What makes a house “sexy”?
When Jolita Leonas-Arzbaecher was planning her new penthouse apartment in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, she gave her design team some very specific instructions.
“My house should be as unique, dramatic and one of a kind as I am,” she told them. “Dramatic in the sense of being fascinating, unexpected and powerful.”
Greatness was not lost on her. “How is it for me to brag?” she joked recently.
Joking aside, Ms. Leonas-Arzbaecher, 65, a farm landowner and philanthropist interested in integrative and preventive medicine, sees her house as an extension of herself and she wanted the 4,320 square foot apartment to be something really unusual.
“My house is part of me,” she says. “My art is part of me.”
Although the apartment was built as part of a development project to convert and expand a 1930s Art Deco parking garage into luxury condos, she signed a contract to purchase the unit in as raw space, for $ 3.3 million in 2017, she said, knowing the contractor – quality finishes would never satisfy her.
Then she appointed Kevin Toukoumidis, architect and founding director of the company based in Chicago. DSpace studio, to make it the modernist house of his dreams.
“When you arrive early, there are opportunities,” said Toukoumidis. “We were brought in before the steel was erected and before the concrete floors were poured. So the opportunity was that we were able to rethink and reinvent this floor plan. “
For two years he worked with the developer to customize the design of the unit before bringing in his own builder, Fraser Construction, to finish the job. And he spent hours chatting with Ms Leonas-Arzbaecher, unveiling the design details that would make her happy.
“For me, designing a home for our clients relies on this intimate process,” said Mr. Toukoumidis. “You have to understand the client’s lifestyle today, but more importantly, help them think about how they are going to live in the future.”
In this case, he heard, loud and clear, his client’s desire for a spectacular interior full of artistic touches, metallic accents and crisp white surfaces. And he designed a four-bedroom house that, to Ms. Leonas-Arzbaecher, almost seemed to come out of her subconscious.
“Kevin has this incredible ability to wear a psychologist’s hat,” she says. “Sometimes I felt like he knew me better than even I did.
Mr. Toukoumidis installed an oversized white porcelain tile floor and, in the center of the space, added a gas fireplace open on all sides and wrapped in steel rods, with blackened oak panels above it. “It’s visible from the family room, the dining room and even the kitchen,” he says.
He used the same materials to create a pantry with a hatch that allows it to double as a bar for entertaining. For the kitchen, he worked with Poliform to build white Corian countertops and cabinet doors, then added a cabinet wall finished in metallic lacquer and a satin mirror backsplash to meet Ms. Leonas’ request- Arzbaecher for a little shimmer.
The master suite includes a large walk-in closet with glass and metal mesh doors, a bedroom with asymmetrical light boxes installed in the wall of the headboard and a minimalist bathroom with tips finished in white porcelain, white Corian and glass transparent.
For help finding trendy furniture, lavish materials, and personalized artwork to further personalize the space, Ms. Leonas-Arzbaecher hired Project interiors on the recommendation of Mr. Toukoumidis. Aimee Wertepny, owner of Project, and Jennifer Kranitz, lead designer of the project, were immediately won over by Ms. Leonas-Arzbaecher’s enthusiasm for the bold design.
“’Show us what you got’ was kind of his MO,” Ms. Wertepny said. “She really wanted to see how we could push the boundaries.”
“The word ‘sexy’ has been used a lot,” Ms. Kranitz added.
They designed a 26-foot sofa that winds across two walls of a seating area, with a wavy seat to accommodate Ms. Leonas-Arzbaecher and her guests, whether they feel like sitting down or stretching out. Above the sofa, the walls are adorned with bronze-colored bead chains made by artist Beth Kamhi, which drape down to the cushions and spill onto the floor at one end.
In the master bedroom, they asked Studio BK to give the walls a thick smoky plaster finish. “We wanted something textured and almost reptilian,” Ms. Kranitz said. “It’s very sensual. It’s a super gloomy room.
To filter light into the main living space, they installed mesh curtains on the floor-to-ceiling windows. For walls and ceilings in more intimate spaces, they added wall coverings that resemble metals, pictorial lines, and animal skins.
By the time Ms Leonas-Arzbaecher moved into her new apartment in November 2019, she had spent around $ 1.6 million. The daily dividend of this investment? Live in a space precisely adapted to his personality.
“I come in and just say, ‘I’m home,’” she said. “I love it because the house is a reflection of me.”
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