Wherever Andrew Rebori and Edgar Miller teleported in from, Chicago is happy to have played host to them.
The architect-craftsman duo sprinkled their bohemian handcrafted constructions around the now-affluent Gold Coast neighbourhood in the 1930s and 40s.
Chief among these is the curvaceous Art Moderne Frank Fisher Studio Houses, striking a sly and streamlined pose on the block. Behind painted brick walls and an iron gate, the building is deceptively deep, with a dozen units facing a shared courtyard. Each dwelling is duplexed with trademark handmade stairs, herringbone floors, wood-burning fireplaces, glass block windows, and mosaic bathroom details.
The apartment for sale is by far and away the biggest – most are bachelor-sized, although nothing about the building calls out to families. The up-and-down levels and ubiquitous spiral staircases are aesthetic wonders and great kid deterrents.
Developer Frank Fisher claimed the unit in 1937 and stayed put for 17 years. Current owner Sylvain Bellenger has only logged three. But, as the Art Institute of Chicago’s curator of medieval to modern painting and sculpture (and incoming director of the Museo di Capodimonted in Naples, Italy), he tackled the space with gusto.
The previous owner revamped the space, installing a stainless steel kitchen and rescuing Miller’s steel-framed stained glass windows. Bellenger brought in modern Herman Miller furniture, and his works of art include an authentic Matisse tapestry and a classical sculpture by Joseph Bernard. There are signs the deft pairings will continue. Some of the furniture may be bundled with the property by way of auction and buyers with a formidable Corbusier collection are apparently eyeing the unit.
Bellenger also bought a one-bedroom condo on the third floor with a rooftop terrace, which he used as a guest suite and writer’s studio. It is included in the $1.35 million asking price through brokerage @properties, and architectural plans show how to merge the units as one 2,250-square foot triplex.
The Fisher Studios mean a lot to the community, and the landmark has survived scares over the years. In the late Nineties the city halted a building-wide renovation after Miller’s art glass began piling up in the courtyard. ‘Neighbours saw it and went berserk,’ says listing agent Nancy Joyce.
Chicago modernism rubbed off on Bellenger in his short time in the city. He’s reportedly planning a ‘Chicago room’ in his new Naples digs.