Doing Double Duty: 4 Fabulously Flexible Living Spaces

Candy Spelling’s Los Angeles mansion was famed for its three gift-wrapping rooms (her current penthouse merely has one), while Mariah Carey’s Manhattan triplex—done by interior designer Mario Buatta—is renowned for its closet that rivals the Presidential Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. But most homeowners don’t have the luxury of devoting an entire room to one use—even those with unlimited budgets given the realities of space constraints in abodes today. And many of our clients have told us that the key to the good life isn’t ‘more,’ but ‘better.’ Better space, better interior design and better furnishings.

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Mariah Carey’s enviable closet and Candy Spelling’s fully-stocked gift wrapping room are rare single-use spaces in this day and age. Photos: Architectural Digest,

With all this in mind, many clients have challenged us to create double-duty spaces in some of the most spectacular luxury buildings in Chicago. While all of these rooms are prompted by very specific needs, and have yielded very interesting results that we’re sharing here, they’ve also helped us grow as interior designers. Speaking from experience, we now know that the secret to making these rooms work is to combine functions in intriguing ways, and get really creative with layouts as you can see in some of our recent projects.


This expansive loft is outfitted with furniture and fixtures that make it ideal for any activity. Project: Urban Loft

Maximizing One Great Room: For an urban loft, we zoned the large living space for every situation imaginable. One wall anchors a fully operative, mood-making fireplace and sleek AV system that naturally defines the living and entertaining space. Paired with comfortable upholstered pieces, it becomes the ideal space for conversation or media consumption. Two separate tables—one large and more traditional, the other trim and task oriented—offers options for formal and informal dining or work and play situations.


The large-screen TV in this living room is hidden behind a masterpiece when not in use. Project: East Lake Shore Drive Residence

Making More of a Grand Space: When you get the décor of gorgeous space right, it makes sense to get the most out it. This was the case for a grand salon-style living room on Chicago’s East Lake Shore Drive that had stunning shoreline views. The homeowners wanted to use the room for watching television as well as entertaining, which called for a solution that wouldn’t compromise its formal demeanor. Our solution was to install the large screen TV behind an epic painting on rails, making it possible to slide aside the artwork with speed and ease.


The spacious living area in this Streeterville residence includes features that make it flexible enough to accommodate a variety of entertaining occasions. Project: Pied-a-terre

Setting the Scene: A spacious living area can be designed to accommodate a range of entertaining situations. This residence—also blessed with a stunning lake view—features a large primary seating area facing the hearth, with a contiguous formal dining area behind the grouping. A secondary seating area, edged by picture windows overlooking the lake, includes an oval table rather than a low-slung coffee table, enabling the space to serve as a dining area when needed.

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This family room includes a semi-circular seating area with panoramic views of the city. Project: Pied-a-terre

Affecting a Black Out: This luxurious yet comfortable home includes a living area featuring a semi-circular family room with blockbuster panoramic views. The layout is intended to foster intimate conversation yet also maximize the sightlines, but that’s only the beginning—when the family wants to watch a movie, motorized shades and drop-down screen transform the space into a state-of-the-art home theater.


Double-duty furnishings include the Transforming Table from Primitive and a custom ottoman our team had made for a client (project: South Loop Residence) to offer respite to bodies and feet or serve as a coffee table.

These great transformations are made easier by furnishings that can serve more than one purpose. Two fabulous and flexible pieces that we’re loving right now are this shelving unit from Primitive that transforms into a table, and an ottoman we designed and fabricated for one of our clients, which offers a resting spot for bodies and feet and does double-duty as a coffee table.

02 Jul 2015

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