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Labor of Love
By Tate Gunnerson | Photo: by Mike Schwartz | October 12, 2017
For the second time in a decade, a young couple embarks on a massive renovation to combine their loft with a neighboring unit.
John Holmes and Jenni Sorenson joke that for every baby boy they bring into the world, they also buy a new loft on the eighth floor of their River North building. Sure, moving might be easier than merging two units into one—something they have done twice now—but they just can’t bear the thought of leaving such an ideal location. “You feel like you’re just nestled into the city,” Holmes says, noting that the L curves right in front of the building, and they are surrounded by the buzziest restaurants in town. “It feels so perfect that it would be really hard to leave.”
Sorenson was pregnant with their third son when they bought the corner unit across the hall and hired architect Jim Harriman and interior designer Elizabeth Krueger to integrate it into their own. The result is a sprawling five-bedroom plus a den abode with four long balconies that overlook expansive north, south and east views. “They pretty much have the whole corner, which is really unusual,” explains Krueger, who worked closely with the couple to select finishes and furnishings. “They wanted something contemporary but warm and family-friendly.”
Porcelain-tile floors, for example, provide a casual counterbalance to the handsome ebony-stained paneling in the newly added entry foyer that connects the original condo with the new unit. “It’s a nice juxtaposition to the clean finish of the wood paneling while staying true to the loft vibe,” notes Krueger, who spent hours making sure the paneling felt symmetrical despite accommodating six openings, including an integrated closet. “It was a labor of love.”
To create even more drama, Krueger lowered the paneled ceiling by 3 feet, a classic architectural trick that makes the lofted ceilings in the bright and airy great room feel even more dramatic. “There was no sense of formality or of being received in the original unit,” Krueger says. “The addition of that entry provided quite a bit of drama and excitement.”
There are several distinct seating areas in the great room, each furnished with contemporary pieces covered in neutral family-friendly fabrics. Color comes primarily from the couple’s extensive collection of modern art, although there is a punch of blue in the form of a crisp tufted sofa that defines a cozy seating zone where the family tends to congregate during the evenings. “You really get to see the lines of the furniture and the material selection without being overwhelmed by pattern and color,” she explains. “It’s more masculine and handsome.”
Along with the strong elements, there are softer lines, such as the rounded edges of a cowhide rug and the subtle curves on the leather-covered banquette and chairs that surround the oval tulip table in the breakfast area. A grass-cloth wallcovering framed out with a bespoke painted metal detail lends texture and a subtle pattern. “Unexpected touches add character and interest,” Krueger explains.
There’s another wallcovering in the cozy family room nook, this one perforated by a geometric pattern that allows the painted wall underneath to show through. A streamlined sectional and a trio of rustic wood stumps grouped together as a cocktail table atop a silk rug completes the vignette. “If everything is perfectly appointed and polished, it feels like you just walked into a showroom and bought the display,” Krueger says.
With two major renovations behind them, Holmes and Sorenson are happily settled and enjoying the fruits of their spacious abode, which is ideal for both quiet family time and also for hosting large gatherings, as they did recently for Holmes’ 40th birthday. “It’s wonderful for entertaining,” Sorenson explains, “particularly in the summer when the doors are open and people circulate on and off the balcony and throughout the main area.”
There’s more than enough space—for now, at least—which is what Sorenson told the neighbor when she recently asked the ambitious couple if they might be interested in buying her unit. “This place has everything we need,” she says. “I think we’re good.”
Elizabeth Krueger Design
Anees Custom Upholstery
Custom upholstery and sewing
Living room sofa and lighting
Table lamps, chandeliers and sconces
Fabrics for drapery and upholstery
Wallcovering in family room
Oscar Isberian Rugs
Coffee table and accessories
Grass cloth in breakfast nook
Thomas Masters Gallery