Iconic Midcentury Furnishings Transform A Traditional Pre-War Apartment

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Since co-founding his firm, Brininstool + Lynch, more than three decades ago, architect Brad Lynch has designed more than 250 impeccably crafted projects, including custom single-family homes and public spaces like the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin. In addition to several ongoing residential projects, he’s currently overseeing the redesign of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College on Michigan Avenue.

While he describes himself as a “diehard modernist” and dreams of one day living in one of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic residential towers on Lake Shore Drive, Lynch recently surprised close friends by moving into an historic unit with traditional moldings and a classic layout in an intimate prewar building in the Gold Coast. “It’s cozy,” he says, “a change for sure, but a welcome one.”

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Indeed, while he keeps his eye on real estate listings, his current home’s lack of floor-to-ceiling windows creates plenty of wall space for his extensive art collection, which includes paintings, photography, ceramics and sculpture. He’s collected nearly 200 pieces since investing in his first one when he was in junior high at the advice of a teacher. “There’s a lot more hanging space than I had before,” he explains, noting he often keeps the shades closed to protect the collection.

To create a bridge between the apartment’s classic architecture and his modern sensibilities, Lynch furnished the space with a mix of streamlined contemporary pieces alongside iconic midcentury furnishings by renowned designers such as Knoll, Eames and Nelson. He started collecting in the 90s, often selecting beat-up pieces that just need a little TLC. “I found somebody here in Chicago that does a great job rebuilding them so they’re like brand new,” he says.

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Rescued from a dusty warehouse, for example, a refurbished 60s-era sectional sofa by Edward Wormley anchors a seating area in front of the traditional fireplace. In front of the street-facing windows, a pair of revitalized chairs in dark purple felt surround a new Tulip table by Saarinen. Illuminated by a modern black floor lamp by Artemide, it’s an ideal spot for Lynch and his girlfriend, Portia Belloc Lowndes, to play the Italian card game Machiavelli.

The space’s existing white walls proved to be an ideal backdrop for his art collection. For example, a series of framed prints by Bill Viola hang over the sofa. And flanking the fireplace are paintings by Keiko Hara, whose work can be found throughout the apartment. “When you’re concentrating on work, everything kind of disappears, but once in a while, I take a break and look at the art,” he says. “It’s relaxing.”

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A 60s-era teak Danish bar cart separates the living zone from the open dining area, where a George Nelson chandelier hangs over a round table and Brno chairs atop a graphic area rug from CB2. That mix flows into Lynch’s den, a functional yet stylish space furnished with a midcentury modern-inspired shelving unit across from a large workspace with a vintage Eames base and a top by Neil Frankel.

And in the guest bedroom, a wall-mounted side table by Blu Dot floats in between matching leather-upholstered headboards. “(The beds) are for married couples who visit,” Lynch jokes. Both he and Belloc Lowndes have two children, making it a solution that’s at once stylish and practical. There are also two desks – one a vintage Danish letter writing cabinet, the other a minimalist wall-mounted work surface, also by Blu Dot.

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Housed in a custom frame, the only TV in the house hangs on the wall in the breakfast nook. Underneath, a custom tufted banquette in a deep maroon fabric and a pair of vintage Ward Bennett chairs surround a custom table with plenty of space for Lynch, Belloc Lowndes and their children. “I love to cook,” Lynch says, noting he’s hosted a number of dinner and cocktail parties there. “It’s worked out very well.”

While Lynch still has his heart set on living in a modernist masterpiece, he’s content with his more traditional digs – at least for the time being. “I think people are surprised when they see the place, but there’s enough of me in it that it comes across as mine,” he says, noting he’s comfortable there in a way he’s never experienced before. “It’s a nice change, and I’m surprised at how happy I am here.”

Photography by Christopher Barrett.

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