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Artful Living

The heart of a Fulton Market family home is an extraordinary collection of contemporary art.

John Lennon (a painting by Joey Africa) keeps a watchful eye on the family’s second-floor gathering place. The glass and wood staircase leads to the nearly 4,000-square-foot terrace, and next to the door hangs Ginny Krueger’s Burn series.

Spacious yet intimate, perfect for a party of two or 200, local restaurateur Pamella Capitanini (Italian Village being her main claim to fame) has artfully organized her 5,500-square-foot loft—including a nearly 2,600-square-foot first floor—into rooms within a room. Each is clearly defined with its own character, yet remains a graceful part of the larger whole. And although there is world-class art at every turn, the home doesn’t feel like a gallery.

Capitanini’s Fulton Market converted warehouse is a special kind of place, where art stars but where her children can do their homework on the laminate-and-chrome dining table. It’s a place where the family can watch television on a turquoise BoConcept Mezzo sectional with arms designed to be used as seats, and where she can nestle in the corner of a BoConcept Milos sofa every morning with a cup of coffee—a vantage point from which she can take in the entire space. There’s an early Francine Turk on one wall and, beyond that, a Steven Hudson and a glimpse of cheerful lavender flowerpots on the balcony. And her west-facing view is quintessential Chicago: turn-of-the-last-century warehouses, brand-new glass high-rises and 100-year-old church steeples.

A foreclosure with tangled tax, financial and legal complexities, the loft initially lacked appeal for Capitanini. Then, six months later, the property was suddenly available and free of red tape. “We had basically given up on it; then here it was again,” she says. Empty for more than three years, the space was water-damaged; appliances were ruined; and the drywall, warped. Capitanini didn’t see any need to reconfigure the space, but a total gut rehab was necessary.

“I really wanted a background that would let the art come through,” says Capitanini, who painted the walls, baseboards, doors and ceilings throughout the entire home a very pale beige. The color scheme was picked by Nate Berkus Associates alum Brynn Olson (now principal of interior design firm Brynn Olson Design Group), who assisted with the space planning and furniture layout for the home as well. The result is an expansive but livable interior, perfect for displaying art and accommodating Capitanini’s active family. Art is everywhere, and the collection is remarkable in terms of size, variety and quality. Through expert display, nothing overwhelms, and each piece fits perfectly in its setting. The largely neutral colors of the surfaces and furniture—whites and creams—are soothing and comfortable, and their arrangement creates clearly defined spaces throughout the first floor.

Furnished largely with midcentury and contemporary furniture, her husband’s more traditional tastes are addressed through an antique black-lacquered Rococo console placed just beside the front door. A large photograph in electric blue above it adds a pop of color and balances the old and new. A long wall just beyond is anchored by the Milos sofa and a matching chaise lounge under a large Pete Nawara. The 11-foot-by-6-foot canvas depicts 10 nearly life-size figures who look as though they could be attending a cocktail party in the very room. “[Nawara’s] work is so personal, I couldn’t just buy anything,” says Capitanini. “Then we moved into this space, and the wall was perfect for this piece.”

A conversation area in the middle of the room is created with black Ogi chairs, a Warren Platner side table and a cowhide rug from South Carolina. Behind that is the Karim Rashid dining table that seats 10, with repurposed Bertoia chairs from Knoll. A bar cabinet (that also houses a wine cooler) in bright cherry-red enamel is an unexpected pop of color that works perfectly within the overall aesthetic.

The effect of light on neutrals is demonstrated by the kitchen backsplash, where the sun’s rays make the tiny stainless steel tiles appear to be shades of gray, silver and black in a checkerboard pattern. Likewise, the walls and ceilings change color from one perpendicular surface to the next, depending on the light.

Fluorescent early Eero Aarnio puppies stand guard under the glass-and-wood staircase, and a flock of more than 60 tiny metal birds, found and installed by Viktor Van Bramer, take flight on one wall. The stairs lead to the second-floor family room, featuring a deep, inviting, light-gray BoConcept sectional. Here, the family watches TV on a flat-screen, whose shape mirrors the fireplace beneath—all watched over by John Lennon, gazing from a large canvas by Joey Africa.

Capitanini’s office on the other side of the staircase includes a child’s chair by Keith Haring. She is involved in RxArt, a nonprofit that arranges installations by contemporary artists in pediatric hospitals. The second floor includes the master suite, an elegant, soothing space where the most notable feature is a soaring 20-foot ceiling adorned with light fixtures by Steven Haulenbeek. The overall contemporary design is softened by multipaned french doors with beveled glass; the extrapolated juxtaposition being a beaux-arts Paris apartment given an art-moderne makeover—which continues into her husband’s office, decked out in a Picasso and Matisse.

The home is crowned by a nearly 4,000-square-foot wraparound terrace that offers sweeping vistas of the east, south and west. Like the home’s interior, the space has been divided and sectioned into outdoor rooms by planters, walls and multiple levels that include a variety of seating areas and an outdoor kitchen.

Blending family life with her collector’s passion into a cohesive, discerning and comfortable home was an act of creation, and Capitanini has not only mastered it, she’s made an art of it.


Condo loft

Fulton Market

Brynn Olson Design Group


Linens throughout

Para CSB counter stool in kitchen

Light fixture in dining area

Wall and ceiling paint throughout: Kilim beige SW 6106 and Creamy SW 7012

Brazilian cherry-stained plank wood flooring: mixture of Minwax Provincial 211 and dark walnut 2716

Wine cooler

Liquor cabinet

Unique Deck Builders
Terrace design and installation