Brininstool + Lynch designs a Chicago condo to fulfill a client's every desire
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 2/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
It's difficult enough to put one's own vision into words, but it's downright daunting when the conceived picture is crystal-clear in the mind's eye of the speaker, who is a client addressing her designer. Just ask Brad Lynch about being briefed by Adrienne Weiss. He is a coprincipal of Brininstool + Lynch; she is a self-branded expert in the realm of corporate branding, engaged by global companies whose names include Coca-Cola and Disney.
Lynch and Weiss met in their hometown of Chicago at a party held by her neighbor. The two guests talked, inevitably homing in on the topic of her intended purchase of a new flat. The next time they spoke, she had made a selection: a 2,800-square-foot three-bedroom apartment in a 1970s condominium building. At this point, she realized that a complete overhaul was needed in order to reify her ideas. He listened and commented; work plans were indited.
The apartment had never—conceivably as a testimonial to the North Side building's ingrained quality, not to mention coveted address—been renovated during the long occupancy of the charter tenants. Spatial conditions might have been deemed passable. Still, having been built to the developer's dated standards, the place did not live up to the new owner's expectations for her milieu.
She not only wanted her residence to reflect the unbridled freedom of loft living but also wished to enjoy the orderly serenity of minimalism. She longed for a totally individual kitchen, for a dining table that had no identical twin anywhere, a sink that was a sculpture, an exceptional stove, a matchless lighting fixture, and a soap dish that could have passed for an objet trouvé. Provenance was of minor import; what mattered was that appointments be sui generis. Thus, for example, common carpeting did not appeal; stained maple and French limestone flooring were laid in living areas and traffic lanes, respectively. No kitchen ever looked so sleek, trim, and atypical among cookery rooms. Bedroom adornments are confined to a Chinese vase and a window-framed view of the John Hancock Center. And the bathroom is awash with architectural simplicity.
The job was a year and a half in the making. Most influential in attaining the client's dreams was converting the traditionally divided layout into wall-to-wall openness, in the process giving up one of the bedrooms in exchange for still more unencumbered space. The sense of airiness is most palpable in public areas. In private sectors, dividers stop 3 feet short of perimeters, and sliding painted-wood panels are, as it were, poised to close the gap.
Equally if not more exigent was the required job of readjusting pipes and wiring to retain connections with relevant appliances. The contractor's initial step, accordingly, was total demolition, not sparing the floors (ripped out) and exterior windowsills (ditto). Sprinkler and mechanical systems, previously buried in divider walls, are now secreted in portions of the ceiling that are dropped; electrical wire "fields" are hidden overhead, too. Pipes were shifted slightly, but no farther, so as not to derail linkage; and radiant heating was repaired and adjusted. The original ceiling slab having been poured somewhat unevenly, minute discrepancies in levelness had to be "feathered out" with coats of plaster. Ample interior glazing prolongs vision lines and diffuses natural light.
Furniture and fabrics were selected by the client, but Lynch's custom pieces—the dining table and the ceiling light fixture, specifically—steal the show. Indeed different from known counterparts, the table consists of honed limestone slabs supported by a pedestal of three parallel steel plates, fairly close to one side, and anchored to the windowsill at the far end. Strong and solid as the immovable table looks and is, the small steel prop lifting the window end creates for the piece a perceived levitation. Also unusual, the ceiling light fixture consists of an aluminum frame suspended by cabling (holes were drilled in the metal form) that holds low-voltage lamps and supplies the electrical power. The ultimate feature attraction is one that Lynch cannot, however, call his own: Windows offer grand views to Lake Michigan and, the flat being on the 38th of the building's 70-some floors, ad infinitum sights beyond.