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High Art

Just off the Magnificent Mile, two collectors transform a space formerly occupied by the French restaurant Ciel Bleu into a duplex penthouse with views from every room—home is where the art is.

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In the foyer, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat hangs across from a cantilevered staircase. The checkerboard surface is by Carl Andre, and above a console by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann is Migrant Mother, a Depression-era photograph by Dorothea Lange.

 

Even though the clients are collectors, they did not want a loftlike feeling. “We live alone,” she says. “We didn’t need huge rooms, but we needed space to hang art, a place that felt comfortable.” They wanted to avoid the long, narrow hallways that are typical of vintage apartments. There were also a number of inherent challenges that had to be dealt with-the floors were five inches out of level, and the shape of the building was skewed, quirks that were resolved by the architects and the structural engineer. Among the owners and the design team, the sense of possibility always trumped any temporary setbacks. The property was clearly a prize.

Not long after she bought the space, the client asked the architect John Vinci of Vinci/Hamp if her windows could be larger. During the conversion to condominiums, the developer of the landmark building had hired Vinci to restore the exterior and redesign the lobby. Since the rooftop property was an addition, it was not subject to the historical precedents that applied to the rest of the building. “I didn’t do anything magical,” Vinci says. “I just made the proportion of glass to masonry larger. It was no big deal.”

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