The furniture—much of it custom designed by Todd Webb at Dirk Denison, echoes the larger design of the apartment and can be easily adapted to many situations. In the family room, the coffee table/seating pieces come together as a multilevel coffee table (complete with drawer and hidden storage). They can be pushed apart and into corners when the owners entertain. ::: view gallery
How do you redefine a 1920s co-op that hasn’t changed significantly since it was built and that has been home to a family of seven for more than 30 years?
Such was the dilemma faced by Meryl Lyn and Chuck Moss, a pair of adventurous empty nesters. When they moved into their 4,000-square-foot Streeterville apartment way back when, it was just what they needed for their growing family—plenty of space, including six bedrooms. Except for a kitchen remodel, they didn’t change a chair rail, dentil, or doorknob during that time.
When the youngest of their five children moved out 11 years ago, the Mosses decided it was time for something new—six bedrooms were too much. Yet the couple didn’t want to sell their home, which is close to the lake, a block away from the Magnificent Mile, and four blocks from their offices. Both work full-time—Meryl Lyn is owner of a water cooler company; her husband owns an online wholesale pricing source for tires. They often entertain their 11 grandchildren, four of whom live in California. Chuck likes to fix things and take photographs; Meryl Lyn enjoys collecting art. They both love traveling and try to take two major trips overseas a year.
Meryl Lyn, who wanted a streamlined apartment with a meditative feeling, learned about architect Dirk Denison from a mutual friend. After talking to Denison, she decided he could create the Zen-like space she wanted. “He doesn’t do cookie-cutter homes,” she says. “He listens to the people he designs for.”
Photograph: Alan Shortall
Custom cabinetry designed by Todd Webb includes this banquette with hidden storage, a hallmark of modern design. “You want things close by, but out of the way when you don’t need them,” he says. The series of photographs is by German/American artist Uta Barth. ::: view gallery
DENISON HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR that the Mosses didn’t want to move during construction, so he worked in stages, starting with the kitchen. Created from space formerly occupied by the old kitchen and three small closets, the room still looks new after 11 years, with English sycamore and stainless steel cabinetry, stainless appliances, back-painted glass walls, and black granite countertops. “There is no hardware along the whole wall,” Meryl Lyn says. “I wanted a clean look.”
Three years ago, they completed the renovation of the rest of the residence, having knocked down walls and reconfigured the space to create a home more in line with their current lifestyle. New and improved rooms include a spacious master bedroom and bath, a den, two offices, and a workshop for Chuck. They kept things streamlined with lots of built-ins, sliding doors, clever nooks for wires, and non-fussy curtains and shades.
Though completed in two parts, the rehab ap-pears seamless, thanks to certain recurring elements. Denison used the same quarter-sawn white oak floor and exotic cerejeira wood walls throughout the apartment. He installed sliding wood panels that can seal off areas such as the master bedroom, den, or offices without disrupting the flow of one room into the next. His firm also designed multifunctional built-ins and some neutral-colored furnishings. Finally, he helped the Mosses acquire artwork—splashes of color in an otherwise neutral apartment. “Dirk is an art collector himself,” says Meryl Lyn. He introduced her to the work of several up-and-coming artists.
The family room, a popular place to watch television and hang out with the grandchildren, is as understated as the rest of the home. A few pieces of art hang on white walls; the two windows have simple white wooden blinds. A massive but sleek cabinet keeps the television out of sight when not in use. Denison’s associate partner, Todd Webb, designed a leather and suede chair, a banquette with storage, and tables where youngsters can play games or eat.
The family room connects to the hallway, which has a setback for a ledge that holds an African carving and other treasures and a closet that hides Chuck’s compact, meticulously organized workshop. A simple but dramatic light fixture runs down the middle of the hall ceiling, ending at a 100-year-old door from Bali that hangs at the far end.
Photograph: Alan Shortall
Though completed long before the rest of the apartment was renovated, the kitchen is a perfect match. ::: view gallery
One of the most ingenious features of the apartment resulted from Denison’s idea of adding glass and wood cabinetry to a load-bearing column. Drawers provide storage for linens; a display case holds white porcelain vases by the Japanese artist Kuroda. The structure provides a graceful transition from the living room, den, and dining room to more personal living spaces, the master bedroom, and Meryl Lyn’s office.
“It’s an opportunity for the Mosses to show off something that’s important to them, a place for something unique and personal,” Denison says. The column is right outside Meryl Lyn’s office, where flowers, photos of the grandchildren, and an antique sterling silver college trophy sit on a Christian Liaigre desk. A daybed with a trundle underneath the window accommodates overnight guests. On the floor is a gray hand-woven cotton and linen carpet by Elizabeth Eakins. “I buy really good things that are hopefully timeless and will last,” Meryl Lyn says.
A wool carpet of similar color and weave covers the master bedroom floor, across from her office. The bed is by Denison, the white sheets by Pratesi (Meryl Lyn likes to wash and iron them herself). A time-lapse black and white photograph of a firefly in motion by Michael Flomen anchors one wall; a watercolor by Vietnamese artist Tam Van Tran fills the space over a modern radiator.
Having lived with her “new” co-op for more than three years now, Meryl Lyn remains pleased with the redesign. “I wanted a timeless look that would look just as good ten years from now,” she says. “I think Dirk accomplished that. It’s more difficult to create something simple. The result fits my lifestyle. I wanted a calm feeling, and that’s exactly what I got.”
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Photograph: Alan Shortall