Sometimes, in life and in design, the only way to go is up. Thomas Riker and James Dolenc, of the Chicago-based firm jamesthomas, took this idiom to heart in more ways than one when they gutted and renovated two adjoining loft apartments.
Both units had mezzanine levels that the designers eliminated to take advantage of the main room’s 18-foot ceilings. A brick wall between the apartments was demolished, allowing Riker and Dolenc to create a 4,000-square-foot apartment with a huge open entertaining space, a master suite for the owners and a guest wing that features two bedrooms and an office. “Everything was cleaned up, lightened up and designed with the knowledge that the main living space would be used for everything from entertaining to casual hanging out,” says Riker.
But they weren’t finished with their rise to the top. Each of the units also had a roof room and a deck. Once again, the two areas were combined and Riker understatedly notes that the terrace has “the most fantastic view of Chicago.” If you don’t believe him, see for yourself.
Building Up 1: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
“Dueling sectionals and a huge glass coffee table contribute to the light, bright look of the main living space,” says Riker. All three pieces were custom made and designed by jamesthomas. (The coffee table was made by Gentner Fabrication). "You're drawn to the outside because the windows are so immense, so we chose a calm, neutral color palette that doesn't distract from the views," Riker explains. The timber loft building was once used for commercial purposes, and the designers left the original duct work and Douglas fir ceiling. Oak floors were finished with a gray wash.
The entry has a lowered ceiling, so Riker and Dolenc went moody, with a touch of glamour. "The dark paint on the ceiling relates to the color of the iridescent wallpaper and defines the space in a jewel box kind of way," says Riker.
Building Up 2: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
The powder room off the entry is primarily used by guests. "We really wanted to pump it up and again make it very jewel box like," says Riker. He adds that the Maya Romanoff wall covering (which was applied only on the back wall) "looks like shells and is very shimmery and textural." A ceiling fixture from Boyd Lighting adds even more drama to the room.
Building Up 3: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
The double-sided fireplace was an existing element, and the designers refaced it in a rough tile to give it more of a chimney feel. And once again emphasizing the ceiling height, they added a storage divider. The living room side conceals a TV, while the dining room cabinets hold plates and glasses.
The square dining table belonged to the owners, and Riker says it worked great in the space. He had the chairs recovered and added an oversized round Ochre chandelier to ground the space.
The library next to the dining area had been a separate room in the old floor plan. After removing the walls, a 42-inch-high built-in was added that the couple uses for buffet service during dinner parties.
The wine area is located just to the left of the dining and library space for easy entertaining. Four Sub-Zero wine coolers flank a grapevine-inspired table and sleek high-gloss metallic bar stools. "The space has a bit of an international vibe," says Riker. "It's a very small corner, so we wanted to keep it clean and contemporary."
Building Up 4: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
The kitchen is a linen color and has textured wood cabinets from Snaidero. "All the materials had to work with the color palette — gray, cream, taupe, tan and camel — and be incorporated to have the kitchen flow with the rest of the living space," says Riker.
The glass backsplash has an iridescent, undulating quality and refers back to the wallpaper in the entry hall. Squared-down pendant fixtures by Ochre relate to the chandelier in the dining room. (Riker calls them "sister fixtures.") The classic Bertoia bar stools belonged to the owners and were reupholstered in leather.
Building Up 5: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
The colors in the master bedroom are a bit richer than in the rest of the apartment — more slate blue and gray, less taupe and tan. "It's not a huge room, so we kept it very clean," says Riker. The mohair chaise longue is "so luxurious and comfortable, and it's become a favorite reading nook for the owners."
Building Up 6: James Thomas Interiors, original photo on Houzz
The terrace seating area has a firepit, and with no neighbors nearby, the views are open to the north, east, and south. The birch tree branches are a reference back to the wallpaper in the adjoining terrace room (not shown). They "add some fun," Riker says. "You're surrounded by lots of concrete and buildings, so it's kind of nice to feel like you're in a bird's nest or a forest." The decking is an all-weather composite material.
Photography courtesy Houzz