When a world-traveling couple who split their time between Europe and Florida reached out to Chicago design firm, , for a redesign of their Chicago apartment, they requested a comfortable space to flock to during the summer. The apartment—located in Lucien Lagrange’s Lincoln Park building—was a sterile white box lacking any real charm. With the exception of sprawling city views and some great moldings, the space was in need of a strong creative revival, which was carried out by Kristen Ekeland, principal of Studio Gild.
To an untrained eye, the couple’s goals were fairly simple: they wanted a light and airy urban retreat that was a departure from their other two homes. Ekeland knew that with her renovations, the unparalleled views of Lake Michigan and the city's skyline would be the star of the show, with interiors that offer a quieter sense of grandeur. Clean yet distinctive, the home's architectural details set the groundwork for a tactfully layered interior, where rich texture and varied finishes would play with the space’s traditional foundation. Materials including wool, leather, and velvet were used for many of the home’s furnishings; varying natural textures of mohair, braided wool, sheepskin, and linen were also woven in.
With a subdued palette that values texture over color, the homeowners were able to display their collected artifacts and artisan textiles without overwhelming the design. "We wanted to ensure that the pied-à-terre was contemporary while still offering many relaxing spots to enjoy the panoramic lake and city vistas," Ekeland says.
The first order of business was to remove outdated track lighting, making way for softer light through an assortment of fixtures. In the dining room, a Bourgeois Boheme pendant light was installed above the table. The banquette—inspired by a vintage Scandinavian sofa—was custom designed to fit the space. The clients’ aforementioned love of textiles informed the design of the dining area, with a rug from Oscar Isberian and constructed from vintage Indian sarees. Pillows on the banquette were made from a vintage fabric that the clients’ daughter found in the southern California desert. Together with the sculptural artwork by Stefan Daiberl above it, textural and tonal elements unite in a way that feels unfussy yet personal.
The foyer—originally cold, white, and stodgy—was given a dramatic punch with rich, blue-gray paint on the walls, ceiling, and trim. A Rina Menardi vase balances the cooler tones of the walls, tying in with the pattern of the vintage Persian rug. An asymmetrical mirror gives the area visual interest while maintaining a welcoming simplicity.
A lounge area consists of a custom daybed with a bolster-and-strap detail inspired by antique French mattresses, and includes custom bookshelves to display the couple’s keepsakes. An assortment of color-coordinated books adorn the lounge’s shelving with an unobtrusive pop of color, while other jewelry-like accents including a bronze arched mirror and brass side table bring glamour into the otherwise cozy space.
"The open floor plan is divided into multiple spaces with clear, separate functions," Ekeland says. "A seating area for two to enjoy the lake view; a dining area to host friends and family; a living room to gather in for movie nights; and a cozy, inviting nook for lounging and reading." Custom details in the main living room include a shagreen paneled wardrobe to conceal the TV, and a bleached ash coffee table with nesting tables beneath. The TV cabinet is framed by mixed media art, titled “Damsel A + B,” from artist Dana De Ano, an abstract departure from the room's otherwise modern European sensibility.
The home—while clean-lined and minimalist—was conceived with an attention to detail that guided the meticulous curation of personal items. "There can be many benefits to designing a pied-à-terre," Ekeland says. "As a second home, we were able to start with a blank canvas in terms of all furnishings and decor." Ultimately, it was about creating a space that felt both fresh and lived-in—an exercise in restraint and indulgence.
With open concept design, achieving a comfortable flow while maintaining a clear separation of spaces was key. "The similar color palette and tone of each individual space ensures a cohesive feel when combined together in the open concept layout, but the varying function and form of the furnishings and textiles clearly label the purpose of the distinct areas," Ekeland says.
Just as creating a flow was key for the main living areas, smaller, closed-off spaces like a powder room serve as a playground for bold design. Here, vintage-inspired black floral wallpaper is paired with a modern round-edged mirror and finishings.
"In the guest bedroom we created a playful yet sophisticated moment by using Morrocan handwoven pom-pom blankets as the coverlets for the twin beds," Ekeland says. Shapes, textures, and patterns take center stage, with light colored textiles that won’t be subject to the usual wear and tear of an everyday home.
Satisfying the rather antonymic request of an "urban oasis" is no easy feat, though Ekeland makes it look (and feel) effortless. By understanding the relationship between every texture, every silhouette, every accessory, color, and function of each piece, harmony can be struck in a way that makes an urban oasis feel like a natural state of being.