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Attracting Strangers – Chicago Magazine

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PAST FAVORITES: A chandelier with a trolley for restoration fittings illuminates the art collection of outsiders, ranging from bird feeders to paintings in mixed media.

SMaking a living space where art is central without overcoming everything else can be challenging when a collection consists of hundreds of bold works. But Chicago designer Todd Haley turned the coach house in the Old Town around 1912 into a showcase for a wide range of outsider art for his clients and into an attractive, easy space to work and live in during the pandemic.

Allowing art to talk about a lot is the meaning of the existence of this brick house with five bedrooms and three bathrooms, built on a plot 37.5 feet wide. Among the exhibits are a picture of a bull-elk in a mixed technique by William Hawkins, a Clarence Woolsey mushroom from bottle caps and a magnificently detailed bird feeder in the form of a 1970s cathedral by Aldobrand Piacenza.

The sofa in the living room was made by Todd Haley for the client’s previous home;  he resized it to fit the new space.  The light from the octagonal window softens the masculine feeling of upholstered antique chairs, non-standard ottomans and CB2 marble pedestals.
CONVENIENT SIT: the sofa in the living room was made by Todd Haley for the previous home of the clients; he resized it to fit the new space. The light from the octagonal window softens the masculine feeling of upholstered antique chairs, non-standard ottomans and CB2 marble pedestals.

“Art has served as a starting point for design,” says Hailey, who is known to mix luxury custom furniture with mass market items from CB2 and Restoration Hardware. In the large living room, art impresses with subtle gray and black tones of furniture, resulting in a distinctly adult, albeit slightly whimsical, aesthetics.

The intention was to have art, not furniture, in the spotlight, says Hailey, who has worked with owners on two previous projects. “The palette provides a quiet backdrop for their collection and does not compete with any of the works.”

Hailey took advantage of the elevation of the dining room to create a scenic setting.  Guests are welcome to take a special seat at the dining table.  Blenko owners ’vintage glass vases and Hancock Center’s illuminated sculpture stimulate lively conversation over dinner.
EVENINGS: Hailey took advantage of the dining room hill to create a stage setting. Guests are welcome to take a special seat at the dining table. Vintage Blenko owners ’glass vases and illuminated Hancock Center sculpture stimulate lively conversation over dinner.

An illuminated scale model of the John Hancock Center in a niche with a smoky mirror attaches to the dining room, where a series of bird prints by English photographer Luke Wilson stares at a round table. “It’s very theatrical,” Haley says.

Dark neutral shades bring to the family room. The massive U-shaped sectional sofa from Room & Board is combined with two custom chairs and surrounded by sculptures. The compositions in the mixed media were hung with wiring, inspired by the gallery, using the Art of Installation.

The owners say the flow from the front of the house to the back garden will make the space ideal for large gatherings if it is safe. Meanwhile, the bright interiors made the pandemic work at home for the couple enjoyable. Optimistic details are everywhere: from two large floor lamps made of lanterns in the living room, to a series of pop art-style plates by director John Waters attached to a wet bar. It’s like living, cozy, in an art gallery.

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