Now Playing

Art of the Mix

Designer Eva Quateman turns a two-story condo into a showplace for a Chicago couple’s international art collection. 

The balcony offers sweeping views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, and provides a panoramic setting for the powder-coated orange sculpture “AM Topper” (2004) by Brian Alexander. The upstairs family room is anchored by a black-and-white aquatint, “Sleeper” (1997), by William Kentridge. The bronze figures on the table are “Nixon and Phan Thi Kim Phuc” (2002) by Chicago sculptor Adam Pincus, and refer to a famous Vietnamese photo of 9-year-old Phan Thi Kim Phuc. 

Often, in interior design projects, artworks are an accessory, purchased after color schemes have been set and the furnishings have been selected. But when it came to a recently completed two-story condominium atop the Richelieu Flats at 318 S. Michigan Ave., art was the starting point.

The owners are past members of the Society of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, and they wanted the 4,200-square-foot space to show off the international collection they have acquired over more than three decades.

After living in an 8,200-square-foot 1880s structure that was once part of the artist complex called Hudson Studios in Lincoln Park, the couple decided to downsize and move downtown. They found what they were looking for in a small, unassuming former commercial building along the Cultural Mile.

A developer had gutted it as part of a residential conversion, and the condo was just a raw space when the couple bought it. To make it into a finished home, they turned to the team that had successfully overseen the transformation of their previous residence—architect David MacKenzie and Eva Quateman for the interior design. “It ended up being a great combination, and we were very happy,” says one of the owners.

Matching subject to site, Quateman installed Belgian artist Jessica Rice’s oil-on-canvas “Bathers” (2000) above the bathtub in the master bathroom. 

Quateman’s main contributions came in helping the couple condense and rearrange their existing furnishings alongside some new additions, giving pride of place to their paintings and sculptures. To that end, the designer sought an understated gallery feel for the lower level, complementing the off-white walls with a muted palette of what she calls “mineral colors”—bronze, gold and black. “We wanted the art to be the show,” explains Quateman.

One notable color tie-in came in the guest bedroom, where Quateman carried a prominent terra-cotta red in a Moorish tile floor pattern from the adjacent bathroom to the custom-made bed. A painting with a similar palette then became an obvious choice to hang above it: Grant Hayunga’s “Wolf” (2006), a mixed-media encaustic on linen. “It makes the whole room sing,” says the designer.

Quateman and the collectors knew where a few of the works would be situated right from the start, such as “Sleeper” (1997) by famed South African artist William Kentridge. The black-and-white aquatint, depicting a reclining nude, dramatically anchors the more colorful upstairs family room. But the placement of most of the artworks was decided only after trying them in different configurations around the space. “It was actually very fun,” says Quateman, “the day we did all this.”