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Labor of Love

For the second time in a decade, a young couple embarks on a massive renovation to combine their loft with a neighboring unit.

Originally three units that are now one, this condo features a great room that is the heart of the home. Designer Elizabeth Krueger filled it with lush upholstered pieces—mostly custom designs, plus a sofa from Bright—to lend warmth and softness to the open space. 

John Holmes’ home office features ebony-stained wood paneling and a terrazzo marble fireplace. 

Draperies made from Holly Hunt’s Great Plains fabric, a cowhide rug, a custom deep-blue sofa and a chair from Room & Board create a more intimate seating area within the great room. 

Art from Thomas Masters Gallery creates a focal point above the fireplace in the great room. 

Surrounded by a custom banquette upholstered in leather from Holly Hunt and chairs covered in indoor-outdoor fabrics, the breakfast table is the perfect place for the couple’s three young boys to eat, Jenni Sorenson explains. The grass-cloth wallcovering is from Schumacher.

The powder room is all-white marble to add some lightness without throwing off the home’s modern vibe. “It offsets itself from the really dark entry, but it’s not super girly,” says Krueger.  

 “John had a vision for this type of paneling,” says Krueger of the ebony-stained wood that clads the formal entry and foyer. 

The family room has accordion doors allowing the wallcovering by Lori Weitzner to be visible from the kitchen and great room when it is open. Krueger designed the rift-cut veneer cabinet for the TV. 

John Holmes and Jenni Sorenson joke that for every baby boy they bring into the world, they also buy a new loft on the eighth floor of their River North building. Sure, moving might be easier than merging two units into one—something they have done twice now—but they just can’t bear the thought of leaving such an ideal location. “You feel like you’re just nestled into the city,” Holmes says, noting that the L curves right in front of the building, and they are surrounded by the buzziest restaurants in town. “It feels so perfect that it would be really hard to leave.”

Sorenson was pregnant with their third son when they bought the corner unit across the hall and hired architect Jim Harriman and interior designer Elizabeth Krueger to integrate it into their own. The result is a sprawling five-bedroom plus a den abode with four long balconies that overlook expansive north, south and east views. “They pretty much have the whole corner, which is really unusual,” explains Krueger, who worked closely with the couple to select finishes and furnishings. “They wanted something contemporary but warm and family-friendly.”

Porcelain-tile floors, for example, provide a casual counterbalance to the handsome ebony-stained paneling in the newly added entry foyer that connects the original condo with the new unit. “It’s a nice juxtaposition to the clean finish of the wood paneling while staying true to the loft vibe,” notes Krueger, who spent hours making sure the paneling felt symmetrical despite accommodating six openings, including an integrated closet. “It was a labor of love.”

To create even more drama, Krueger lowered the paneled ceiling by 3 feet, a classic architectural trick that makes the lofted ceilings in the bright and airy great room feel even more dramatic. “There was no sense of formality or of being received in the original unit,” Krueger says. “The addition of that entry provided quite a bit of drama and excitement.”

There are several distinct seating areas in the great room, each furnished with contemporary pieces covered in neutral family-friendly fabrics. Color comes primarily from the couple’s extensive collection of modern art, although there is a punch of blue in the form of a crisp tufted sofa that defines a cozy seating zone where the family tends to congregate during the evenings. “You really get to see the lines of the furniture and the material selection without being overwhelmed by pattern and color,” she explains. “It’s more masculine and handsome.”

Along with the strong elements, there are softer lines, such as the rounded edges of a cowhide rug and the subtle curves on the leather-covered banquette and chairs that surround the oval tulip table in the breakfast area. A grass-cloth wallcovering framed out with a bespoke painted metal detail lends texture and a subtle pattern. “Unexpected touches add character and interest,” Krueger explains.

There’s another wallcovering in the cozy family room nook, this one perforated by a geometric pattern that allows the painted wall underneath to show through. A streamlined sectional and a trio of rustic wood stumps grouped together as a cocktail table atop a silk rug completes the vignette. “If everything is perfectly appointed and polished, it feels like you just walked into a showroom and bought the display,” Krueger says.

With two major renovations behind them, Holmes and Sorenson are happily settled and enjoying the fruits of their spacious abode, which is ideal for both quiet family time and also for hosting large gatherings, as they did recently for Holmes’ 40th birthday. “It’s wonderful for entertaining,” Sorenson explains, “particularly in the summer when the doors are open and people circulate on and off the balcony and throughout the main area.”

There’s more than enough space—for now, at least­—which is what Sorenson told the neighbor when she recently asked the ambitious couple if they might be interested in buying her unit. “This place has everything we need,” she says. “I think we’re good.”

DESIGN DETAILS
TYPE
Condo

LOCATION
River North

ARCHITECTURE
Jim Harriman

INTERIOR DESIGN
Elizabeth Krueger Design

BUILDER
Artifex

RESOURCES
Anees Custom Upholstery
Custom upholstery and sewing

Artistic Tile
Tile throughout

Bright
Living room sofa and lighting

Circa Lighting
Table lamps, chandeliers and sconces

Deaurora
Dining table

Holly Hunt
Fabrics for drapery and upholstery

Jayson Home
Coffee table

Lori Weitzner
Wallcovering in family room

Oscar Isberian Rugs
Rugs throughout

Poggenpohl
Kitchen cabinetry

Restoration Hardware
Coffee table and accessories

Schumacher
Grass cloth in breakfast nook

Thomas Masters Gallery
Art throughout