JEAN-LOUIS DENIOT BRINGS FRENCH FLAIR TO A CHICAGO HOME
The Parisian tastemaker outfits a handsome prewar apartment with neoclassical-style details, bespoke finishes, and European refinement.
The apartment’s bones, however, were not comme il faut. “The configuration was old-fashioned—small bathrooms, smaller closets, too many servants’ rooms,” Deniot says. “We demolished 99 percent of what was there. It’s 5,000 square feet, and nothing is original.” That includes the intricate moldings, pilasters, and millwork—all of which seem so correct that it is easy to forget this is new construction and not a meticulous restoration.
In the living room, the chairs at left are by Lucien Rollin, and the Roche–inspired mirrored mantel was designed by Deniot. The lamps at right and the cocktail table are by Van der Straeten from Ralph Pucci International; the sofa is by Interior Crafts, and the vintage bronze candlesticks are fromAssemblage.
The clients, suburban empty nesters who chose the apartment for its views of Lake Michigan and proximity to restaurants and museums, wanted that level of conscientious detail. And they never considered using anyone other than Deniot to attain it (although local designer Robert Klingel was hired to troubleshoot and negotiate the finer points of the city’s building codes). “I told Jean-Louis I wanted the apartment to be beautiful without a stick of furniture in it,” the wife says. “You had to say, ‘Ooh,’ even when it was completely empty.”
The painting in the living room is by Charles Dix, and the vintage cocktail table and club chairs were designed by René Prou and Jean-Michel Frank, respectively.
Deniot gave them the ooh-là-là. He aligned doorways and hallways not only to create balance and symmetry but also to extend the water views deep into the apartment. He dressed up a vast living room with vertical panel molding that emphasizes the room’s height. He integrated a tapestry of rich materials and textures throughout the home: marble, brass, onyx, lacquer, bronze, silk, Nepalese wool, and mirrored glass.
The print above the mantel scrolls away to reveal a television; the concealment system is by Vision Art.
Plasterwork plays a starring role in the dining room. Inspired by an architectural fragment he found at a Paris flea market, Deniot devised fluted walls that would rise from the baseboards and curve inward just short of the ceiling. “They remind me of the cove ceilings of Pompeii,” he says. The clients were ready to fly in a team of craftsmen from France and house them in Chicago in order to realize the design. “But then,” the wife says, “Robert Klingel found Luczak Brothers, fourth-generation Chicago plasterers, so everything was made by local artisans on-site.” This is another expansive space, accommodating two opaline-top tables which, when joined together, can seat 30.
The dining room’s cabinet showcases a collection of vintage Czech glassware; the fluted plaster walls are by Luczak Brothers, the Collection Pierre dining tables are from Sutherland, and the chairs are covered in Zimmer + Rohde and Donghia fabrics.
Living large is the apartment’s raison d’être. “We have his-and-her TV rooms,” says the husband, who watches Cubs games in a paneled library that features a coffered ceiling, a built-in humidor, and oak walls stained a deep chocolate-brown. The wife’s retreat is a sitting room that can be closed off from the master bedroom by pocket doors. Here Deniot fashioned a TV cabinet with generous drawers to hold the wife’s knitting paraphernalia. “Jean-Louis thinks of everything,” she says.
The kitchen’s lanterns are by Vaughan; the cabinetry at left, with hardware by Nanz, is by Interior Elements.
Husband and wife also have their own bathrooms—his clad in extraordinary marble mosaic tile, hers in luminescent mother-of-pearl. “I had those tiles custom made in India,” says Deniot, noting that the wife’s bathroom faces a courtyard, so he wanted it to shimmer with light-reflecting surfaces.
The breakfast corner features a vintage Poul Henningsen light and a painting by François Stienne.
The artwork in the library is by Serge Poliakoff; the sofa, in a Larsen fabric, is by Frank, and the vintage malachite cocktail table is by Maison Jansen.
The kitchen is oriented around the same courtyard, and the designer employed mirrored backsplashes to add sparkle to the huge room. He also positioned the breakfast table, which seats eight, so that if the door to the foyer is left open one can see through to the living room and the lake beyond.
In the hall, pendants by Galerie des Lampes align with a 1940s mirror by Gilbert Poillerat.
The clients could not be more delighted with their new home. “Jean-Louis makes every apartment look like the person who lives there,” the wife says. “This belongs in a sophisticated urban setting. It’s perfect for this city and for us.”
The cocktail table in the wife’s sitting room is a vintage piece by Phyllis Morris from Malmaison.
The master bedroom pairs a vintage Baguès chandelier with a custom-made headboard, covered in a Rubelli fabric, and two vintage Raymond Subes stools, from Malmaison, in a Jim Thompson cotton blend.
The husband’s bathroom is sheathed in marble mosaic tile by the Fine Line; the Eileen Gray mirror is from Ralph Pucci International, and the faucet is by Dornbracht.
A guest room features a custom-made bed with a canopy of Dedar fabric; the curtains and valances are in a Jim Thompson silk.
A ’70s bed, by Phyllis Morris from Assemblage, commands a second guest room; the folding screen at right is covered in a Georges Le Manach jacquard from Claremont.