Nocompression. It's a tall order in the
bowels of any city, and especially difficult amid the
steel canyon penumbra of downtown Chicago.
But after three years— 18 months of which was
construction by architects Scott Osterhaus and John
McCarthy of Osterhaus McCarthy LLC—Chicago
interior designer Jeanne Michaels achieved just that
by turning a classically modern, white box townhouse
(meant to be a "backdrop” for her art-loving client’s
constantly rotating collection) into a thoroughly
“He wanted to relate to the outside, but with a
transparency,” says Michaels, who designed two
Lincoln Park homes for the client in the prior decade.
“My work is always about the play of light in space.”
This project, for which Michaels ran numerous 3D
modeling tests to gauge exposures, is no exception.
Built from the ground up on the site of a former church,
the three-floor, just-under- 8,000-square-foot red-brick
pile—which recently hosted 275 people comfortably—
immediately connects to its Lakeview neighbors with
an impressive entryway gallery visible from the street.
Behind a cantilevered macassar ebony door—
framed by two floor-to-ceiling windows—the foyer is
filled with paintings, including a dramatic red canvas
by Chicago artist Francine Turk. Hanging above an
onyx plinth and a bell jar-encased vanitas skull, Turk’s
piece widens the space while speaking directly to
the red leather Holly Hunt bench anchoring the
adjacent gallery. “My client always wanted this grand
entry,” says Michaels, noting the metal-clad skylights
above the concrete slab staircase that sunbathe the
vestibule by day. “Your eye wants to go in, to see
what’s going on.”