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Barri Leiner Grant | Photo: Mike Schwartz | October 8, 2012
A former car repair shop in West Town is recast as a Technicolor “roof-raising” bachelor pad.
Designer Bruce Tittle can be likened to the casting agent for a film, as well as its location scout: It’s always been more about the process than the final cut. While his works are modern classics, he says, “I suppose I really have no single signature; I let the architecture inform the project, and try to get in the client’s head.” A little method acting adds into the mix as Tittle imagines the action and dialogue that will take place in each space he creates.
And so it was with his longtime client and homeowner of the 5,000-square-foot expanse that Tittle took on. Builder Joseph Panfil of Big Art had converted what was an original brick streetcar repair factory into two units, and the homeowner was so moved by the structure and the clear-cut city views that he purchased the place in a semifinished state. Panfil brought architect Michael Mohr on board along with Tittle, and they engineered a glass-enclosed top floor that’s dramatically suspended and set over the roof. “It’s tied into the parapet with a big substructure,” shares Tittle, “which created what is now known as the ‘Upper Tank.’” The homeowner’s cousin, a welder, executed the Tittle-designed centerpiece: a staircase in stainless steel with green-stained ash treads that leads to the top floor.
A glass enclosure wraps around the level, which includes a cozy cool den, wood-burning fireplace and hidden bath and bar, revealing a huge expanse of deck that overlooks downtown. Multiple sunning and seating areas (even an outdoor shower) invite a frequent full house of guests and gatherings. The den sports Holly Hunt chairs in Hunt leather, a custom Luminaire coffee table and an earthy vibe that seems to echo the outdoors. Radiant heated concrete floors run the roost, spotted with custom Edward Fields silk and wool rugs. A handsome modern aesthetic blends with art and objects that have been carefully curated (think a large-scale industrial cog out of Oregon and a Braille globe) to mix well with furnishings like dueling marble cocktail tables Tittle designed for the space and deep B&B Italia sofas. Two massive Sandra Lee paintings and a dramatic silk shantung framed fixture are standout accessories in the open main floor’s living, dining and kitchen spaces.
Pops of orange pepper the home, right down to an old rotary-dial phone in the bedroom. Soft wool furnishings and navy draperies play against a photo of Aspen that almost works as a window in the room. Just down the hall, a wood-clad gentleman’s room with wine storage was designed to indulge the homeowner’s affinity for fine cognac and cigars. A William Winstanley oil painting of George Washington is a family heirloom that hangs amid architectural artifacts, including Federal Building sconces that once lived in the Loop and paneling from an old auditorium in Oak Park.
The scene is set: alfresco dining as the sun wanes on the deck followed by after-dinner drinks indoors on one of many comfy couches. Then perhaps a late nightcap with the boys in the gent’s club… and the credits roll on another Bruce Tittle original.