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High Art

Just off the Magnificent Mile, two collectors transform a space formerly occupied by the French restaurant Ciel Bleu into a duplex penthouse with views from every room—home is where the art is.

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No two figures in Guy Limone’s AIDS memorial work are the same.


From the entryway of this duplex penthouse in a lakefront high-rise, the view-down a wide hallway and through the living room-is from here to eternity, and on days when the sky is blue and the clouds are cumulus, the mood is light and buoyant. From 1980 to 1993, the space, a rooftop addition to the Mayfair Regent Hotel, was occupied by the French restaurant Ciel Bleu. Even before that establishment closed and developers began converting the building to condominiums, the current owner, an art collector who prefers not to be named, had been tracking the property. A determined visionary, she saw herself at the top of the gracious vintage building, on the best block in the city, with expansive interiors and multiple outdoor gardens.

Commercial spaces had always appealed to her. “They were more creative because they didn’t have a self-conscious person saying residentially, domestically, I could never do that,” she says. Halfway through the project, she married another art collector; together, from their previous marriages, they have six children and 12 grandchildren. For years, she had collected ceramics, modern and contemporary paintings, sculpture, and antique furniture. His interests were modern paintings and works on paper, African sculpture, art glass, and snuff bottles. They both owned photographs, by such masters as Brassaï, Weegee, and Man Ray. “So it was a good match,” the husband says. After the couple married, they sold some work and began collecting together-among their new acquisitions were major paintings by Yves Klein and Cy Twombly and, on a smaller scale, more than 100 enameled cigarette cases.

She was more intimately involved with the initial space planning than he, and willing to experiment to find the best solutions. A friend suggested making temporary walls out of white cardboard to study the effect of different placements. “That gave us an idea of light, shadow, room sizes, of how we would walk through the apartment,” she says. “And I think we got it right.”

Making sure that happened were Dan Wheeler, a principal of Wheeler Kearns Architects, and the project architect, Mark Spencer, along with the interior designers Leslie Jones and Nina Wong from Leslie Jones & Associates. A number of factors, Wheeler says, make the project successful. “The building is beautifully situated, and good decisions were made in terms of maximizing what the site had to offer.” The variation in ceiling heights from a low of six feet eight inches in the private areas to 11 feet in the public rooms creates a contrast that makes the spaces memorable, as do the artwork and the enviable outdoor access. “You have very caring clients,” Wheeler says, “who appreciate architecture, art, and material possessions.”

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