Alisa Bloom isn’t your typical decorator. She has always been a chameleon. In the early aughts, when most of Chicago’s fashionable set were buying loft warehouse conversions with exposed pipes in the West Loop downtown (as the editor in chief and publisher of Chicago magazine, I’ve observed the city’s real estate trends from an insider’s perch), Bloom did the exact opposite, moving into a 1920s gem on the city’s storied Gold Coast.
Bloom, a designer and general contractor, in her office. The desk is custom, the tall table lamp (right) is by RH, , the curtains are of a fabric, and the ceiling is covered in a wallpaper.
After a stint as a vintage jewelry collector and seller (she is legendary around town for snatching a 17-carat yellow diamond ring at auction in the middle of an especially frigid winter, a feat she managed while clad in moon boots and a parka), she made a complete career switch and recast herself as a general contractor, albeit a particularly glamorous one.
The living room of ’s Chicago apartment, which she renovated with the help of . The midcentury chairs are re-covered in a velvet, the Jacques Garcia stool is from , and the circa-1960s lamp (left) is Italian. An painting rests on the 18th-century French mantel.
With her own 17th-floor apartment as her calling card, she threw herself into the work—finding contractors, sourcing finishes, negotiating jobs. Before long, she was buying, renovating, and flipping properties—overhauling 11 units out of 47 in her own Gothic building alone.
The guest bath has a sink, fittings, and RH, sconces; the walls are painted in ’s Teresa’s Green.
She was in Morocco when her doorman called to tell her a penthouse in her building was about to go on the market. “I ran home to get it, but a neighbor—an owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—bought it out from under me,” she says. A few months later, however, she bumped into him in the elevator, and he told her he had taken on too much. “He was overwhelmed and said, ‘I know you like to renovate apartments. Do you want it? I said, ‘Yup.’ ”
The bed in the guest room has a headboard covered in a vintage French fabric, and a pillow and coverlet in a silk.
She would often make extended trips to Europe to shop for vintage finds for her clients, spending weeks at a time renting an 18th-century apartment in Paris’s Marais district. She envisioned re-creating the atmosphere of a French interior in her Chicago penthouse. The first thing she did was to open up the 1970s dropped ceilings. She was startled to find an extra three feet of space hidden overhead. “What a gold mine that was,” she says.
In the kitchen, the range, cabinet hardware, and sink fittings are all custom. The 1970s stools are from and the ceiling lights are by .
Given the scale of the project, she decided against going it alone and enlisted the services of Bories & Shearron, a New York architecture-and-design firm. “She wanted to do things differently and have fun,” says James Shearron, an interior designer who introduced Bloom to Miles Redd, an ED A-List decorator, whose color-punched style she had long admired, and who soon became a friend.
The living room’s custom sofa is in a fabric with pillows in a silk, the 1970s chairs are from , and the vintage cocktail table is from . The console is by , the vintage chandelier is by , the curtains are of an Oscar de la Renta fabric for , and the walls are in ’s Cement Gray.
Redd served as an informal sounding board for her apartment overhaul. “She is a marvel at getting things done in exactly the way she has imagined, and her imagination is pretty incredible,” Redd says. “She does her research, finds amazing craftsmen, and realizes her dreams—which is harder than it looks.”
Shearron and his partner, architect Richard Bories, lined the walls of Bloom’s cavernous living room with floor-to-ceiling French paneling painted in a soft gray hue with a hint of periwinkle. “As the sun goes down,” Bloom says, “the space glows purple.”
In the master bedroom, the bed is in a wool, the desk is by , and the chair is by Oscar de la Renta for . The 1940s console was purchased in Paris, the walls are sheathed in a fabric, and the unsigned artwork is from .
Meanwhile, her sense of determination never flagged. When she hauled home a mantel from the Paris flea markets, she convinced her condo board to let her put a hole in the roof of the nearly century-old building and install a working flue. The master bedroom’s domed pendant was inspired by a similar piece she spotted in an Italian art gallery. When she couldn’t find a manufacturer to make it to her specifications, she found an artisan on Etsy to create a custom version.
The den’s vintage sofa is in a velvet, and the rug is by the .
In her kitchen, she put a traditional spin on stainless steel cabinetry with brass inlays. With the help of a local hardware maker, she even designed her own hinges and drawer pulls. “I would never go into a store and just buy something,” she says. “That isn’t fun for me. It’s all about the process and the hunt.”
These days, Bloom is applying her obsessive attention to several high-end renovations in Chicago and New York. More than a few clients have asked for re-creations of her Parisian-inspired penthouse, but she always declines. “I appreciate that they love it, but I’m already on to the next thing,” Bloom says. “My style is constantly evolving.”
This story originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE Decor.