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Continental Cool

Designer Todd Haley creates a sophisticated haven for a French-born Lincoln Park resident

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In the open-plan living area, all the furniture is upholstered in the same lapis-colored fabric (Knoll’s Una). “I like using the same fabric on everything,” the designer says. “It unifies a multipurpose space like this.” See more photos in our gallery below.

The soigné vibe of this apartment is easily explained by the owner’s place of birth: France. When designer Todd Haley sat down for his first meeting with businesswoman Catherine Marisa, he says, his heart jumped a little. “She wanted a European take, very simple, a mix of antique and modern, high-end and inexpensive. That’s exactly what I do,” says Haley, who is known for his low-key chic style.

Marisa explains that though she had owned the apartment for four years and loves her tree-lined Lincoln Park neighborhood (“It reminds me of Europe”), she had never gotten around to decorating the place. When she and Haley began their overhaul, her furnishings consisted of a garden table and a Chesterfield sofa. She craved simplicity, but it had gotten ridiculous.

As is so often true with sublimely simple-looking things, the design for this 1,200-square-foot space tucked into a circa-1905 building took careful planning. For starters, Ma­risa says, “proportion and height are very important to me.”

Haley got it. “Everything is at 36 inches—the art rail, the backs of the furniture, the banquette pillows, the wall of the breakfast nook—it’s like the horizon running around the room,” he says. Even the dramatic Artemide Tolomeo sconces that add modern oomph to every room are all hung at exactly the same height. Marisa loves that kind of well-ordered detail. “In nature things are in perfect proportion,” she says. “I think it contributes to serenity.”

A whispery pale lavender palette underscores the calm. That color covers the walls in the open-plan living and dining area and sets off both the stainless steel tiles in the kitchen and miles upon miles of a rich slate-blue fabric. “I showed Catherine only one fabric,” Haley says of the Knoll textile used for pretty much all the upholstery in the living room. “The color looks like something she might wear.”

With his subtle background in place, Haley focused on showstopping details. He cites the iconic Maison de Verre in Paris—a 1932 house with an industrial grid façade—as inspiration for the glass-topped steel subway grate that serves as an entry console. A headboard in the master bedroom is a riff on a settee formerly in Pauline de Rothschild’s Parisian drawing room; the onyx-black den is a wry reference to French fumeurs, or smoking rooms, where proper gentlemen and ladies could retire for a postprandial puff. “Todd came up with the idea of using a Donald Sultan print of smoke rings for the wall,” Marisa says. “Of course I don’t smoke. It’s for relaxing; perhaps for a nap.”

All this sophistication doesn’t mean there’s no place for a galvanized steel feeding trough in the living room, though. “I keep firewood in it, and I love that it has dings,” says Marisa, who is clearly luxuriating in her refurbished digs. “It’s all so familiar. I grew up in a house like this—a mix of everything.”


Photography:  Alan Shortall 

Photo gallery


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