Dara Levy’s spirit animal, she says, is a hummingbird. It’s the only bird that can fly forward, backward, and upside down, or hover in space, all while beating its wings so fast it makes a buzzing sound.
As Levy explains this, the connection becomes clear. Her train of thought skitters among topics: her two grown daughters; the provenance of a painting or tile; the two residences she owns in the Chicago area, plus a swath of lakefront they’ll be building on soon. Finally, she settles on the origin story of her exfoliating tool, Dermaflash. In 2009, weeks after opening a Gold Coast medical spa and selling thousands of dermaplane facials—a means of removing fine hair with a surgical scalpel—Levy had an aha moment in the shower: Why wasn’t there a tool for home use that could take the peach fuzz off women’s faces, leaving a smooth, dewy surface? By the end of 2015, Levy had sold the spa and brought her product to market; it has since become a top-selling beauty device at Sephora and Neiman Marcus. Last year, Levy hawked more than 30,000 units in one day on QVC.
But timing can be a bitch, and at the same moment Dermaflash was exploding, Levy was signing on an Oak Street condo in the Gold Coast. “I was just going to redo the kitchen and the master bath, but the next thing I knew, I’d taken down every wall,” she says. Her attention diverted, what should have been a quick rehab turned into a year-and-a-half overhaul that was finally completed in February. And since infomercial juggernaut Guthy-Renker just invested in Dermaflash, this hummingbird won’t have much spare time to finish furnishing her pied-à-terre.
Where once stood a foyer wall is now nothing but open, clean-lined space, with views of the old Esquire Theater and the lake. The hallway leading to the kitchen shimmers with paint that mimics Venetian plaster; the polished concrete floors—poured over the building’s original marble—possess an industrial-chic sheen. Every surface begs to be touched: the bouclé fabric by Holly Hunt wrapping a living room sofa, the pounded-metal legs of a wood dining table, even the pebble-shaped lights hanging over a quartz-topped kitchen island like jewelry. In the master bathroom, a particularly enticing quartzite runs along the double vanity and the shower and even beneath the tub. “The objective is not to notice any one thing, but to allow the sum of the parts to tell a great story,” says Levy. Look closely, though, and every surface reveals an obsessively chosen texture.
Levy admits to furnishing “without a lot of purpose.” For the master bedroom, she ordered six different light fixtures before settling on one, an LED moon pendant from ABC Carpet & Home. She consigned five rugs from Mansour in Los Angeles but sent back four. The entire kitchen was built around tiles she found locally at Exquisite Surfaces. RH, Miele, Marc Chagall–style gouache pieces—Levy is agnostic when it comes to brands and confident enough to mix high and low, largely without the help of a decorator. This, of course, all takes up precious time. “I have an attention to detail that I wish I didn’t,” she admits. “It’s exhausting.”
Fortunately, Levy and her husband, Richard, a South African–born financier (whose teenage son from a previous marriage lives at the condo part-time), have the optimal spot to unwind: their enormous terrace. “We bought the apartment for the balcony,” says Levy, and that outdoor space gets plenty of use. Its sofa and two large chairs are where she fields phone calls, conducts meetings, and sits with her husband while he smokes cigars (there’s a humidor built into a kitchen wall). “Even when it’s cold, we’ll go out there and snuggle under faux fur blankets.”
Levy’s home couldn’t be more appropriate for someone whose career has been staked on an obsessive attention to detail. When she finds a moment, she’ll learn to use the lights, shades, shower, toilet, and TV (“It’s a smart home, and I still live like it’s 1982”) and will settle into her stunning surroundings. But in all the directions this hummingbird flies—and with an infomercial to make by February—that could take months. “Once I’m onto the next thing, I forget all about the last one.”