Modern Art And City Views Give A Posh Penthouse Serious Wow Factor

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living room with gold couches...

“I love classicism mixed with modernity with a little bit of edge,” says designer Donna Mondi. “If everything looks shiny and new we need to add some grittiness so it's more grounded. I don't want it to be ‘oh, look at this pretty place.’”

entryway with striped wallpaper

“It greets you as you walk in, so you’re not just in the living room right away,” says designer Donna Mondi of the foyer. The space features a geometric walnut table by Anees Upholstery, a Konekt horsehair stool and a whimsical ostrich table from Global Views.

round dining table, four gray...

The informal dining room is appointed with an EJ Victor table and a striking leather chandelier by Ngala Trading Co. “The views are so spectacular,” says the wife. “It feels like you’re on vacation even when you’re home.”

white kitchen with brown island...

Leather deAurora counter stools pull up to the sleek and sophisticated Ernestomeda kitchen, while Articolo pendants illuminate the island.

A long black dining table...

A large abstract painting from the couple’s personal collection anchors the formal dining room. Above the surfboard-topped table from The Bright Group hangs a smoked glass chandelier from Gabriel Scott.

home bar with views of...

A seat upon one of the three De Aurora stools at the custom bar by New Style Cabinets provides city views that rival those from any of Chicago’s rooftop restaurants.

A glass staircase. Behind it...

Next to the modern staircase, a striped Kravet wallcovering serves as a backdrop to Gerrit Rietveld’s iconic Zig-Zag chair and an accent table from Global Views.

A bed bed with a...

In the main bedroom, Mondi transformed plain drywall into an art wall with a reeded wood panel and layered the space with a Kravet-upholstered custom bed, sconces by Allied Maker and a bench by Irwin Feld Design for CF Modern.

Two swivel chairs with a...

A cozy seating area with chairs by Bernhardt covered in Thesign fabric and a Vivier Mongolian pouf from CF Modern serves as a spot for morning coffee. “It’s truly a sanctuary,” says the wife. “And the pouf is to-die for.”

Sometimes you just know what you want. For an empty-nester couple, that was a penthouse with floor-to-ceiling windows in a new 13-story boutique building just blocks from the Magnificent Mile. Engaged at the time, they were looking to trade their quiet Lincoln Park lifestyle for the bustling energy of downtown Chicago. This four-bedroom condominium provided plenty of room for their visiting children from their previous relationships and had all the luxury essentials, right down to a modern kitchen designed by Italian purveyor Ernestomeda.

But something was missing. They wanted custom touches that reflected their personal tastes (his, rock and roll; hers, feminine). Their vision: a powder room with a major wow factor, a serene bedroom suite with a reeded wood panel that includes a ledge for artwork, and designated entertaining zones—including an in-home bar for both gatherings and intimate date nights.

The wife, new to the Chicago area, realized she needed help bringing her design vision to life. After some intensive reconnaissance work, she selected designer Donna Mondi. “I did a deep dive and knew she was the one for us,” recounts the wife of discovering Mondi, who is known for her signature blend of classicism and edgy modernity—think a little bit of glam, a little bit of grit. “It was a gut thing. I was able to discuss my ideas with her and she was able to capture them.”

For Mondi, the feeling was mutual. “They had great energy, and this is a home that really was built for entertaining,” she says. The expansive views and building architecture naturally steered key design decisions like lighting, furniture scale and the contrasting palette of neutrals with pops of rich color. “With this being a new high-rise, it just felt like it needed to be modern,” she says, “but we wanted it to be really comfortable. A view like this is a huge design element.” To that end, low-profile yet sumptuously textured furniture, such as clean-lined sofas with a bit of shimmer and curvy velvet-upholstered dining chairs, add that elegance while not distracting from the view.

Mondi also considered what viewers would see from the outside. That meant a methodical balance of artwork and accessories that included a vintage Italian plaster bust, a curvaceous column-like sculpture and a brushed-brass chandelier with strands of black draped leather. “There needed to be a cool fixture there so that from the outside people are like, ‘Look at that unit,’ ” says Mondi.

The spirited couple, both avid art enthusiasts, sold their Lincoln Park residence fully furnished and arrived at the penthouse with nothing but personal belongings and two paintings by artist John La Huis (one was the first significant piece of artwork they acquired together; it now resides in the dining room). Aside from incorporating the paintings into the design, they had two non-negotiable items: that aforementioned glamorous powder room and a stand-alone bar.

“One of my favorite things is when you go to a hotel or restaurant bathroom and the design blows you away,” says the wife of the inspiration for the powder room. Using that as a jumping off point, Mondi layered it with a custom glass-and-blackened steel partition, dramatic ebony-hued wallpaper and a Brutalist-style mirror, which, the wife remarks, “reminds me of the magic mirror in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The bespoke bar with a fluted surround and marble bar top was inspired by one of Mondi’s previous design trips to Paris and the Girafe Restaurant there, which was designed by lauded architect Joseph Dirand. The cocktail area has quickly become another favorite spot in the home for quiet dinners for two and socially distanced cocktails with friends (the husband often acts as bartender serving up old-fashioneds, Vespers, Mezcal and—since it’s Chicago—shots of Malört). “We didn’t want it to be your basic basement bar,” says the wife. “We wanted it to be elegant and have a lot of character.”

Now settled into their carefully tailored home that checks off each and every item on their wish list, the couple has affectionately named the penthouse The Skybox. “It’s full of surprises and delights,” says Mondi. “I wanted people to walk in and just be enchanted. You’re surprised at every turn. That’s the magic of what we did here.”

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