has a vintage quality, but the pattern is fresh and current. They are formal elements but fun and livable.”
The same could be said of the lush peacock blue velvet that covers a pair of cantilevered brass-framed chairs in the living area of the great room. “Those chairs could handle a textile with personality, and the owners love shades of blue, so it was a good choice for offsetting the neutral background,” Leibovich says. A custom tete-a-tete is another unanticipated element. “There’s a big sectional close by, and we wanted to avoid bumping sofas,” Kathryn explains. “The tete-a-tete provides separation and breathing room.” A nearby silver-leaf etagere with spiked edges and an antique console with a white lacquer finish in the entryway update the classic designs.
Mindful of Ariele’s playful side, photos of lions face off across the great room’s fireplace, while the intense pink brushstrokes on an abstract painting in the same room answer Nick’s desire to provoke. “Our team helped with the art selection and offered lots of choices, including a series of Gray Malin animal prints that ended up in the breakfast nook,” Kim says. “Everything is very personal to the couple
and who they are.”
A mix of fabrics elevates the nearby dining space, where host chairs sport two textiles with complementary prints. “Pairing a geometric-triangle pattern with a deconstructed stripe works, because they are different scales,” Leibovich explains. A tribal-like pattern appears on the side chairs, while the cream-colored window coverings are bordered with a marble-inspired print. “We wanted to keep the eye moving to the park and lake views,” Kathryn says. “The marble leading edge on the draperies brings attention to the window without overwhelming it.”
Overhead, the clean lines of an aged-iron light fixture–a strong presence against the room’s soft white walls–is part of a mixed-metal subtheme. “A little sheen goes a long way, and mixing metals in warm and cool tones yields the best result,” Kathryn says. The lighting piece ties back to the brass banding on the living room console, the brushed nickel kitchen hardware and the gold stars that twinkle on the nursery wallpaper, while brass accents on the master bedroom’s white lacquer nightstands continue the theme.
Refreshed for modern living, the residence exudes a personal quality only family could provide. “Obviously, we know each other well,” Nick says of the team, “so Ariele and I knew their approach would be consistent with ours.” An equally pleased daughter-in-law adds, “I loved seeing how the mix of antiques and newer pieces came together. It just feels like home.”