A world class art collection, high-gloss lacquered rooms, a walnut-clad lounge, located in Chicago's Palmolive Building—these are not the descriptors you’d expect for the home of a family of seven. But for two newly-weds—each with their own children in their 20s—the idea of “family living” did not include playrooms or kid-proofing. This would be a mature space for living, hosting, and most importantly, enjoying time together. The same way that two families would be merging into one, two designers—Steve Kadlec of and (formerly the design director of Nate Berkus and Associates)—would be joining forces to transform two units into one full-floor residence in the historic Chicago building.
Kadlec, who had worked with the husband on a previous project, would be carrying out the architectural renovations, while Adler, who was commissioned by the wife, would be in charge of the interior design. “The design team became part of the blended family, the husband bringing in his architect and the wife, her interior designer,” Kadlec explains. A sort of high-glam Brady Bunch scenario, the collaborative process resulted in unsurprisingly cohesive interiors, and an impeccably designed home where, as Adler puts it, "they would like to put their feet up and their drinks down."
Having tested out several other locations in the city prior to discovering this listing, the design team decided it would be best to purchase and combine two apartments, transforming them into a full-floor residence. "The couple is vivacious, fun, and well-traveled, with a fantastic design sensibility and a real understanding and appreciation of natural materials, things crafted by hand, quality, and provenance,” Adler says. “They were looking to build a home and collection together that really reflected them.” With older children who were all past college, the space needed to be suitable for the couple on a daily basis, while accommodating to their children and extended family when they visited. The couple loves to entertain, so the home, despite its many rooms, would need to flow seamlessly and feel completely connected. “A well-organized, functional floor plan was the starting point,” Kadlec says.
With the task of merging two units into one, finding an architectural rhythm was the first priority. “The renovation was more a delicate surgery rather than a gut-rehab,” says Adler. And the architecture needed to create a canvas for the interior design. Developing a language of materials, understanding the bandwidth for lighting and mechanical systems, and considering the finer details from the start, helped inform the architectural plans. “Sasha’s team understood the character of the architecture and its organization, so it was a collaborative process developing and refining millwork details, lighting layouts, and architectural finish direction,” Kadlec says. With access to the hallways and elevator lobby, he constructed a long central hallway to help organize the disparate elements of each apartment—a spine for the body of the sprawling home.
Before grabbing any paint cans or sourcing new furniture, Adler took time to get to know her clients, how they lived, and what they were looking to achieve—an unrushed approach that was made possible by extensive, time-consuming renovations. “Ultimately, the goal was to create a space that was refined, comfortable, thoughtful, and flexible because sometimes there would be two people living in the home, and sometimes there would be 10,” Adler says. The living, dining, family room, office, kitchen, and bar—which are all located on one side of the apartment—are connected through the home’s central rotunda. Details including brass inlay in the natural oak herringbone floors, which run the length of the hallway, signify another important marker in creating a natural flow. The other side of the apartment serves as the entertainment hub, with a walnut-and-suede paneled billiards room and bar, high-gloss lacquered office, and great room.
Despite the home’s modern and clean-lined sensibility, color was used to highlight specific details and give the rooms each a unique identity. Even given the bold choices—black lacquered kitchen, French Blue lacquered office—the spaces feel seamless and comfortable, dodging the harshness of colors too bold or too intense. “We’d go through dozens of samples to get the perfect shade!” Adler says. And with these star pieces in the home, there needed to be a proper supporting cast. Textiles, specialty paint finishes, and wall coverings are just some of the ways in which Adler struck a balance with the bold pops. While the architecture pushes for spatial flow, the interior design pulls back with visual structure.
Just as design aesthetics require a strong sense of balance, so do the minds of those behind it all. “There were no egos on the team, which allowed for an open exchange of ideas, with the simple goal of making the project the best it could be for the client,” Kadlec says.