No American city exudes the excitement of early 20th-century architecture — from Art Deco to the International Style — more than Chicago. After all, this is the home of the Carbide & Carbon Building and Willis (formerly Sears) Tower.
In an apartment in an Art Deco building in Chicago, designed by Steven Gambrel and renovated by the architect Phillip Liederbach, the salon’s custom table is by , the vintage chair is from Paris, and the vintage Harvey Probber side table is from Dual Modern; the 1960s Venini mirror is from , the vintage Dahlia chandelier is by , the custom silk shag rug is by , and the custom mantel is by .
New York designer Steven Gambrel recently put his own spin on that optimistic spirit when he created a leather-paneled library in a landmark 1929 Art Deco gem with enviable views of Lake Michigan.
In the living room, the custom sofa, in a fabric, is by Dune, the 1950s chair (left) is in a fabric, and the custom armchair is covered in fabrics; the 1930s orange lacquer–and-shagreen sideboard is French, the 1950s Murano glass table lamp is by , the 1955 chandelier is by , the custom rug is by Beauvais, and the Venetian plaster walls are in ’s Stonington Gray.
Channeling the late grande dame interior decorator Frances Elkins — who once swaddled a room in a house on Chicago’s North Shore in gossamer goatskin — Gambrel paired red leather–sheathed walls with a stately bolection fireplace that was carved from an eight-inch-thick slab of Belgian Rouge Griotte marble.
The salon’s custom sectional is covered in a cotton blend; the custom ottoman is in a , the tray is by , the sconces are by , and the curtains are of a fabric.
The aforementioned building is the Palmolive, a 37-story tower that originally served as the headquarters of the Colgate-Palmolive corporation. In the early 2000s, after a stint in the 1960s as the home of Hugh Hefner’s very first Playboy Club, the building was converted into condos.
The sink fittings in the butler’s pantry are by , the counter is in Indigo Green marble, and the antique mirror is from ; the cabinetry was painted in a custom high-gloss lacquer matched to ’s Mallard Green.
The designer, together with Chicago architect Phillip Liederbach, who specializes in
In the salon’s dining area, the custom rosewood table by has an églomisé mirrored top, the vintage chairs are from Paris, and the console is by ; the chandelier is by , the custom rug is by , and the drawings are by Richard Koppe.
Although the 5,500-square-foot apartment had ample space — a clean-lined open plan with dropped ceilings and ivory walls — the interiors initially weren’t at all what the homeowners had in mind. Rarely doestake the direction of adding enough walls and warrens to create a veritable house within an apartment, but this was exactly the design team’s approach here.
In the dressing room, a custom slipper chair is in a velvet, the 1930s lantern is American, the window treatments are in fabrics, the tray is from , and the carpet is by .
Theas soon as you step out of the elevator. Liederbach introduced pilasters and pedestals to craft a thoroughly classical entrance with Art Deco nuances; Gambrel in turn designed lozenge-shaped door panels inlaid with antique mirror and terrazzo flooring lined with brass.
The master bedroom’s bed in a velvet, the bench in a leather, and the club chair in a fabric are all custom; the 1950s Tommi Parzinger chest (next to the bed), Ico Parisi 1970s cabinet, and vintage Jules Leleu side table are all from ; the circa-1930 English mantel is from , and the carpet is from .
No detail was ignored. Each board of Macassar ebony for the pedestals and door panels, for instance, was hand-selected for perfection. “There was a guy out in Oregon who had a barn full of exotic wood and everything was marked ‘NFS,’ as in Not For Sale,” Liederbach recalls with a laugh. “It gave us a responsibility to elevate it. We obsessed over it.”
In the guest room, the custom bed is in a fabric, the houndstooth pillows are in a fabric, and the 1950s sconces are by Ignazio Gardella.
Throughout, a brilliant palette — a Gambrel trademark — punctuates the spaces. The living room is furnished in soothing shades of pale gray, from the Venetian plaster walls to a high-gloss ceiling. “It’s a soft environment,” Gambrel explains, “that reflects the beautiful light from the lake.” But the wake-up call comes from a 1930s French sideboard in orange lacquer, a high-octane shade repeated in the chic welting of a club chair. The bar is painted in a peacock blue.
In the master bath, the tub has fittings by ., the circa-1905 Viennese stool by Julius and Josef Herrmann is from , and the room is sheathed in Calacatta Capri, Grigio Carnico, and Belgian Black marbles; the abstract plaster sculpture is unsigned and from the 20th century.
A graphic punch continues in the master bathroom, which is paneled with dramatic black-veined marble — slabs of Calacatta Capri. “It’s a stone found at only one quarry in Italy,” says Gambrel, “and only one in 20 blocks has veining that can yield this kind of character.”
The master bath’s custom vanities are in Belgian Black marble supported by bronze columns; the sinks have brass fittings; the sconces and ceiling light are custom, and the floor is Belgian Black marble with bronze inlay.
Whether he is designing a Hamptons retreat, the interior of a 155-foot yacht, or a furnishings collection (such as his new line of light fixtures for the Urban Electric Co.), that perfectionism is a hallmark of Gambrel’s personality and work. “I like to be challenged,” he says, flashing a smile.
This story originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.