Written by Rebecca Christian
Photography by Werner Straube
Produced by Hilary Rose & Jo Ann McVicker
In this luxury apartment in Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton Residences with a stunning view of the city skyline, the mantra of Javier Martín Muriel—who lives in Spain—was “modern, livable luxury.”
Because Chicago’s a very architectural city, Javier says, he created a design with structure and style. The look is modern, but grounded in tradition. A muted palette based on white is exemplified by white Belgian linen upholstery. As with the other residences in this showcase, the designer used items that he designed himself. His Baltus Collection integrates contemporary lines with the generous spaces it enhances. Here, Paul Templeman-Holmes (who works with Spanish-speaking Javier on his Baltus Collection) discusses Javier’s inspiration and artful execution of this stylish Chicago pied-à-terre.
TH: Explain how you were able to incorporate the Baltus Collection so well into the design of the apartment.
PTH: Our approach is always the idea of modern, livable luxury. We try to crate a space that is extremely unique, focuses on our custom pieces, but it’s not too precious. It’s somewhere you can live on a day-to-day basis, you can entertain, and you don’t have to worry about the surfaces being too delicate. Everything we do and design is developed to be something that really adds to your everyday life.
One of the things about modern furniture that people often misunderstand, especially when it comes to luxury modern furniture, isn’t how hard it is to design a chair. It’s adding those details that don’t detract from the simplicity of the piece, that really set it apart and make it stand out. That’s one thing I think Javier has done amazingly well with the Baltus line. When you look at the coffee table in this room, the deep reverse bevel on the tabletop is incredible, and the asymmetrical base really adds something as well. In the den, the Verona cabinet, the way the drawers aren’t completely flush, the two-tone finish…it’s all blended together and it gives a tactility that you don’t get with a lot of other modern pieces. It warms those items up. It gives them a human element. Everything that we design has to be practical, useful, and comfortable. A lot of modern furniture is hard, cold, all for looks. We try extremely hard that even our jewel pieces have a livability about them.
TH: How did the city impact Javier’s vision of this space?
PTH: I think when you see the architecture of Chicago, especially in this building, the views are absolutely incredible, and the city is the star. Our Baltus pieces really lend themselves to this kind of environment. It’s a very architectural city, and so are our designs. There’s a lot of structure, a lot of style, a very definitive point of view. I think that’s something that we really wanted to bring to this building. I think Chicago, being in the Midwest, sometimes gets unfairly pigeonholed as being a bit too traditional or very Americana. One thing we wanted to emphasize is that’s not what Chicago is at all, or not entirely. It’s a multi-faceted city when you look at it architecturally, historically, socially, everything about it. We really wanted to bring that modern element into the interior space. The thing that keeps it grounded, and keeps our interiors from being dated, is that it’s all based in the principles of traditional classicism when it comes to scale, proportion, the way things sit together. That’s what really makes the pieces applicable and versatile for lots of different types of environments.
TH: What effect were you hoping to accomplish with the apartment’s palette?
PTH: The palette is very fresh, very muted. It’s obviously based around white with pops of color. The upholstery is white Belgian linens. Then we have a few lacquers in here, a fabulous marble coffee tabletop, the woven camel leather that we have on the bench that’s set off with the black table. We really create a simple, restful, peaceful environment that has pops of color. The accompanying artwork, accessories, rugs, and so on add that little bit of life and personality that stop it from being too cold.
TH: With a mostly neutral color palette, how were you able to accomplish such distinction between each room?
PTH: The dining room is probably the most intimate space in the apartment. And that’s one thing that we wanted to retain, that classic idea of formal dining. It’s a smaller space, with tall ceilings and a relatively small window. Although the pieces are quite large and grand in scale, we’ve got seating for eight, the materials and finishes that we used add a softness to it. That matte lacquer paired with the rustic beech wood legs, there’s almost like a modern farmhouse sense about it in an extremely urban environment—it works beautifully in the space. And then there’s that amazing chandelier, which is dramatic, but very light, very airy, very modern. It adds real visual interest and draws your eye up into the room and stops it from becoming too much of a square box.
The kid’s room is really the fun part of the apartment, but the pieces are still sophisticated. They inject that lively personality that you get when you have kids living somewhere. It’s still city living, but it has that friendliness, that openness that children crave, so it’s a little bit of an escape from the hustle and bustle of Chicago life. The colors we chose are definitely geared for a younger child, but you can do them in any one of our finishes, and they can be easily updated for a tween or a teenager. As with everything we do, there has to be a practicality. There has to be utility, especially for kids.
The master suite is a respite from day-to-day life. One thing I really like about it is the proportion. We rather like the European idea of a suite of rooms: You’ve got a balcony, a beautiful relaxing spa-like bathroom, that fabulous built-in closet, and entrance vestibule. Though its not an enormous the space, the architecture of the apartment as a whole is really infused with elements of grandeur. In the bedroom, that sense is reflected in the high ceilings, the beautiful but simple moldings that go around the ceilings, and that incredible view. It was absolutely important to us that the furniture complemented that, and didn’t detract away from it. And there’s that little bit of drama that comes through with the metallic-infused headboard.
TH: You have also injected the space with so much unique artwork. How does that add to the overall aesthetic?
PTH: The artwork is one of the highlights of the apartment. It’s all produced by Javier’s son, Javier Martín. He was already a quite successful artist in Europe. When Baltus came to the USA, we thought we should really be representing his art. So we’ve moved forward together, and sort of wrapped Javier Martin’s art into the Baltus brand and the vision that we have. It just pairs so beautifully. It’s really nice to see that familial lineage in terms of design and vision. It brings something human to the brand. It’s a little whimsical, and there’s definitely a sense of political sarcasm behind most of the pieces. They’re intelligently created pieces, an unusual format, and they’re quite varied as well: collage, digital prints, oil on canvas, charcoals—he’s not restricted to one particular medium. And I think that also gives the apartment a sort of dynamism and life, and keeps it crackling from room to room.
Builder: Prism Development Co., 625 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60611; 312/782-6700, prismcompany.com.
Interior designer: Javier Martín Muriel, Baltus Collection, 3925 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL 33127; 305/575-2620, baltuscollection.com.
Kitchen designer: Mick De Giulio, De Giulio Kitchen Design, 1121 Central Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091; 847/256-8833, degiulio.org.
Flowers: H. Bloom, 312/846-1194, hbloom.com.
Window shades (“Basketweave 90”/Oyster): Lutron, 888/588-7661, lutron.com.
Paint (“Gardenia” #AF-10): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, benjaminmoore.com.
Sofas (by Sofa Riconera in White #TP0928-00); coffee table (“Mesa Centro Templo”/marble top and brushed steel); chair (“Butaca Rocio”/White); pair of sofa end tables (“Mesa Auxiliar Iris”); table beside chair (“Mesa Auxiliar Aura”); art between windows (Armonia del Papel, oil and paper); portrait by sofas (Blindness Air 2, oil and paper, mixed); sculptures on coffee table (“Sand Dollar”): Baltus Collection, 305/575-2620, baltuscollection.com.
Floor lamp behind chair (“Talek LED Floor Lamp” #TAL0101-LED): Y Lighting, 866/428-9289, ylighting.com.