The Magic of This Duplex Apartment Is in Its Walls

At a Lakeview penthouse in Chicago, clever spatial fixes and a host of rich materials balance the classic and the contemporary.

Lakeview Penthouse Chicago
DUPLEX APPEAL At the Lakeview penthouse in Chicago, a diversity of surfaces and finishes helps smooth out the building’s sloping walls and direct views outward. Courtesy Steve Hall, Hall + Merrick Photographers

For a young family from California’s Bay Area, the Lakeview penthouse in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood was almost perfect. Situated on the 38th and 39th floors of a Lucien Lagrange–designed building, the duplex offered expansive views of the Loop and Lake Michigan. Because of the building’s mansard roof, however, it suffered from an awkward interior with deep arched-top dormers and sloping walls.

“It had the potential to feel very heavy,” says Jon Heinert, principal at Wheeler Kearns Architects, which designed the family’s apartment. His solution was to wrap the interior with a white “shell,” drawing the eye toward the views beyond.

Having solved the spatial problem, Heinert was free to design a modern home with rich materials including gray lacquered panels, walnut, and oxidized black metal. A sculptural staircase is uplit with tunable lights, whose warmth fluctuates throughout the day. That dramatic yet sensible lighting helps cultivate what Heinert calls “a classically contemporary space within an otherwise traditional building.”

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