In Old Town, an art buff needed a condo that could keep up with his ever-growing collection. Designer Andrea Goldman nailed the job.
May 29, 2019 10:00 AM
“This room is a cocoon,” says Andrea Goldman, fondly, of the cozy library in a new construction, contemporary condo she designed in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. ‘Cocoon’ is the perfect word for the reading area, which envelops guests in dark oak—built-in bookshelves, a matching ceiling—and gray flannel Phillip Jeffries wallpaper. At 140 square feet, it’s the smallest room in the home. But for Goldman, the space presented a big opportunity: a place to hang four original sketches from Sol LeWitt.
“The owner, a bachelor in his 70s, has been an avid art collector his entire life,” says Goldman, founder of Andrea Goldman, a design firm in Glencoe, Illinois (andreagoldmandesign.com). Finding—or, in some cases, constructing—the right wall space to display his collection was “the starting point for this project,” she says. Her team, working with architect Sullivan, Goulette & Wilson and general contractor Maris Construction, built the library, which added one strong gallery wall, and then got to work on the pièce de résistance: a 44-foot hallway that runs through the center of the condo. “When he entertains, there are always people in the hallway with drinks in their hands, looking at the art,” Goldman says. “It’s like walking into a gallery.” Originals by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Donald Judd and LeWitt, a founder of the Conceptualist movement, mingle with works from local artists, big and small.
The pieces are in constant rotation. “Every time I go there, he has more art, different art, he’s swapped pieces out, he’s moved pieces around,” Goldman says. For her—a designer with more than 20 years of experience and a spot on the Leaders of Design Council, which recruits top designers across the globe—the flux offered a welcome challenge. “Any new art he hangs on the walls can drastically transform the space, so whatever I did had to be able to mutate, to handle that change,” she says. She opted for what she calls “quiet solids”—a Montauk sectional sofa in a smart gray, Snaidero kitchen cabinetry in a warm beige, a Holly Hunt coffee table in stark black and white with geometric lines. “If we submitted to lots of patterns or prints, they might not work with new colors going into the space,” she says. “We allowed ourselves to be a little playful with pillows and a blanket here or there”—say, a pair of Caste ottomans upholstered in an abstract print—“but the larger pieces, we kept very quiet.”
That makes the one jolt of color, in the dining room, particularly high-drama. Four custom chairs, upholstered in bright blue crushed velvet, surround a custom stained oak table from Manifesto, a showroom in River North known for its modern designs. (“A vibrant green or blue, unlike a red or orange, can almost live anywhere,” Goldman says, quieting any fear the chairs might clash with future art.) Meanwhile, the legs of the table, made of cast bronze and stretching elegantly upward until they fork at the top like graceful tree branches, could stand alone as a sculpture.
In the kitchen, a smaller table, from London-based Ochre, accompanied by dark green leather chairs and a simple pendant light (also Ochre), offers the owner a spot to sit and read the newspaper after yoga, which he practices regularly. The leather, Goldman says, is simultaneously luxurious and durable, a running theme throughout the home. “Even though he’s older and doesn’t have small kids, he said, ‘I want nothing precious.’ Everything is quite practical.” That includes the blue velvet chairs—“crushed velvet, people don’t realize, is very resilient,” Goldman says—and, in the living room, a Christian Liaigre crushed mohair sofa in a stunning iridescent gray. “He wanted every piece of furniture to be something he would want to sit on for hours,” Goldman says. “He travels a ton, collecting new art, and he said, ‘I want to come home after traveling the world and be in love with the couch I’m sitting on.’”
The owner asked; Goldman delivered. “He’ll call me out of nowhere and say, ‘I just got home from Africa, and I love this house so much,’” she says. The compliment means even more than most, considering the source: This client, who owns a real estate development firm, used to be her boss and mentor. “He took me on as someone who knew nothing, and by the time I left I was vice president,” she says. “I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for him, and I was really touched he wanted me to do his place. It was a treat for me.”