A Chicago couple return their slice of a venerable mansion to its former glory.
Ywhere ou reap what you sow, the saying goes. And it’s proven true on Chicago’s Gold Coast,
a couple nurtured a fading flower of history and watched it blossom into a truly stunning home. “My husband, John, and I have always loved antique buildings,” Joann Stephens says. “We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of the history of the McCormick Mansion.”
The couple bought what was once the maids’ quarters in the prodigious four-story Georgian structure, built in 1893 under the direction of architect Stanford White. Commissioned by Joseph Medill, owner of the Chicago Tribune, the mansion was first home to his daughter, Elinor, and then to Cyrus McCormick Jr., president of International Harvester and heir to the McCormick manufacturing dynasty. (Cyrus Sr. developed the first commercially successful mechanical reaper, a harvesting machine that revolutionized agriculture.) The McCormicks expanded the residence in 1927.
The home’s grand history took a turn in 1978, when it was converted to condominiums. “This unit had been stripped down and modernized, but we knew it could be restored to the building’s former grandeur,” Joann says. “We had a vision for the look and the vibe. Marita and Krysta helped guide us to achieve that vision.”
Marita Simmons and Krysta Gibbons are the minds behind Minneapolis-based design firm Kipling House Interiors. “It was an important project for us,” Simmons says. “We wanted to bring some glory back to this space.”
They began by restoring the apartment’s original parquet flooring, adding traditional moldings and trim appropriate to the building’s era, and reviving or—in the case of the dining room—uncovering original fireplaces. Then, with the shell in place, the design team added accoutrements that celebrate classic style while playing to today’s style of living.