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Live in a 1930s Art Moderne Masterpiece for $499,900

A Gold Coast condo in the Fisher Studio Houses has dramatic curves, 1,400 square feet, and a ton of glass block.

The incredible 1936 structure.   Photo: Courtesy Related Realty

Price: $499,900

Bumping into the Fisher Studio Houses on State Street just north of Dearborn Division is like witnessing a mirage. Narrow, short, and bone white, the gentle glide of the glass block-pocked façade resembles nothing else in the Gold Coast—or all of Chicago.

The 1936 building has a dozen duplex units, and one the best-situated and most expertly renovated condos just hit the market for $499,900. It’s a 1,400-square-foot one-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom space facing State, the only unit with entrances off the sidewalk and the courtyard. “Because you don’t have to walk down a hallway to get to your unit, it kind of has a freestanding feel,” says listing agent Kathleen Malone of Related Realty.

The duplex space had two bedrooms until a previous owner combined them into a bedroom/den duo totaling about 440 square feet. Taking up most of the second floor, the bedroom draws two stunning columns of natural light from open double-height atriums above the dining and living areas, each with glass block window walls.

Rounded edges, often to cartoonish effect, are part of the thematic genius of this condo and the building, which drew on Eurpean modernism—the work of architect and Gold Coast favorite Andrew Rebori. It’s a tight Art Moderne package, made more expressive by bursts of handcrafted tile and brick ornamentation by artist Edgar Miller. The project was commissioned in 1936 by Frank Fisher, Jr, a Marshall Field’s executive, and he originally lived in the rear triplex.

Adam Morris bought the listed unit in 2012 “because I loved the space, and I’d never seen anything like it. Everything’s just so artistic and subtle and intelligent.” He works in finance but is “making a gradual transition” to a life in design. As great a place as this is, there’s no yard or garage in which to set up a workshop.

Morris has made a few key changes to the space in less than two years of ownership. The main level’s oak floors are hand-scraped and wire-brushed with planks of varying widths; the kitchen has all new appliances and polished concrete countertops; there’s a new HVAC system; and non-VOC paint was used for the unit’s mellow blue walls.

The aptitude for furnishing is clear—every piece is a perfect complement to interior finishes in its own way. “It was my main occupation for a few months; I spent easily 100 hours online scouting pieces and taking measurements,” says Morris. Most of the furniture is from Salvage One and Urban Remains. The hanging art, mostly prints, fits well also.

“All the bedroom treatments are Alessandra Branca for Schumacher—she’s a color genius.”

The building went condo in 2000, and waves of renovations have greeted many of the units since. The spaces share Rebori’s fine sculpting and a similar layout, but some are more in need of updates or are hobbled by size. From what I’ve seen, today’s for-sale unit and the oversized triplex are the real prizes.

Price Points: The condo was marketed at the same price in June 2012, and sold to Morris in September 2012 for $440,000. There’s no private outdoor space, but residents share a common courtyard and a set of umbrella tables. Monthly assessments are $652 and cover insurance, maintenance, and water.

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