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The wall unit was designed by Ilene Chase Design and installed by Specialty Woodworking. It covers Thibaut Grasscloth wallpaper.

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A Family Affair

By Kerrie Kennedy

Photography by David Kolia and Matt Mansueto

12.21.17

When Dad is the contractor, a new home is a team project.

WHEN YOUR FATHER is a well-known local contractor—Boris Levin of ABL Painting & Decorating—and you decide to build a home, you can bet it’s going to be everything you could ever dream of, and then some. “Ever since I was old enough to know what he did, I always wanted to build a home with my dad,” Iolanta Levin says. “It was always my dream. So when my second son was starting kindergarten, and my husband and I decided it was time to leave the city and head to the North Shore, my dad was the first person I called.”

After securing a lot equidistant from both sets of parents, Iolanta and her father began making plans for a house that would be a labor of love for both of them. But early on, she realized she needed an interior designer to help carry out her vision. Luckily, after walking through a stunning home that Ilene Chase had designed, she knew immediately the Northbrook-based designer would be the perfect person to round out the team.

Indeed, Chase was all in with the homeowner’s concept—an ultramodern, sleek home infused with warmth and personality by way of wood, texture, light and some eye-popping artwork. Keeping in mind Iolanta’s preference for neutral colors—her entire wardrobe consists of mostly white, black and gray—Chase chose a palette of taupe, gray, cream and white for the home, the perfect backdrop to showcase its details and architectural elements. “The goal was to create a relaxing mood with soft, simple colors throughout,” Chase says.

Once that was in place, Chase began creating a series of renderings for Iolanta to approve, while her father created actual mock-ups. “The details in this house were really like none other, so it was important,” Chase says. “We had a standing weekly appointment to go over everything. It was run like a business.” A self-described perfectionist to the nth degree, Levin says her father was on board for all of it. “My dad would say ‘anything is possible,’ and then whatever you dream up, he makes happen.” 

The Prairie-School style exterior features strong horizontal and vertical lines.

However, the shower in the master bath, which features a single piece of glass, 9 feet by 7 feet, gave Boris a run for his money. “It would not clear our landing to get upstairs, so we had to hoist it through a 4-inch opening up to the second floor in order to get it in the master bath,” Iolanta recalls. “That piece literally had to go in before the staircase.” The mirror above the vanities, which features faucets coming out of it, proved to be yet another challenge. When they drilled the holes for the faucets, the mirror cracked. “We went through three mirrors, but it was worth it,” she says.

A functional, hardworking kitchen was a top priority for this family, although its pristine, polished appearance—from the white marble waterfall island to the luminous white glass backsplash—belies its practicality. “We’re very organic and cook from scratch every day,” Iolanta says. “So the kitchen is really the cornerstone of our house.” In addition to allocating as much square footage as possible for the kitchen, as well as a large window near the kitchen table to infuse the room with light, Chase added plenty of hidden functional storage custom-designed to house everything from appliances to the client’s huge collection of serving trays. “The family doesn’t like a lot of clutter, so there’s literally a place for everything,” Chase notes.

The walnut-beamed living room, which Chase outfitted with a white quartz ledger-stone fireplace, a cowhide-and-wool area rug, Thibaut Grasscloth wallpaper and an inviting Thayer Coggin sectional, is another favorite hangout. “While everything in the house is custom and unique, this is not a house where you can’t sit on a couch,” Iolanta says. “This is where life happens for us. I feel so lucky that I got to dream it up and that I had Ilene and my dad to execute it.”  

The kitchen cabinets were custom-built by Specialty Woodworking out of rift-sawn oak with a custom multilevel stain.