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By Megan Kulick | Photo: by Mike Kaskel | October 12, 2017
This smart redesign honors history and a young homeowner’s contemporary vision.
Francia Harris had a vision: hosting fabulous dinner parties for her friends followed by a night of solid sleep—no more 2am wake-ups from the club letting out down the street from her River North condo. Harris’ dreams came true when she found an 1800s worker’s cottage in Wicker Park that needed some love. Enter Rebekah Zaveloff of KitchenLab Design (kitchenlabdesign.com), who Harris hired for the project because “every one of her kitchens is unique and memorable. I’m really into cooking and entertaining, so the kitchen is where we began the remodel—it’s the jewelry box of the home.” Zaveloff’s first task was making the kitchen, which is an addition from a previous reno, feel more like a cohesive part of the home instead of a fragmented series of rooms.
Staying true to the cottage vibe, Zaveloff kept the kitchen small but blew out the bedroom walls to create new spaces. “You can have openness while keeping architectural significance. A bar area and pantry with a wide arched opening was a way to expand the kitchen while still honoring the cottage’s history,” Zaveloff says. The kitchen’s angled ceiling was preserved, but Zaveloff added white panels similar to beadboard as a subtle nod to the home’s history, while stained cedar beams were laid over the panels for a contrasting, modern update. The show stealer is the stunning black-and-brass La Cornue oven and range, and the custom sleek black-and-brass hood that KitchenLab designed to match. The striking range plays off of the geometric black-and-white Merola Tile floor, while white subway tile provides a clean backsplash, echoing the white porcelain farmhouse sink. A small window was moved over slightly, allowing Harris to gaze into her backyard with soap-sud hands. Zaveloff opted not to add canned lights, and instead, twin pendants from Lightology float like bronze-encased moons above the quartzite island, while sophisticated sconces surround the range hood. Dark base cabinets provide grounding and are done in a custom color Zaveloff calls Inkwell. “It’s Benjamin Moore, but not a standard offering—I created it while on the quest for a black with navy undertones, something that wasn’t too black or too navy,” Zaveloff says. The custom bar, also in Inkwell, by KitchenLab features additional cabinet space, crisscrossed nickel details and the same quartzite as the kitchen counters. A seating area with a tan leather pouf and a vintage rug from South Loop Loft turn the area into a true salon. Twin vintage chandeliers hang here and over the dining table. “I used to work in set design, and in order to make a house on a set look like it has been built over time, you source from everywhere. That’s what I do,” Zaveloff says.
Another vintage rug sets the scene in the living room, while matching midcentury-style chairs and a sideboard add a modern vibe. A cozy Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams couch, with a smattering of blue and gold custom pillows, rounds out the gathering space. Art from The Find, South Loop Loft and Harris’ aunt’s gallery in Akron, Ohio, warm the walls. “Rebekah does a great job of taking a client’s taste and elevating it. It was important that the overall energy of my house feel eclectic, playful and lived-in,” Harris says. “This house represents my dream of moving to Chicago—I never want to leave.”