Tour a Chicago Home That Went From Bland to Brilliant

“This was a blank slate,” says interior designer Michael Abrams of a newly-built single-family home smack dab in the middle of Lincoln Park. He designed the interiors for a family of four; the parents were both busy doctors.

The family left their furniture behind when they relocated from their previous home in Texas. Perhaps because it was built on spec, “the place was pretty bland,” Abrams observes, noting the lack of architectural embellishments, color and pattern. “It needed good design.” 

Early on in the process, Abrams developed a feel for the family’s style: plush and posh, with the occasional jaw-dropping moment. To create interest in the foyer, for example, he covered the wall with smoked mirror—one of many wall treatments throughout the three-level abode. “We gave it a sense of luxury,” he explains. 

THE LIVING ROOM

michael abrams main
A rug from Oscar Isberian establishes the subtle color palette. The brass and crystal mirror is from Baker Furniture. On the right, the space is open to the formal dining room, which includes a bronze Corbin floor sculpture. Photos by Ryan McDonald.

A neutral grasscloth wallcovering added warmth to the formal living room, perfectly accenting the existing stone fireplace surround. 

Adding a pleasing pop of pattern and color, a painterly blue-and-white rug from Oscar Isberian anchored a blue velvet sofa and a pair of barrel-back, channel-tufted chairs around a linear cocktail table.

michael abrams bookshelf
A bookshelf from The Flemming Group and a sculptural drink table from the William Collins Collection are two of the many high-end pieces.

A brass and crystal mirror from Baker Furniture over the fireplace sealed the deal. 

“They wanted some bling, and it delivers,” Abrams muses. 

THE DINING ROOM

michael abrams dining room
A chandelier from Circa Lighting illuminates a table and chairs from Baker Furniture in the formal dining room. The artwork on the left is by Liat Elbling from Catherine Edleman Gallery. An abstract painting from Thomas Masters Gallery makes a big statement.

A bronze Corbin floor sculpture stood at the threshold to the formal dining room, where a dynamic multi-arm brass chandelier illuminated a wood table and upholstered chairs from Baker Furniture. 

“We liked how light, airy and sculptural it was,” Abrams says. 

A large abstract painting by Thomas Masters and a series of small, colorful mixed-media pieces by Liat Elbling further enlivened the space. 

THE FAMILY ROOM

michael abrams family room
A sectional sofa by Barron Custom Furniture and suede-covered chairs from Eurocraft Furniture complement the existing granite fireplace surround in the open family room.

The sense of quiet luxury carried into the family room, where a sumptuous sectional sofa and a pair of suede chairs created a spot for the family to relax together, binge their favorite shows and read.

A wool rug with a subtle blue-and-white stripe and striped draperies added texture and dimension. 

michael abrams family room 2
A glass lamp and throw pillows echo the blue hues in the rug from Oscar Isberian in this family room by interior designer, Michael Abrams.

THE STAIRWAY

michael abrams stairway
A wall covering from Phillip Jeffries adds depth and dimension to the large stairway wall. The runner is from Rexx Rug.

The designer specified that the stairway’s wood newel posts be painted black, playing off the border in the new stairway runner. A restrained wallcovering with a checkerboard pattern transformed what was formerly a massive white wall into a statement piece. 

“We strived for continuity,” Abrams says. 

THE MASTER BEDROOM

michael abrams master bedroom
A pair of chairs covered in Cowtan & Tout fabric offer a spot to read, converse or watch TV in the master suite. Done in faux leather, mohair and brass, the ottoman is by Barron Custom Furniture.

In the master suite, Abrams added a built-in cabinet with space for the TV surrounded by shelving that showcases family photos, books and objets d’art. 

In front of the TV, a pair of barrel-back swivel chairs flank a circular cocktail table that complements the round chandelier overhead. 

“Everything is very tranquil,” he says. “In their world as doctors, that’s what they are looking to come home to.”

While the couple say Abrams nailed the design, they recently sold the home and moved to Baltimore, taking up residence in an industrial loft overlooking the harbor. Unlike their last move, they will be taking their newly acquired furnishings. They’ve asked Abrams to help them bring their new place to life. 

More from SPACES:


Tate Gunnerson

Tate Gunnerson is a Chicago-based freelance journalist with an equal appreciation for natural beauty and good design.