The Kings' Quirky Castle

House Tour

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Name: Beth & Mr. King
Location: Lincoln Square; Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,500 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years (3 as a couple); rented

When you live in a place where the foyer looks like it could have been transported directly from a castle, there's a certain degree of solemnity that might be expected of you. Beth and Mr. King certainly have a level of taste that matches their regal surroundings, but their home is also filled with a great deal of levity, nonchalance, and, yes, downright silliness.

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Beth works at DePaul University, but she was in the antiques industry for seven years, and you can certainly see how her passion for Swedish furniture from the 1930s and 40s comes through in her decor style. Refined, clean-lined, and elegant, but without too much fuss, the Kings' furnishings manage to exude a vintage vibe while remaining fresh and comfortable.

The Kings have mastered an original balance between traditional and modern, elegant and humorous, and classic and avant-garde. The vintage plasterwork is one of the most remarkable elements of the space. Lions, crests, vines, birds, and religious motifs fill each room, and it gives even the simplest furnishings an aura of sophistication. Modern art mingles with traditional decorative elements: Leaded glass and a tiled fireplace; a leather Abercrombie and Fitch rhino hangs out in the same room with a Buddhist Hell scroll; papal collars bedeck classic wingback chairs; and in the dining room, the spirit of Paul Stanley reigns supreme in the visage of William Shakespeare.

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The apartment was already painted when Beth moved in, and the couple has kept the landlord's chosen colors—even the peach bedroom, which, thanks to the plaster frills, Beth says feels like "sleeping in a birthday cake." And truly, what home is alive without a trio of plush hippos and a collection of sock animals? (Beth was thrilled to discover that the sock gorilla had an anatomically correct sagittal crest.) In the Kings' home, beauty and humor combine to form an organic mix that feels like it's brimming with creative energy.

Their home is an inviting place, meant to be used and frequently filled with people. When I showed up for the shoot, Beth had invited several friends for an impromptu cocktail and lunch gathering. As we dined on homemade delicacies and drank from delicate vintage glassware, Beth expressed her passion for entertaining. A wall of photos remains tacked up from the Kings' at-home wedding celebration from three years ago, and in terms of their many vintage finds, the couple are beyond generous and are willing to give their treasures away freely. Mr. King is a freelance photographer, videographer, and voice-over artist, and Beth has a word-of-mouth business assisting people with consigning their closets. In short, the Kings are a social, laid-back couple with a true love for the beauty, originality, and richness of life.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Hopefully, engaging and comfortable. Visually, curious things with a story. Most of my furniture is Swedish, from the 1930s and 40s. It shows their own decorative take on Art Deco and I love that it is “design neutral”- it can be paired with anything. I look for that. And there’s definitely silliness everywhere!

Nothing’s ever going to be better than the people in the room, so a space has to serve them. I like to have seating for people who like to be on the perimeter of a conversation, as well as lots of chairs and little tables people know they can move around to talk. Or easily pushed to the side if you need to have a dance party.

Inspiration: Grey Gardens. Any sort of faded glory opulence. Gallows humor. Our friends. The downstairs living quarters in old, really grand homes like the Biltmore estate have a regal austerity that is perfection. Great design and bad design in interiors and fashion. Frances Elkins. Elsa Schiaparelli. Swedish furniture—I’ll never get over it!

Favorite Element: The interior architecture is really special. The Juliet balcony, the plasterwork of garlands of fruit with birds, the tile work.

Biggest Challenge: Finding my inner minimalist… it is somewhere buried under the hoard. Also, upkeep. It’s a big vintage place with wonky windows, worn tile and intricate plaster. And art, pottery, books… and how do you properly clean a leather rhino?

What Friends Say: “Can I move in?” This is quickly followed by: “When are you moving out?”

Biggest Embarrassment: It never feels really clean. And no, you may not see Mr. King’s office. (An extra special wonderland of magic!)

Proudest DIY: We had our wedding here in 2011. We rented chairs for the ceremony, but everything else was ours, just moved around. The pom-poms are still up.

