The mohair sofa was custom made to curve into the bay, saving space and creating a soft line. Pillows covered with rich fabrics keep the elegance going. A slender Italian floor lamp and a mid-century bronze table with a smoky glass top add modernity to the space. Photo Gallery »
According to their interior designer, the young couple expecting their first child had no idea what they were getting into when they called her about a year ago after buying a ten-year-old house in Roscoe Village. “Their main request was a white kitchen: She wanted a La Cornue stove in it, he wanted a TV and a sofa,” recalls Michael Del Piero. “Words like ‘glamorous’ and ‘sophisticated’ were also thrown out, but otherwise they trusted me and handed it off.”
Del Piero knew exactly what she wanted—and didn’t want—in the space. “I couldn’t move forward without redoing the shell,” she says. Out went randomly placed sconces (“they were everywhere, but were actually lighting nothing”). Floors made of two different kinds of wood had to be unified as a seamless, espresso-stained surface. And the sage-green walls and shiny finish on golden-oak crown moldings and wainscoting had to go.
Del Piero envisioned a more urbane look, with painted moldings and woodwork—white on the ceiling trim and gray-brown on window moldings, wainscoting, and the fireplace surround and adjacent paneling. She held firm on the darker hue though “everyone thought it was weird to paint wood brown.”
The muted yet rich color scheme set the tone for the whole space. With pale gray walls—five or six different shades mixed to read as the same color throughout the house—Del Piero achieved the congruency she needed to move forward, and the place went from looking like new (but already dated) Chicago construction to a polished, European-style row house.
The next challenge was arranging furniture in the long, narrow living-dining room. Del Piero went for distinct seating areas. Two dramatic high-backed chairs in front of the fireplace, ideal for an intimate chat, can easily be moved to fill out a conversation group anchored by a sofa in the windowed bay.
A cozy dining area was born out of an irksome niche in the wall separating the front room from the kitchen. Del Piero installed a banquette there, filled the space above eye level with a large antique chandelier, and chose a dining table that can easily be expanded with a leaf when the homeowners entertain. The icing on the cake for the wife was the designer’s use of fabrics containing touches of gold and silver; for the husband, it was a rustic man cave downstairs.
It seems, after all, that this couple knew exactly what to expect when they hired Del Piero: beautiful solutions to problems they didn’t even realize they had.
1. In the master bedroom, Del Piero mixed old (an antique kilim textile mounted on linen serves as the headboard) and new (a glass table lamp by Roost and a flokati throw from Ikea). 2. Michelle Peterson-Albandoz, artist-owner of Las Manos gallery, made the wooden sculpture that rests on the landing, a focal point often overlooked. 3. An artist created texture on the powder room walls with a technique involving fringed burlap and clay plaster. Del Piero designed the dramatic zinc-framed mirror.
4. Designer Christine Julian created a spot to hang towels to the right of the farmhouse sink in the kitchen island. The custom chandelier (plaster over pipe) was inspired by a mid-century French light fixture.
Resources: See Buy Guide.
Photography: Nathan Kirkman