I fell in love with Chicago on my first visit. Greedily absorbing the intricate architectural details block after block, my camera documented ironwork elegance, stone and brick. A city built on boom and commerce. In 1833 Mark Twain said, “It is hopeless for the occasional visitor to try to keep up with Chicago. She outgrows his prophecies faster than he can make them.”
Hidden inside some of those outstanding buildings are residential interiors documented in a new book produced by Jan Parr and other the editors of Chicago Home + Garden a bimonthly publication of Chicago magazine. Not that Chicago Spaces: Inspiring Interiors focuses especially on small homes. To the contrary, most are actually much larger. But because many spaces in older structures are typically built on the scale of another era, there are many ideas that will inspire. Many of the spaces are quite tiny. What I particularly like is what Jan Parr has to say about what is unique to Chicago homeowners. “Chicagoans live through extreme seasons, and we like to enjoy the nice weather when we’ve got it. So we might spend much of the summer on a deck, terrace, or front porch, then move into the living room for fall and winter. We’re not afraid to change up accessories depending on the season.”
As we stare winter in the face this is awfully sound advice. This is spot on advice especially when you have limited space. I have always advised that readers rotate art and accessories first to be able to use all of your treasures and next to keep your environment fresh and uncluttered. Richness and comfort blend artfully in this Lincoln Park sitting room designed by Arden Nelson which cannot be more than twelve feet wide. Proof that you can indeed paint your walls a deep color and get away with it, notice that the ceiling, woodwork and windows are nearly white. The floor and fireplace surround are also nearly white and this is reinforced by the two Mid-century looking lounge chairs that flank the fireplace. Just the right touches of Chinese red accents speak to the warm tones in the Oriental rug and the entire space is anchored by the wood trunk placed in front of the large window. A Moorish lamp and ethnic pillows add just a pinch of the exotic.
This book has some other ideas that are unusual such as interior designer Todd Haley hanging curtains over books in the library of a Lincoln Park apartment and a loft bed with a door to a cool secret compartment built by architect Chris Talsma in his son’s bedroom. Architect Kathryn Quinn designed a built-in walnut bed that is made up of a frame, a headboard, nightstand and a low storage bench that meld into one completely unified and gorgeous unit that runs wall to wall. Most people get design ideas by looking through magazines and books, the internet and other specialty periodicals. I can recommend this book published by Agate Publishing, Inc. of Evanston, Illinois that sells at $45. A book is a great and easily portable gift this holiday season. If you are strapped for cash and can’t afford a brand new book, visit your local used bookstore, Goodwill or other charity shops. Inspiration is the beginning of all design concepts and it seems fitting that a book about a city that burned to the ground and then rebuilt is a fitting place to start.
Photo Credit: Reprinted with permission from Chicago Spaces, Agate Surrey, 2011