Biggest Indulgence: Art. And the indulgence of Mr. King to allow me to keep bringing home curious things.

Best Advice: Take your time. Learn quality. Ask questions. Find your themes by using tools like Pinterest. Take a break when it stops being fun.

Dream Sources:

  • R. Ege Antiques in St. Louis – to-die-for elegant creepiness.
  • Ravenswood Antique Mart for incredible 70’s and Brutalist pieces—and the coolest dealer you could ever meet.
  • Everything artists Diana Sudyka and Renee Robbins have ever made.
  • Pavillion for amazing 20th century Italian lighting.
  • Route 66 in Palm Springs for insane vintage jewelry and lighting.
  • Richard Norton Gallery for portraits and Gertrude Abercrombie finds.
  • Svenska Mobler for the best things done to wood ever.
  • Interior Crafts for beautiful sofas, all made-to-order in Chicago.
  • Douglas-Rosin for everything you never knew you wanted.

And perhaps a rolling Mongolian pillage of fallen estates in Northern Europe in 70s Muscle cars and petite 40s convertibles led by font-of-antiques-knowledge Mr. Richard Norton with all my pals… we’d have steamer trunks full of Euros and the makings of Pimms cups and fine picnics! Respondez-vous s’il vous plait? I so hope you’ll join.

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Resources of Note:

LIVING ROOM

FOYER

  • 18th Century French Gothic Chair: parting gift from Richard Norton, Inc.
  • On Mantle: Contents of my grandfather's tackle box: Chicago artist Derek Irvin (Lee.Chameleon@facebook.com)
  • 19th Century English Hand-Form Horn Vase: traded a friend
  • Swedish Art Deco Chest: Svenska Mobler; info@andrewwildergallery.com
  • Sculpture on chest: gift from Andrew Wilder
  • Framed etching: Konstantin Chmutin, Alan Platt Fine Art
  • Ceramics Trio and Faces Throughout: Julia Barlow ( Julia.barlow.corley@gmail.com)

DINING ROOM

  • Table: King family piece
  • Chairs, Sideboard, Library Table and Cabinet: Svenska Mobler
  • Eva Zeisel Mixing Bowls, Cream & Sugar: Ravenswood Antique Mart
  • Leather Brahmin Bulls: Interior Crafts
  • Obi Sash: Gift from Chicago Custom Costumes
  • Lone Wolf painting: Kane County flea market
  • Italian Pottery Hippo: gift
  • Helena Tynell lamp: Svenska Mobler
  • Antlers: from a deer camp in Louisiana
  • Argentine Bar Cart: Ravenswood Antique Mart
  • Bookcase: from my previous wonderful roommate
  • Stemware: every flea market and thrift store between here and China
  • Large Paintings: Tom Stack
  • Explorer Print: Diana Sudyka
  • Brownie Camera Lamp: Futility Studios
  • Dale Webb Mint 400 1971 Trophy Vase: Roost in Andersonville
  • KISS Bust & Tree Vase: Finders Keepers Antique Mall, Nebraska City, Nebraska
  • Lamp: Argentine sand-blasted glass; base made by Mr. King & Mr. King, Sr.

BEDROOM

  • Artwork: Chicago artist Renee Robbins
  • Settee: Svenska Mobler
  • Dresser: Yard sale
  • End Tables: Yard sale
  • Lamps: No idea. I took some awful shades off of them.
  • Plush hippos: Ikea
  • Curtains: Target
  • Eva Zeisel Pitcher: eBay

SECOND BEDROOM

  • Mirror, 19th century Swedish stool, large painting: gifts from Andrew Wilder
  • Bed: antique store in Portland, OR
  • Triangle frames: Kane County Flea Market
  • Lotus Flower Shelf, Creil Plate: eBay
  • Chest: Svenska Mobler
  • Table, Blue Mirror and Lamp: King family pieces
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Thanks, Beth & Mr. King!

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(Image credits: Carolyn Purnell)

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Carolyn is a freelance writer and photographer, as well as a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in Chicago by way of L.A., England and Paris. Currently, she is a professor at Illinois Institute of Technology.

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