When dreaming of their retirement roost, few people envision its location as a former parking garage. And yet, for a recently retired couple who moved from Dallas to Chicago to be closer to family, a converted 1930s Art Deco building with streamlined, contemporary interiors proved to be exactly what they were looking for. “They didn’t want to buy in a high-rise, but they didn’t want the upkeep of a single-family home,” explains design principal Jessica Lagrange. The happy medium? A two-story unit in the converted Lincoln Park historical building that had the feel of a single-family home but with the ease of a residential building. There was also an added enticement: two outdoor terraces—a rarity for buildings of its kind in the city—with floor-to-ceiling windows that drenched the interiors with natural light.
Embracing the freedom that comes with new beginnings, the couple decided to try a different design aesthetic from the one they’d had in their suburban Texas home. “They wanted to be a littler hipper. They wanted us to push them a little bit and go outside of their box,” says Lagrange, who, along with design director Jennifer Durand and interior designer Jennifer Sucher, was brought on to infuse the space with personality. “They were looking to start fresh.”
So, aside from some select artwork and antique pieces, the couple brought very few things with them. While they were willing to indulge their adventurous side, they were still minimalists at heart. And that meant certain things, such as elaborate patterns and bold colors, would be pushing them a little too far outside the box. “They really liked more organic textures and weren’t big on pattern,” notes Durand. “Everything is pretty much a solid, so we added interest by using chunkier knits and different materials.” Mohair, velvet and metals such as burnished brass bring warmth to the space, while the sleek geometric forms of lamps and side tables keep it feeling fresh and modern. A sculptural black-and-brass chandelier provides a counter to the master bedroom’s softer, feminine tones, while the chandelier over the dining table echoes the clean lines of the building’s interior.
Since the wife was easing her way into retirement and planned to continue doing some consulting, she needed a home office. Situated on the second floor, where she could take phone calls away from the TV in the husband’s first-floor den, the office is one of the residence’s bolder spaces, featuring jewel-tone walls and statement accessories as well as a Moroccan rug, African stool and assorted other items collected from the globe-trotting couple’s travels.
More visual surprise resides in its petite powder room, where a vibrant graphic print adorns the walls. “This is truly the one place in the home that they really allowed us to go a little bit crazier and bring in that pattern,” says Durand. “And because it was such a small powder room, it was fun to use such a big and kind of overscale print in that space, playing with the different proportions.” Adds Lagrange, “It was a push for them, but because it was behind a door, they trusted us.”
To strike a balance with the contemporary interior architecture and tie into the building’s Art Deco roots, the design team sourced one-of-a-kind antiques and works by regional artisans. Custom vintage furnishings paired with modern variations on midcentury classics gracefully segment the large living room into a series of more intimate spaces, among them a cozy seating arrangement in front of the ribbon fireplace that makes long Chicago winters bearable for the Texas couple.
But during the city’s warm summer days, the two outdoor spaces, which flow off the kitchen and living room, are where the couple spends their time. Landscape designer Jayson DeGeeter drew his color themes for terraces from Lagrange’s organic interior palette. Using ipe decking and glazed terra-cotta pots filled with shrubs and perennials, DeGeeter says he was also inspired by the owners’ love of the nearby lake. “Combined with the texture and colors of the glazed pots, the plants selected for each terrace—juniper, rugosa rose, calamagrostis, cotoneaster—call upon a visit to Lake Michigan,” he says.
There is another member of the household who also enjoys the outdoor space: the couple’s pooch. In fact, their beloved dog played an important role in the interiors as well. Performance fabrics were used throughout and a dog shower was installed in the mudroom, a charming touch that reflects the couple’s fresh outlook on life. It’s that open-armed approach that made the project so compelling in the first place. “She wanted it to be very eclectic,” says Lagrange. “I think that definitely reflects her taste.”