A suburban couple go urban and minimalist—just in time to expand their family
A bamboo-clad structure houses the condo’s heating and cooling system, divides the dining area from a bedroom; and provides a nook for banquette seating. Photo Gallery »
Liz and Brock Haldeman bought their two-bedroom-plus-den condo in a gleaming, glass-clad Lucien Lagrange high-rise in River North about five years ago, intending to use it as a crash pad. As owners of a busy graphic design firm with an office near this building, they thought it would be nice to have a place to stay when they were too exhausted to drive home to Western Springs.
But it wasn’t just the convenience factor that drove their decision to buy the condo. It was also an opportunity to try on a whole new lifestyle—one the aesthetically minded couple had been considering for a long time.
“We lived in a 100-year-old house with lots of small rooms and crown moldings, decorated with eclectic furnishings,” says Brock. “We wanted a more modern space, and to attempt to live more minimally.”
The unit they bought had been a rental, “plain vanilla with standard drywall, carpeting, wood floors, and walls everywhere dividing up the space,” Brock says. But with almost 270-degree views of downtown through floor-to-ceiling windows, they saw the potential for a more open, airy feel. “We just didn’t know what to do with that potential,” he recalls.
Enter Sig Froelich, an architect with Froelich Kim, who approaches most of his projects with what he calls “a process of reduction.” What could be better for a couple eager to “pare down to the essentials, to keep taking away until we can’t take away more,” as Brock put it? It’s no wonder that when Froelich showed them his stripped-down plan, the Haldemans were instantly on board.
“He solved it right out of the gate,” says Brock, referring to Froelich’s decision to knock down a lot of the walls; relocate the dining area to a central space near the condo’s entry, previously home to a small, closed-off den; and to section off the remaining bedrooms with sliding aluminum and frosted-glass panels (open, they turn the condo into one large space; closed, they offer privacy when needed). The Haldemans also liked the non-standard materials Froelich brought to the table: pale-green frosted glass; bamboo; limestone cladding on the walls; light-gray porcelain tile on the floor; and dark-stained brushed pine for the kitchen cabinets, paneling surrounding the Murphy bed, and built-in storage in the second bedroom. As for furnishings, they stuck to clean-lined classic mid-century modern pieces, with no superfluous accessories.
For all of the reducing that happened at the time of the renovation, it’s ironic that not long after its completion, the Haldemans made a major addition: They had a child. And the crash pad, as small and efficient as it was, became their permanent residence; they sold the house in Western Springs and embraced their urban lifestyle. At press time, their son was three, they were expecting another child, and they were building a house in Lincoln Park “even more minimalist and ultramodern than this,” says Brock. New habits are hard to break.
1. A trough along the ceiling of the seating nook contains concealed lighting; when in use, it washes the back wall of the banquette in a warm glow. 2. A pass-through in the corner of the kitchen visually connects this room to the dining area. Natural light seeps through and illuminates what would otherwise be a dark corner. 3. A slightly curved bamboo-clad wall leading from the entryway to the opposite side of the condo, where the master bedroom and living room are located, has two barely noticeable doors—one leading to a guest bath and the other to a small laundry closet. 4. The tub in the master bath has limestone-tiled walls on two sides and mosaic glass tile on a third, the accent wall behind it; architect Sig Froelich used a light trough here, as well, beautifully illuminating this textured backdrop. 5. The second bedroom contains a Murphy bed and built-in storage fronted with dark-stained pine, the same material used in the kitchen cabinets.
Resources: See Buy Guide.
Floor plan: See Photo Gallery »
Photography: Bob Coscarelli
Styling: Diane Ewing