Why does a designer who can't abide Victorian style buy a grand old Victorian house? "It had a personality," says interior designer and homeowner David L. Smith. Not his favorite personality, but close enough. After previously renovating three historic homes and spending 28 years designing residences for others, David knew how to make the 1893 greystone his own. "My approach was to simplify and refine," he says.
In the long, narrow living room, David divided the space into two comfortable seating areas. A 1940s French table (foreground) centers the cocktail area, which is close to the dining room and renovated kitchen.
A Belgian antique marble mantel replaced a crumbling old wood one in the living room. The bust was a gift to Chicago from Milan, Italy, for the Columbia Exposition in 1893, the same year that the house was built.
French doors open views from the living room to the back garden.
White paint transforms an ornate oak staircase from "churchy" to Chippendale in style, says homeowner David Smith. The white paneling sets off the curves of an antique Biedermeier chair.
A detail of the staircase
A Rose Tarlow chandelier adds scale and a rustic quality to the dining room. "I like to mix in things that are rustic or raw. It makes a room more elegant and relaxed," David says. The dining room connects to a narrow gallery, which features French doors to the back deck. Art on the walls are framed pages taken from a 1950 collection of Pablo Picasso's ceramic designs.
David tucked a TV into the island for viewing from the family room. Open shelves on the range side of the island keep cookware close at hand. A hall to the right of the refrigerator features a built-in bar.