Ever since I first saw glimpses of photographer Victor Skrebneski’s house in those Seventies and Eighties-era Estée Lauder ads (Skrebneski often used his Chicago home as a backdrop for the stylish ad campaign), I became intrigued by its pitch-perfect blend of minimalist architecture and formal, traditional furniture, a mix you still don’t often see in America. Decorated with the assistance of interior designer Bruce Gregga (Gregga was once Skrebneski’s assistant and, incidentally, happens to be one of the featured designers in my new book), the photographer’s home is a Victorian-era coach house. But based on its interiors, you would never know it. Stripped of anything ornamental, the home’s interior architecture is very modern and spare. Travertine floors, a concrete entry hall and staircase (see above), and glossy ceilings are as far removed from the Victorian style as they could possibly be.
But ensconced among the home’s sleek walls is Skrebneski’s carefully selected collection of twentieth-century art and eighteenth-century French antiques. In fact, the living room is almost entirely furnished with eighteenth-century pieces, including a Gobelins tapestry, a coromandel commode, Louis XVI gueridon, and a Louis XV giltwood sofa. Also prominent is modern art by Man Ray, the Giacomettis, Max Ernst, and Oskar Schlemmer. It’s the best of both worlds–and the best of two centuries–together in one room.
Elsewhere in the house, there are not one, but two sitting rooms that, while perhaps more intimate than the living room, maintain the sense of grandeur established in the home’s more public spaces. Even the kitchen, with its zig-zag painted floor, is a modern shell that, once again, surrounds French furniture. The formula for this sublime marriage of the old and the new is not as complicated as it might seem. As Skrebneski simply puts it, “Any beautiful things work well together.”
The living room, as seen from three different angles.
The two images above show the sitting rooms.
The kitchen, which is lined with books.
The dapper photographer himself.
All images from Architectural Digest, March 2000, Victor Skrebneski photographer.