A Perfect Mix Of Neutrals Yields Ultra Luxe Interiors In Chicago


A white console table with...

The entry of the condo, painted in Benjamin Moore’s Cape May Cobblestone, announces the crisp, monochromatic palette designer Gemma Parker used throughout. She placed a Circa Lighting lamp on a console table and custom stools with Edelman Leather-covered seats underneath.

A white bookcase and cabinets.

Parker collaborated with O’Brien Harris on the hallway’s millwork. While the built-in structure looks like a bookcase, it in fact conceals a bar with the glassware hidden behind decorative metal grilles and wine and bottle storage below.

A seating area with a...

Sculptural forms acquired through Armand Lee stand out against the guest room’s dusty-blush Phillip Jeffries wallcovering. A custom convertible sofa in a Pierre Frey fabric, paired with a set of custom ottomans, means the space is multifunctional.

Gray cabinetry with glass doors...

Even the home’s small spaces have plenty of visual impact. In the pantry, Parker covered the ceiling in a Schumacher wallpaper and painted the cabinetry, fabricated by O’Brien Harris, Farrow & Ball’s Worsted. The Calacatta marble speaks to the subtle use of pattern the designer employed to animate neutral spaces.

A dining room with a...

In the dining room, a Murano glass chandelier from Jean-Marc Fray French Antiques in Austin, Texas, casts a glow over the custom metal-inlaid walnut table. Seating comes from a set of chairs in an updated klismos style upholstered in a Romo fabric.

A bedroom with a gray...

To create a serene oasis in the main bedroom, the designer turned to Simes Studios for a cloud-like custom mural behind the bed. Parker layered in subtle texture and pattern, including Great Plains fabrics for the tufted headboard and lumbar pillow. For a dash of sparkle, she added a Robert Abbey hanging fixture from Lightology

A women's closet with a...

The antique mirror at the top of the island beautifully reflects the chandelier and the light in the space,” Parker says of the wife’s closet. A marble wallcovering by Lewis & Wood, which Parker chose to use on the ceiling, enhances the jewel-box feeling. A nickel-finished ladder allows access to the upper cabinets.

A balcony seating area overlooking...

Parker brought the same fresh, neutral palette found in the rest of a Chicago condo on to the expansive terrace. For an intimate seating area, she arranged an RH chair and sofa, both in Perennials fabrics and accented with pillows in a Schumacher material, around a custom firepit by Boulevard Concrete.

At the start of every project, designer Gemma Parker asks clients for images that inspire them—a move she uses to take their aesthetic temperature. For a Chicago couple looking to make a home in a new high-rise, their images didn’t so much reference a particular look as much as a color, or, to be more precise, a lack thereof. “The styles of the images varied, but the palettes were all neutral,” Parker says.

Of course, a monochromatic direction brings a particular set of challenges. “When you go that way, you can either go clean and fresh or kind of muddy,” she notes. As you probably guessed, Parker chose the former. She saw another challenge, as well: Using the same color throughout, she notes, “can feel too solid.” The key to her success lay in finding just the right mix of neutrals and weaving in a range of textures and silhouettes for depth.

As Parker was locking in her ideal palette, she came across the ideal combination of cool gray shades. “When we begin a project, we always look for a grounding piece that becomes a thread,” says the designer. She found what she was looking for in the form of an ombre silk Phillip Jeffries wallcovering. Parker hung it in the powder room—which, at first, may seem like an odd jumping-off point. But the logic becomes obvious as the tones, ranging from a graphite shade to a pale, moody gray, lace through the condo. “I love the way you can initiate a palette from a singular piece,” she explains. “And, if that palette is cohesive, you don’t feel stuck. You want your eye to be drawn out. You want your eye to travel. Especially when there are nice views.” And thanks to its enormous patio, the condo serves up plenty of those.

Against the subtle backdrop, textural flourishes abound. In the guest room (which easily converts into a den), floors are covered in a pebble-textured carpet that picks up the dusty-blush tones of the grass-cloth wallcovering. A glazed linen on the ottomans bestows sheen and bounces the light pouring in. In the main bedroom, Parker anchored the space with a mural of clouds behind the tufted headboard and placed a plush carpet composed of high and low pile on the floor. It is, she observes, “ethereal.”

Parker also took care to switch up silhouettes on the furnishings to activate spaces. “It was important that the pieces spoke to one another but that they also held their own and felt unique,” she shares, pointing to square-arm detail on the living room’s generous sectional that’s balanced by the rounded form of the adjacent tub chair, the fluted detail on a side table and tufting on the ottoman. The move served a purpose beyond giving dimension to the room—with 12-foot-high ceilings, a range of forms and sizes ensure things didn’t feel out of scale or too horizontal.

It wasn’t just Parker’s savvy play with tones, shapes and textures that allow the spaces to sing. Blessed with a raw space, she could craft a tailor-made foundation from scratch and amp up the visual interest. For high contrast, she chose a mocha-hued stain for the oak flooring laid in a herringbone pattern in the main rooms that stands out dramatically against the moody grays. Strong architectural moves also played into her vision. “Arches were important to the wife, so we made sure to incorporate them,” she says. “They delineate the space of the entry from the living room, creating visual separation but are also a classic architectural element.”

Reinforcing the space’s rhythm is a stylish bar, but one whose function isn’t obvious. Instead, Parker designed it to hide behind casework and look to the unwitting observer like a stylish built-in bookcase. Similarly, a cocktail pantry feels like a jewel box, with floor-to-ceiling millwork in a steel gray and crowned with a marble-pattern covering overhead. “It’s an organic, playful addition that makes it feel special,” she notes.

The same could be said for the entire home. Spaces that, in the hands of another, might have been lifeless are, instead, compelling and soothing. “We worked on this for two years,” recalls the designer, “and making it exactly what the clients desired was a complete joy.”