Inside the home of two modernists with a taste of timelessness
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The owners: Jason Pickleman, creative force behind JNL Graphic Design, ringmaster of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Bingo/Tango night, and adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the University of Illinois, Chicago; and his wife, Leslie Bodenstein, who manages JNL and, having studied the history of American furniture at Boston University, taught her husband everything he knows about furniture design. They have a 12-year-old son, Willem, and a gray cat called Dusty. The digs: The top floor (once the maids’ quarters) of a converted Edwardian mansion in Lake View. “We love that we live in the most humble part,” says Pickleman. The aesthetic: Timeless, association-free, ambiguous modern. After selling all of their mid-century modern furniture to Richard Wright nine years ago (“We saw an Arne Jacobsen chair on the cover of a JCPenney direct mail piece and decided mid-century was over”) they started to invest in furniture that “didn’t look like it belonged to any specific time period, but had significant design elements,” says Pickleman. The game-changer: The chunky wood Bigfoot table and Taro bench from e15.com (1) in the dining room was one of the couple’s first post-purge purchases. “Our impression was that it looked both Shaker and like it could have come out of the studio of [prominent ’60s sculptor] Donald Judd. It’s that slipperiness that we like,” says Pickleman. Function and form: Bodenstein made a beeline for the Vico Magistretti for Cassina sofa (2) at one of Luminaire’s famous blowout sales several years ago. With swiveling chairs whose backs unfold to become higher and “end tables” built right into its frame, the couch met the couple’s criteria for high-concept design and livability. Local architect Douglas Garofalo’s Orb fireplace (3) gets points for being both cool looking and easy to clean. The mind of a graphic artist: Pickleman organizes the books on his shelves by hue (4) and can tell you the color and typeface used on the spine of every one. Art with heart: No one can accuse this pair of having conventional taste in art. In the kitchen, a painting that says July 1, 1974 (5), is “a ‘bootleg’ by Eric Doeringer of a painting by internationally known On Kawara,” says Pickleman. Atop the Cappellini Hi-Fi System credenza (6) from Luminaire is a 1964 Joseph Sterling photo of a teenage girl screaming at a Chicago Beatles concert (7) (“I love the mixture of ecstasy and pain; it’s the essence of rock ’n’ roll—and adolescence”). Lying dormant and pale on one of the credenza’s deep shelves is a painted wax sculpture by Joe Cassan called “The Death of Whimsy” (8); it’s a dead elf. A Lego sculpture is by artist-in-residence Willem Helmet Pickleman, age 12 (9).
Photography: Andreas Larsson