Sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. That’s what interior designer Lauren Lozano Ziol decided after looking at the plans her architect had drawn up for converting her 1880s Lincoln Park graystone into a modern house. “I knew the existing structure was quirky—the rooms were small, the layout was strange—but gutting it was going to be expensive, and I didn’t want to live in a modern box,” she says. “I have an old soul.”

So she set about making sure her new home would have one, too. For starters, she ditched the architect’s plans and left the house’s creaky old bones alone. The four-level structure had a small apartment on the first floor (she decided to convert that space into a family room and play area) and a modest entryway that led to a gracious second-floor living room and library. The third floor had a kitchen, dining room, and one bedroom (which her boys, ages five and ten, would share). The fourth floor held a master suite.

She could work with this floor plan. It was the ultra-dated decor—pink and gray tiles in one bathroom, an oval island topped with pink granite in the kitchen—that had to go. “I wanted to bring Old World elegance back to this space,” Ziol says.

Beneath that unfortunate ’80s makeover, the house still had the right stuff: 12-foot ceilings throughout; a gorgeous marble fireplace and huge windows with their original oak shutters in the living room; distinctive mahogany-paneled walls in the library. Even the oak floorboards, laid diagonally and stained a “hideous yellow,” had potential. Ziol had them stripped and covered with a clear layer of polyurethane; the cerused quality “gives them an old, Parisian feel,” she says.

The real transformations were the result of Ziol’s strictly edited color palette and furniture choices. She used black (dining room walls, library paneling), gray (built-in bookshelves in the living room), and white (pretty much everything else) as her base colors. Peacock blue was her cherry on top, plopped strategically in various rooms—in velvet-upholstered stools from Mattaliano in the living room, for example, and in bold floral Osborne & Little wallpaper in the powder room.

Throughout the house, the furniture looks as if it’s all at least 100 years old and imported from Europe. Some of it—such as the French Empire mahogany daybed that sets a tone of repose in the living room—actually is. Other pieces, whether new, vintage, or designed by Ziol herself, play along nicely. An elegant dining table with a bronze-finished forged-steel base and a travertine top from Ziol’s furniture line is flanked by $395 benches from Z Gallerie. “I fell in love with antique benches that cost thousands of dollars, but then I saw these and thought, ‘Why spend extra money when it’s not necessary?’” she says.

Taking a practical approach and allowing a romantic streak to cut through it is what Ziol finally realized was the right tack for her and her family. “I had to be true to myself with this house,” she says. “And I’m so glad I was.”


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Designer: Lauren Lozano Ziol, Contractor: Cory Jeans, CJ Construction, 773-206-8914. Living room: Sofa, Jonathan Adler, Sofa upholstery, Holland & Sherry, Coffee table and benches, Mattaliano, Artwork behind sofa, John Duckworth, Michael Mitchell Gallery, Kitchen: Saarinen table and Philippe Starck chair, Design Within Reach, Pillow, Hermès, Chandelier, Z Gallerie, Dining room: Table, Lauren Lozano Ziol. Benches, Z Gallerie. Wallpaper, Silvergate, Farrow & Ball, Master bedroom: Wallpaper, Farrow & Ball. Headboard, custom by Vito’s Upholstery, Master bathroom: Tub, Floor tile, Ann Sacks, Mirror, Nadeau, Kids’ room: Bunk bed, Sheepskin rug, Room & Board, Powder room: Cabinets, custom by Lauren Lozano Ziol. Wallpaper, Osborne & Little, Upstairs hallway: Artwork, Ye-Eun Whang, Sculpture, Golden Triangle,