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For the Love of Art

A real estate broker combines two units in a luxury high-rise to showcase his collection of fine art and antiquities.

Designer Kate Taylor worked closely with her client, Nicholas Colagiovanni, and Spencer Fine Art Services to give his extensive art collection pride of place in the newly renovated condo overlooking the city and lake. The large artwork in the living room is by American painter and graphic artist Joseph Piccillo, while a terra-cotta tiger’s head from 13th century Cambodia purchased at auction in the Netherlands sits in the window.  

The large foyer features checkerboard marble tile with lighting from Lightology. The large portrait is by Taiwanese artist Chiu Ya-tsai while the Buddha image sculpture is from Laos in the ninth century and was purchased through The Golden Triangle. The gold-and-black work is a mix of traditional paint and ink by Jin Yong Jeong from Korea, through Andrew Bae Gallery.  

The sinuous sculpture in the window is a Naga from Thailand—a mythical being that is half-cobra and half-human—made of teak and colored glass, purchased through The Golden Triangle. All of the windows feature custom motorized shades from TVTI.

A small terra-cotta head of a scholar boy from second-century Gandhara (Afghanistan today) and a Cambodian warrior bust sit on the custom coffee table by Bradley. Behind the custom sofa in Loro Piana fabric is a piece about cultural migration from the Bridges to Freedom series by Jerome Gastaldi.  

The dark cabinetry in the wet bar coordinates with the kitchen, providing grounding for all the white walls and multicolor artwork. The large painting is from Andrew Bae Gallery by artist Young-Bae Kim and shows train tracks in his hometown of Korea.

The gold-framed silver gelatin photo in the powder room is by Chicago-based photographer Victor Skrebneski, whose work Colagiovanni collects. The photo is of Pope John Paul II, while the exposure pays homage to painter Francis Bacon. The marble floating vanity is custom, the gallery-inspired lighting is by Roll & Hill and the grass cloth is Phillip Jeffries.  

It may take a village to raise a child, but it took a team of four art installers, one art consultant and one interior designer to direct the installation of a real estate broker’s significant art collection into a 3,100-square-foot luxury condo with sweeping park and lake views in downtown’s newest neighborhood, Lakeshore East.

“We had a plan mapped out where we wanted certain pieces,” says Kate Taylor, the interior designer hired by Nicholas Colagiovanni, a real estate agent with Baird & Warner, to carefully orchestrate the placing of his art in his recently expanded condo. Once the furniture was in place, “we started with the large-scale works and the ones he loves the most,” she explains. “It took a couple of days to install the art; it was a big undertaking. I couldn’t have directed that on my own.”

And that was after Taylor combined two units on the same floor, one of which Colagiovanni—who sells $40 million to $50 million of residential real estate in Chicago per year—purchased in part to gain more wall space for his growing collection. “I went from 1,700 square feet to 3,100 square feet all in the name of art,” he says.

Colagiovanni was always intrigued by fine art and antiquities, but growing up in Cleveland, the arts were discouraged in his household. “An interest in art was perceived as a sign of weakness or laziness,” he says. “It wasn’t until I started making great money that I could afford original work and antiquities from Indochina.” Among his possessions are pieces from Korea, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia purchased at the Christie’s auction house as well as local gallery Andrew Bae and antiques showroom The Golden Triangle. Additionally, he collects black-and-white photography from Chicago fashion photographer Victor Skrebneski.

“I carefully select each piece based on how it makes me feel,” Colagiovanni explains, “and I had the pleasure of sitting down and having dinner with most of the artists. People talk about L.A., New York or Miami for a great art scene; Chicago has a great art scene.”

Though it was challenging to place the copious amount of works—including a 13th century terra-cotta tiger’s-head sculpture and a riding jacket made of freshwater pearls—Taylor also had to maintain an open floor plan and facilitate Colagiovanni’s love of entertaining. “The individual units were open to begin with, and we wanted to keep that quality,” she says. Despite cumbersome plumbing and electrical stacks, “we accomplished that.” Taylor also created a formal living room, a more casual family room and a dining room. She even managed to carve out a room to house his comic book collection. “He wanted more of those designated areas he didn’t have before,” she says.

The interior designer contrasted white walls, the obvious choice to best showcase art, with cabinetry in the bar and kitchen done in Farrow & Ball’s Off-Black and a patterned marble floor in the entry. “Nicholas always wears a navy suit and a tie with a little pattern in it. I wanted to translate that sharp, masculine look into the home,” she says. “I wanted it to feel like Nicholas, and the way he dresses is a reflection of what we did in the condo.”

In the living room, the palette was based on a huge painting behind the sofa that looks like it could be a Basquiat, while in the guest bedroom, she took her color cues from the feather headdress hanging above the bed. “I wanted everything to complement the artwork,” Taylor notes. She upholstered furniture throughout the enlarged condo in wools, linens and cotton velvets by Loro Piana, helping mitigate all the floor-to-ceiling glass.

Only one wall in the guest bedroom remains blank. Colagiovanni says he is waiting for inspiration, “for my heart and my soul to be touched,” to buy that special piece. “Buying fine art is a privilege, and living with it is a luxury,” he says. He jokes that when he runs out of wall space, “I’ll probably start hanging art on the ceiling.” Either that, or he may have to shop for more real estate.

DESIGN DETAILS
TYPE
Condo

LOCATION
Lakeshore East

INTERIOR DESIGN
Kate Taylor, Kate Taylor Interiors

BUILDERS
Twenty9 Inc.

MILLWORK
Yoder Kitchen Corp.

ART INSTALLATION
Tony Wight, Spencer Fine Art Services

RESOURCES
Bradley
Custom coffee table

Circa Lighting
Lamps in living room

Holly Hunt
Phillip Jeffries grass cloth in powder room

Jayson Home
Accessories and some vintage pieces

Leo’s Furniture & Upholstery
Custom tufted ottoman

Lightology
Ceiling fixture in entry

Loro Piana interiors
All upholstery fabric

Montauk Sofa
Custom sectional in living room

Tufenkian
Rugs throughout

Waterworks
Fixtures in wet bar