A big glass box in the sky may be the current standard for luxury living, but back in the day, an apartment that read like a house was a sure sign of success. Large foyers, dining rooms that could comfortably seat 12, wood-paneled libraries with fireplaces — rooms, not views — were what it was all about. The lucky few got both. In Chicago, it didn’t get much better than the roof-filling penthouse at 1500 North Lake Shore Drive, now selling for $12 million.

Living room

This two-story, six-bedroom co-op sits atop a 25-story, 57-unit building designed by architect Rosario Candela in 1931. A Sicilian immigrant who studied architecture at Columbia University, Candela designed some of the most prestigious residential properties on New York’s Upper East Side, including 740 Park Avenue, where John D. Rockefeller enjoyed a 37-room spread. At 8,000 square feet, this home is just over a third the size of Rockefeller’s, but with a 39-foot-long walnut-paneled gallery, a living room with a 20-foot ceiling, and a dining room Charles Foster Kane might envy, who’s counting?

The 18-room property includes an exercise room, a game room, an office, and a study-like space complete with wet bar. Designed in a style evocative of an Italian villa, it is graced with coffered ceilings, frescoes, hand-carved doors, and extravagantly tiled bathrooms. A long gallery overlooking the living room is backed by an elaborate grille of carved and turned millwork.


The unit presents like a stately home, with 5,000 square feet of outdoor space. Terraces flank two sides of the penthouse, while a loggia and lawn (complete with fountain) afford a panoramic view over Lake Michigan. Inside and out, you’re sitting pretty.