John’s Artful Wicker Park Duplex

published Feb 17, 2011
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Name: John Worsek
Location: Wicker Park — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1500 square feet
Years lived in: 10 — Owned

I photographed John’s house a few days after the blizzard, when side streets were still impassable and beat-up chairs sat in what few parking spaces were available. Five seconds after walking in his Wicker Park duplex, I’d completely forgotten about the weather. After all, what better way to spend an afternoon than in a home with an extensive art collection, sunlit kitchen, and talented architect owner who designed the interior himself?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

John, a consulting architect for a real estate developer, bought the building ten years ago and converted it into two units, one to rent and the other to live in. While the home looks modern, with clean lines and serene hues, its design plays well off the original shape of the 1892 building. For example, John created a bright, airy kitchen by opening up the room — it was originally a “rabbit warren” of four small rooms — and adding skylights to the peaked roof. When he decided he wanted his office to look like a “cabinet of curiosities,” he found leaded glass doors at Salvage One and filled the room with books and collectibles. The doors, which open into the main hallway, highlight everything in their vicinity, including the emerald-colored couch inside the office and the paintings in the hallway.

Throughout the apartment, clever touches like this highlight the art collection he’s built carefully over the years. African statuettes sit on gleaming tables, an aluminum zeppelin sits on a shelf inches off the dark floor, and a multicolored, handstitched chair is paired with a gray couch. Paintings, photographs, and sculptures are everywhere, yet the effect isn’t overwhelming. Rather, it’s a cohesive whole that presents something fascinating to look at from any angle. Even the stairway is well thought-out — it showcases a two-story steel curtain by artist Mary Brogger. The curtain is actually a negative, the metal that was left behind when she cut out the original piece. John’s talent for curating also extends to unusual, quirky finds, including a prop mallet from the Lyric Opera, a bed with a headboard made from a pew, and a mirror rimmed in horns. It’s a well-curated mix that must be as delightful to live in as it is to visit for an afternoon.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I like the juxtaposition of high/low, modern/ethnographic, found/sourced. I’m a bit of a pack rat so editing is key to keeping an interesting balance between art, furniture, books and architecture. When one thing comes in, another goes into storage.

Favorite Element: Family, Friends, and Fireplace

Biggest Challenge: Keeping the dark floors clean.

What Friends Say: What’s to drink?

Biggest Embarrassment: Closet shame

Proudest DIY: Creating the stair handrail from Restoration Hardware drapery rods (thanks John/Steve).

Biggest Indulgence: Art

Best Advice: Create storage

Dream Sources: Sotheby’s

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Floors: Minwax ½ ‘Ebony’ ½ ‘Jacobean’
    • Paint: Wm. Thybony ‘White Heron’


    • Couch: Restoration Hardware
    • Chairs: Lincoln Avenue Antique Mall
    • Shelving: Room & Board



      • Cabinets- Community Lumber
      • Countertop: Bel Stone ‘Misty Mauve’
      • Appliances: ABT
      • Lighting: IKEA
      • Chairs: Pottery Barn
      • Couches: Garage sale
      • Pantry: Scott


      • Nightstands: Mystery Shop
      • Lighting: IKEA

    Thanks, John!

    Images: Kathleen Luttschyn

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