Designer Elizabeth Krueger of Elizabeth Krueger Design put her apartment up for sale; instead of receiving an offer from the house-hunting couple that walked through her place she landed a client.
They liked the location and her impeccable style, but the apartment lacked adequate parking and was short one bedroom. “We walked through Elizabeth’s apartment and, while it wasn’t the right apartment for us, it felt like I could just open the door and move right in,” said Kristen Skordilis. When she closed on a 7th-floor condo a few blocks away in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, “I told my husband, ‘call the woman that is selling that apartment.’”
Krueger’s mix of industrial and modern appealed to the fashion stylist’s design sensibilities. Comfortable and relaxed, “it felt very personal and had an intimacy to it that I loved. It felt really stylish and well designed.” In addition to freshening surfaces and incorporating her personal collection of antiques and art into the design, Skordilis asked that Krueger deliver drama. “I love bold design statements,” she said, “yet I want each space to feel lived in and to feel calm.”
A mere eight weeks after Skordilis—also an executive director of the India Hicks lifestyle brand—engaged the designer, Krueger was able to transform the client’s outdated two-bedroom, two and a half-bath unit in a 1920s Beaux-Arts landmark building on scenic Lake Shore Drive into an equally personal haven for the fashion-loving client; her husband Paul Skordilis, a marketing executive for an information security software company; and their 6-year-old daughter, Birkin Skordilis. “We talked a lot about luxe materials. She’s a stylist and has a great sense of style,” Krueger said. “We used jewel tones and some masculine pieces to play off the colorful artwork.”
Though Skordilis, who once owned a popular clothing boutique in the West Loop, has a good eye for design and an envious collection of coffee table-worthy art and fashion books, “I totally know my limits,” she said. “I have a problem with getting scale right. I have bought stuff before that wasn’t right and made expensive mistakes.” Plus, she was on a time crunch. School was starting soon for Birkin, aptly named after the insouciantly cool 70s style icon, and she wanted to be settled in before then.
Fortunately scale was not an issue for Krueger. Starting in the entry, the designer used one large dramatic piece by Chicagoan Francine Turk to anchor the foyer paved in custom black and white marble tiles. The gold hues and handwritten notes inspired by jazz musician Miles Davis pop against the dark grasscloth wall covering and hold their own against the graphic floor. A French Empire table the client owned and a brass-legged stool topped with opulent velvet hint at what’s to come.
In the enormous drawing room, Krueger created two intimate areas for seating and dining. “I love a more formal drawing room,” conceded Skordilis, citing the richness and history of Hicks’ own British home’s formal parlor. “But using the space as our living room and dining room has worked so well. I want each room to be functional for our lifestyle.”
Floating furniture satisfied the clever layout. Anchoring one end is a navy blue velvet sofa. It sits generously in front of a pair of doors accessorized with brass cremone bolts that lead to the daughter’s bedroom. Additionally in the living room, a pair of geometric ottomans upholstered in a Chanel-like tweed and a cowhide chair are arranged around a fireplace and a brass coffee table.
Toward the dining room, a massive antique steel cabinet Skordilis and her husband purchased from the shop of Chicago designer Julia Buckingham stores tableware and was only one of two spots available that could accommodate the unusual piece. “It’s a beast,” she said of the 400-pound cabinet. “The shelves inside are steel.” A custom concrete dining table paired with a leather bench grounds this end of the drawing room. Artworks by local artists, including a Hunt Slonem bunny painting and a Cleveland Dean abstract, line the walls of both spaces and provide a dose of color to the mostly neutral room. “I like supporting the local talent,” she said of her collection, which nonetheless includes works by Chagall and Keith Haring.
Connecting the living and dining areas is an overscale gilt mirror. “We wanted there to be a lot of drama inside the space,” Krueger said. She leaned it against the wall between two large windows overlooking Lake Michigan in homage to design great Vicente Wolf. “I love his work,” she said. Not only does the mirror reflect light, it keeps the room dramatic and open. “It felt so grand,” Skordilis said of the gesture. “You appreciate the molding and the ceiling height.” The reproduction is juxtaposed with the client’s own marble-topped antique console table. “You have to have some good antiques to elevate everything else,” Krueger said.
To encourage lake gazing and sailboat watching from the two large windows, Krueger installed window seats with custom cushions. “Being east-facing in Chicago on a mid-level floor is a dream. Check out that view! You have beautiful colors of the lake that change every day.” She also took advantage of a curved window in what is now the family room by designing a custom sofa with sweeping corners to fit the space beautifully. A trio of brass stools and brass-framed art there reinforce the metallic theme.
The master bedroom, too, has its fair share of bold design. Wrapped in a soothing silk wallpaper, its tranquil vibe was rudely interrupted by a pair of unsightly sliding closet doors. “Make it go away,” Skordilis implored the designer. “No, highlight it,” Krueger countered. Custom metal barn doors with brass screwhead detailing not unlike the studs of a quilted designer bag glide effortlessly from a strip of modern hardware. “I love tough and industrial,” Skordilis said. “They feel like home to me.”