From knickknacks purchased for a song at flea markets to important works by Chicago artists, Jenni Gordon and her husband, M. Scott Gordon, are collectors of pieces both large and small.
It began when they started dating in New York in the ’80s and planned a trip to Boston. “We bought a salt-and-pepper-shaker set,” Jenni explains. “I said, ‘If we end up breaking up, you can take the pepper and I’ll take the salt.’ ”
They did not break up, instead marrying and moving to Jenni’s hometown of Chicago nearly three decades ago, where she became a real estate broker and they occupied a series of homes in the city and suburbs with their two sons, now grown.
The collecting continued. “If one is good, 40 is better,” Scott jokes.
When a roomy 3,800-square-foot condo became available in a 1920s building in Lake View in 2014, the Gordons decided to buy, even though they hadn’t been looking. The neglected bank-owned property would require an extensive rehab, but its ideal location and grand-scale rooms would make the inconvenience worth it in the end.
They hired Laura Basich, principal of LBD, for help with the face-lift. Basich’s first step was to create an inventory of the couple’s much-loved collection, which includes folk art, circus items, vintage toys, word-based art, and some 87 salt-and-pepper-shaker sets.
To keep the art works from overwhelming the space, she grouped like pieces together for maximum visual impact. Because nearly every surface was touched during the rehab, she was able to carve out distinctive display areas. “Everything came together so nicely in this project,” Basich says. “Jenni and I were on the same page and were able to find homes for everything.”
In the foyer, a colorful console displays a group of carnival knockdown toys. Wheels of fortune color the walls, which are capped by a cove ceiling covered in textured wallpaper by Elitis. A vintage Pace lucite étagère in the dining room that once belonged to Jenni’s parents now houses German circus clowns, ice-fishing decoys, and vintage toys.
The modern kitchen is warmed by the reclaimed wood on the island and the floor-to-ceiling glazed cupboards that hold serving items. Wooden shelves near the range provide the perfect spot for the numerous sets of shakers, including that first pair the couple purchased (shaped like lobster claws). Other elements include custom white cabinetry and marbled gray-and-white quartz countertops.
Rooms were furnished with a combination of new furniture and pieces the couple already owned, such as a pair of midcentury Russell Woodard patio chairs that once graced the garden of a previous Gordon home in Glencoe. They were sprayed silver and placed in the living room next to a Warren Platner occasional table.
As often happens when working in vintage Chicago spaces, building constraints dictated the placement of some elements. Basich used drapery to disguise an unsightly fire escape outside the master bedroom and created a tile wall and bathtub focal point to draw the eye away from a commode marooned in the center of the master bath, which could not be moved.
Bathrooms are spa-like, using texture and natural materials to evoke calm and provide a contrast to the fun and lively vibe found in other rooms. A powder room for guests features Carrara marble walls and floor and a vessel sink with gold fixtures.
Living life surrounded by the items they cherish injects every day with a sense of quirkiness and fun. Says Scott: “Laura’s projects always look pulled together, but she allows the personalities of the people who live there to shine through.”
Interior design:Laura Basich Design, laurabasichdesign.com. Dining room:Elitis wallpaper, Donghia, Merchandise Mart, donghia.com. Living room:Occasional table, Warren Platner, Design Within Reach, dwr.com. Coffee table, Yves Klein, vintage. Recycled-metal sculpture, Ron Cajigas. Louis Ghost chairs, Philippe Starck, Design Within Reach. Table, Eero Saarinen, Knoll, knoll.com. Artwork, Lee Godie, Carl Hammer Gallery, carlhammergallery.com. Kitchen:Real Good chairs, Blu Dot, bludot.com.