Modern Deco Design in Chicago

Our inspiring interior design today comes from a chic city apartment located in Chicago’s prestigious historic landmark Art Deco Palmolive building with interiors by Kadlec Architecture + Design.  This residence, designed to function as a pied-a-terre, is a highly customized unit comprised of 4,000 square-feet of polished contemporary living space, with soaring twelve-foot ceilings and uninterrupted, panoramic views of Lake Michigan.

The owners, a couple who also have a main home in the suburbs, were looking for a secondary residence in the city.  Initially they were just looking for a rental apartment, but then they got word that one of the city’s most esteemed landmarks, the Palmolive Building, was being converted into residences, and their plans became a lot more ambitious.  Renovation was just starting on the architectural gem, and though the space that was to become their home was still a raw mess when they first saw it, they recognized that it was a perfect opportunity to create what they really wanted in the most ideal of locations.

Originally completed in 1929 to house the headquarters of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, the 37-story structure is world renowned for its dynamic stepped design, and is considered to be among the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the world.  Its location along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile establishes it at the heart of the city’s greatest residential, entertainment, and business district.  The building was ultimately renovated magnificently and has become one of the city’s most exclusive luxury residential addresses.

Though not a penthouse, the unit is well high enough to clear the neighboring buildings and provides a spectacular view over everything.  The couple knew they wanted a customized space completely different from the developers other units and called on Steve Kadlec and his firm to handle the interior architecture and décor.

Guided by the buildings Art Deco design, along with the couples desire to keep the space as open as possible, Kadlec created an updated French 1920s style, and a floorplan with rooms arranged en suite.  Each room opens onto the other in a constant progression, thus eliminating space taking, light deprived hallways.  Pairs of custom eleven-foot high, bronze and glass, French doors connect the formal rooms, perfectly aligned straight through, creating a long, light filled vista of enfiladed rooms through the apartment.  The size of the windows could not be altered of course, so the designer used silver leafed eglomise mirror panels above them to create faux transoms to give the illusion that the windows continue up to accentuate the verticality of the space as you can see in the photo above.


Here you can see where the enfilade begins.  From the walnut burl paneled foyer,  the space opens onto the living rooms high ceilings and smooth, flush-mounted walnut panels and gorgeous lake views.  Careful editing, and contemporary design features like the frame-less doors keep the space modern.  The sofa is from Chai Ming Studios and has been covered in Cowtan & Tout silk velvet and the coffee table is from Dessin Fournir.  The couple worked with an art consultant to choose smart contemporary works to highlight the rooms.  The horse is by Deborah Butterfield.


For authenticity’s sake, slender rift white oak flooring, much more narrow than the buildings standard 2.5 inches was used.   Custom furniture who’s profiles evoke the period, but have been edited to their modern essence complete the rooms.  In the dining room, a cabinet for tableware along one wall features wood-framed doors, encasing creamy quilted leather panels.  Such luxury design details are used throughout to best utilize available space and and conceal functional items.


Matching Paris chandeliers from Holly Hunt are suspended above a RB Gorman quarter-sawn ebony wood table, surrounded by Christian Liagre Barbuda chairs.  The painting is by Bob Nugent.


The modern design kitchen features white oak cabinetry from Poliform, with stainless-steel counters and back-splashes, along with commercial grade appliances.  The center island was created with diligently sourced Calacatta gold marble slabs, which took two years to find.  The couple was tenacious in their pursuit of quality.  Promemoria’s Caffe stools provide seating for the counter.


Custom shades are used to accentuate the window height where the mirrors are not used.  Custom lacquer cabinets along the outer walls provide extra storage.  A Christian Liaigre table with Promemoria’s Caffe chairs are placed in front of the window for having breakfast and taking in the view.


Here in the handsome media/family room the walls are wrapped in rich, dark wall-covering from Knoll Textiles, while a plush linen rug from Bartholomeus covers the floor.  The television and audiovisual equipment are concealed behind rift oak pocket doors.  Dark shades on the windows can be lowered as needed.  The custom sofa, upholstered in Holly Hunt suede, is from Estudio Furnishings.  The lounge chair and black sculptural tables are by Christian Liaigre.


For the master bedroom, Kadlec designed a wood-and-bronze-mesh screen which you see placed behind the lush Anees bed, upholstered in J. Robert Scott sueded leather.  A Promemoria bench is placed at the end.  The art above the bed is by Janis Pozzi-Johnson.


The sitting area includes a Christian Liaigre Opium daybed, and a pair of Snooze chairs from Ochre positioned around the Xilos Simplice coffee table from Maxalto.  The rug is from Fort Street Studio.  The master bedroom of this luxury home is positioned on one end with the guest bedroom positioned on the opposite end for optimal privacy.


This view is of the master bedroom closet.  I included it because it really captures the crisp, contemporary mood in these private spaces.


The master bathroom features a clean and simple minimalist design with loads of natural light.


The guest bathroom has the same no nonsense minimalist design with clean contemporary shapes and sleek designer fixtures.  Gotta love that soaking tub!  The building also includes a state-of-the-art fitness room, spa, sauna, and steam room.


The spacious guest bedroom is a dream with warm colors and soft fabrics, including imported designer linens on the bed.  The copper silk draperies can be drawn when desired.


On one wall of the guest bedroom, a walnut paneled study has been created which completes this unit, giving it everything the couple was wanting for their pied-a-terre.  In addition to their beautiful luxurious interiors, the couple enjoys all of the gracious amenities provided by the building.  With signature elegant simplicity,  another fine residence has been completed by Kadlec Architecture + Design.

Kadlec Architecture + Design is a collaborative studio bringing together inspiring interior design and management skills with over 25 years of experience in the practice of residential architecture and interior design as well as corporate and retail design.  The firm’s work is simple, classic, and sophisticated focusing on usable and functional spaces.

That concludes today’s design inspiration my friends!  I hope you all have enjoyed and have been inspired by the deco inspired, contemporary interiors of this residence within the historic Palmolive building.  Let me hear from you all in the comments!  What do you guys think of this Chicago residence?  Since moving North a bit back, Ive spent a lot more time in the beautiful windy city and must say that it has become one of my top 5 in the country..maybe even top 3.

Interior Architecture and design:  Steve Kadlec, Kadlec Architecture + Design @

Photography:  Tony Soluri @

Luxe-Parisian Panache-Jorge Arang

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