Zev & Michal's Bold, Bright City Condo

Zev & Michal's Bold, Bright City Condo

Julia Brenner
Aug 22, 2012

Name: Zev, Michal and Noa
Location: River West, Chicago, Illinois
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 7 years

On first entering Michal and Zev's bright, spacious apartment I immediately noticed two items: a Corbusier chair and a defiant gnome statue. I knew I was in for a fun tour, and I was right. Their home is a wonderful mix of composed style that doesn't take itself too seriously. In fact, Michal and Zev's home is a lot like a great party: easygoing, great energy, and lots of memorable moments.

Michal, Exhibitions Manager at The Art Institute of Chicago, and Zev, a real estate developer, initially purchased their condo as a raw space, which allowed them to custom build from the ground up rather than having to tear down and remodel. Both former architecture students, they implemented a creative plan to maximize space and maintain a sense of openness. Their plan involved using built-in wall units as their primary storage method, a decision that worked beautifully because it allows them to keep much of the functional stuff behind closed doors so they can showcase the artwork, books, and belongings they love.

One of the great things about their space is that many of the items that simply look like cool decor have great personal stories attached to them. One of my favorites is the story of the license plates displayed on their living room shelves. The plates are actually movie props from Israel. Michal's father restored and operated vintage cars that were rented out to movie productions, and the plates are some of the props he was able to keep. So cool!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Contemporary mishmash.

Inspiration: Whenever we set to work on a room, we start by looking at what artwork we have for the space and work from there. Many of the pieces were made by family and friends, so they always end up being the focus of every room. It's fun to be surrounded by these objects, many of which have stories behind them.

Favorite Element: The floating glass shelves in the living room — they were a construction experiment, and after seven years we still hold our breath every time we add the extra weight of a book. They are held in the wall by the same brackets used for high-rise glass balconies, turned 90 degrees.

Biggest Challenge: Figuring out how to convert our second bedroom to a nursery, double our storage space, and still have an office area somewhere in the apartment. Our solution was to design built-in cabinetry in both bedrooms that added the functions we needed but didn't eat up too much floor space. In the master bedroom we replaced a swing door with a sliding pocket door, which freed up three feet of wall space for shelving and cabinetry. We hid the computer behind a sliding panel and re-faced a commercial steel filing cabinet so that it blends seamlessly.

What Friends Say: Lately everyone who has walked into our living room immediately reminds us that we have a ton of baby-proofing to do. We admit that it's currently not the most kid-friendly space, but we're working on some fixes (like brakes for the wheels on the coffee table). We also get asked often if Zev actually uses the kitchen — he's a fabulous but messy cook, and I'm an obsessive cleaner, so it all works out.

Biggest Embarrassment: Our deck has been a work in progress since the day we moved in — we can't seem to figure out what to do with the space. We have a slatted wood dining table out there that is on its last leg after seven winters — every time we have guests over for a BBQ a slat falls off.

Proudest DIY: Zev's dad found our two Corbusier Sling Chairs at a Salvation Army for $4 a piece. They were missing the leather armrests, which we had a shoe repair shop replicate using leather belts. Zev's dad is also responsible for the changing table in our nursery — it's an Ikea dresser with a handmade wood top (the paper towel holder was his idea, a goofy but brilliant addition).

Biggest Indulgence: Our kitchen.

Best Advice: Customize as much as you can, and don't be afraid to tear rooms apart and start over. Also consider built-ins instead of furniture for storage, especially when space is limited — they often make a room feel bigger.

Dream Sources: European furniture stores, new and vintage.

Resources of Note:


    • Couch: Arik Sofa from Ligne Roset warehouse sale, custom upholstery
    • Chairs: vintage Wassily Chairs (gift from Zev's uncle to his parents for their wedding c. 1970)
    • Coffee table: Gae Aulenti/Fontana Arte from Luminaire
    • Wood floor sculpture by Firat Erdim.
    • Wall wood sculpture by Peter Millett
    • Dining table: DWR
    • Chair next to dining table: Vintage Corbusier Sling Chair from Salvation Army
    • Artwork above dining table: Jeff Beebe


    • Art wall: Prints and photographs by various artists (happy to share names upon request)
    • Island light fixture: Mexcal Suspension lamp, Viabizzuno


    • Crib: Oeuf from Galt Baby
    • Changing Table: Ikea with DIY top by Zev's dad
    • Rocking Chair: Vintage Eames Rocker purchased on Ebay
    • Pouf: CB2
    • Couch: Multy Loveseat from Ligne Roset
    • Windowsill: Vintage lamp from Belgium and sculpture by Peter Millett
    • Artwork: Above changing table, Sherry Markovitz; above couch, Jennifer Greenburg; above crib, various - happy to share names upon request


    • Bed and nightstands: West Elm
    • Floor lamps: Vintage Cedric Hartman reading lamps
    • Wall-mounted light fixtures: Home Depot
    • Rocking chair: Monte Glider from Galt Baby
    • Print above bed: Lesley Dill
    • Metal sculpture on bookshelf: Lawrence Salomon
    • Wall color: Iron Mountain by Benjamin Moore


    • Furniture: Crate and Barrel

Thanks, Michal and Zev!

(Images: Julia Brenner )

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