How a compact Chicago apartment makes a big statement

Designer Stephan Jones has turned this apartment in a drab 1960s Chicago block into his light, bright, ideal home

When interior designer Stephan Jones was putting his own home together, he had two main considerations. First: the views. In a 1964 apartment block overlooking Lake Michigan, with long windows facing the water, these did a lot of the work for him. The second was the demands of the day job. When you spend most of your waking hours looking at fabric swatches and tile samples, you want to come home and switch off.
Stephan and his husband have lived in the Chicago apartment since 1999. Then it was 1400 square feet of what the Americans call ‘a fixer-upper’. “It had been occupied by numerous tenants, each one adding their own disastrous touches to it. But the bones of it were all original and we saw a clean slate,” he recalls. “We moved from a fabulous artist’s loft with wonderful light and space. In this apartment, the windows that wrap around the space have provided the same consistent northern light we had in our loft, and the views of the park and lake were a real draw. There is also an incredible sense of privacy and calm.
“We knew we could make this a home. The mid-century architecture was really appealing for our mix of classic and modern furnishings and art.”
Like many young couples, the pair did the place up as time and cash allowed. Shifting the utilities was not an option so Stephan worked around the original layout to streamline the space. “Thankfully the architect had done a wonderful job laying out the apartment. We just had to clean up, edit and simplify the interior architecture of the space to complement our furnishings.”
Stephan did everything except the heavy lifting, from drawing up the plans to making sure the tradesmen put the sockets in the correct place. “The renovation progressed over a number of years. We first started with the background, installing wood floors in the public spaces and wall-to-wall seagrass in the bedrooms. The original kitchen was replaced. Everything was painted. Later, when the windows in the unit were replaced this really spurred us on to finish the bathrooms and put the finishing touches on the space.”
There was no decanting while the builders were in. “We stayed in the apartment through­out the upgrades and renovations. I do not advise my clients to do this, but we were perhaps a little younger and more resilient then.”
The final look of the property was dictated by the building’s structure and location. “There is an emphasis on the horizontal in buildings of this period,” Stephan explains. “Ceiling heights were not high and this is emphasised by the wall-to-wall windows which frame the…

This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 188-196, issue 101.

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Photography Bob Coscarelli
Words Stephanie Murphy