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List Price: $1.95 million
The Property: When Herbert Greenwald commissioned Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to design what would become two path-breaking buildings at 860/880 N. Lake Shore Drive, he reserved a premium apartment for himself on the southeast corner of 860’s 25th floor, with a spectacular view out over the Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. A few decades later, after the building had become co-ops, Nancy Hornak and Eric Schwartz doubled down on that view.
Doubled up, actually. In the late 1980s, the couple bought both that corner on both the 25th and 26th floors and created what’s now the only two-level home in the pair of buildings. The two levels are “zoned” as separate adult and family spaces, connected by a sculptural stainless steel staircase. The staircase and the rest of the renovation were done in the early 1990s by architect Ron Krueck. Krueck is best known for later, more public works like the Spertus Museum, but this private residence is a showcase of his skills with light, space, and details. It’s known as the Stainless Steel Apartment, not only for the staircase but for many other stainless steel accents in the design that complement the original stainless steel window framing.
Krueck designed virtually everything in the living room. A settee placed for looking out east over the view is part of a long built-in unit that becomes a larger couch along one side of the conversation space. Even the large area rug that defines the living room is a Krueck design. (The home is being sold with all built-in and some movable furnishings intact.) The living room is a key part of the “zoning” within the home. It’s adjacent to the master bedroom and bath and to an office, and thus serves the purpose, Hornak notes, of the sitting room in a master suite.
The master bedroom is surrounded in walls that Krueck designed but Mies could have; they pick up the earlier architect’s concept of panels or volumes that appear to slide across one another. The wall of bookcases on the way into the master bedroom looks as if a person slid it into place atop a lower wall. Krueck also extended the transparency of the buildings, using glass panels to conceal the master bath and the office, and using a terrazzo floor that contains reflective bits of glass.
The other two bedrooms are a flight down, on the 25th floor, along with two more full baths, a large family room or play room, and the dining room and kitchen. The listing agent, Eugene Fu, notes that one of the bedrooms on this level is large enough to serve as a master bedroom for buyers who don’t want to be a full floor away from their young children.
Coming down the staircase between the two zones, you’ll find a clever way that the once-separate apartments were knitted together: a series of pieces made of different materials all connect, from the living room couch to the staircase and on to a lush wooden box that serves as a landing, a granite-topped banquette, a taller sideboard, and even the dining room table. “It’s like living in a three-dimensional artwork,” Hornak says.
The sideboard is what counts as a chandelier: Its three vertical panels all light up, but gently. It’s part of the subdued palette of the interior—which seems to be based on the assorted colors you’d see out on Lake Michigan in its different moods. There are a few pops of bright color, including a long red bar above the stairs and the exuberantly patterned granite of the kitchen island.
The kitchen, placed along the interior side of the floorplan, benefits from more of those transparent touches: vertical glass fins screen it from other rooms while at the same time opening it up to the view. Most of the storage and appliances here are stainless steel—which seemed just right on the gray day we visited, because it brought the color of Lake Michigan’s mood right into the condo.
Price Points: The couple, whose two children are grown, plan to move to a smaller condo in the same building. They put this unique place on the market Monday. In the other building of the pair, 880 N. Lake Shore Drive, a different kind of combo with a similar reverence for Mies sold last November for $1.7 million.
Thumbnail image on chicagomag.com courtesy Krueck / Sexton.