When HGTV announced the Chicago location of Urban Oasis 2011, interior designer Vern Yip knew exactly where to look for inspiration. \"I immediately thought about Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School of Architecture and Louis Sullivan and the Carson Pirie Scott Building,\" he says. \"And I thought about all those iconic architectural moments; Frank Lloyd Wright specifically worked in a really warm palette that was inspired by Mother Nature.\"
A medley of old and new, living room furnishings are both aesthetically pleasing and functional. A new front-fall desk, inspired by circa-1940s French furnishings, serves as both a cocktail bar and media center (a laptop and printer are stored in the cabinet’s bottom shelves).
Artwork, crafted by Chicago artist Todd Mack, references Chicago’s most popular attractions. The piece, which was completed over the course of several months, incorporates vintage letters salvaged from old business and doctor’s office signs.
A circa-1930s frieze from a demolished building lends textural interest. Lamps that flank the piece, crafted by Chicago lamp artist Ted Harris, incorporate old picture frames and tungsten filament bulbs.
The cocktail bar is stocked with vintage serviceware and a variety of cocktail and wineglasses. \"I like the fact that you can work and play all in that same area,\" says Vern.
Placement of the button-tufted sofa took more than traffic flow into account. \"One of the first things you notice about the apartment is that there is a view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, the iconic Chicago buildings and the L,\" says Vern. \"So I really wanted to make sure that all the seating took that into consideration.\"
Vern's custom-designed wall sconce — a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Tree of Life art glass skylight designs — adds soft illumination in the gathering space. A mahogany box houses the lighting system and six laser-cut cherry panels that are backed in Plexiglas.
Embroidered pillows extend Vern's nature theme and pop against muted gray upholstery fabric.
A lamp purchased at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago store tops a vintage glass and chrome end table. \"The lamp is a nod to the Tree of Life design, but this time it's presented in cast resin. It glows from within. I think it's such a beautiful, elegant lamp,\" says Vern.
Sculptural in nature, a solid walnut coffee table, crafted by New Breed Furniture Network, celebrates Chicago's artisan community. \"There is such a strong culture of artisans and I wanted not only to get to know who they were but also infuse their work into the space,\" says Vern.
A cozy seating area that seems to hover over the skyline is anchored by a vintage Knoll, marble-topped table.
A concrete planter, which Vern favors for its \"organic\" design and nature reference, holds a bouquet of preserved roses, which will remain garden-fresh and color-saturated for up to three years.
HGTV Urban Oasis 2011, located on the 35th floor of Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago, overlooks Chicago’s picturesque Riverwalk, the Chicago River, the Loop and some of the city’s most noteworthy architectural landmarks, both old and new.
A sight that transfixes, the bustling L transports commuters to and from the city.
The apartment’s library of books provides an overview of Chicago’s social history. \"Whoever wins this apartment will get to know the city on this detailed, intimate level,\" says Vern of the collection that includes titles on Chicago architecture, sports teams, restaurants, street food, fashion and fine art.
Barcelona-style chairs, inspired by Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's iconic designs for the Barcelona World Fair of 1929, were the first furnishings selected for the living room. Mies is indelibly tied to Chicago for his contributions to architecture as well as his tenure as the head of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
An alabaster vase, which rests atop a custom-crafted media cabinet, is representative of Vern’s curated collection of understated decor.
A dining area adjacent to the kitchen is anchored by a vintage DIA table in chrome and glass. A sustainably crafted bench seats three guests comfortably.
\"I love how he looks right at you when you walk into the space,\" says Vern of one of his first finds for the space, a white glazed terra-cotta eagle, reclaimed from the façade of the Charles A. Brewer & Sons Building. The imposing figure is flanked by candleholders, custom-designed for Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art store.
Vintage Wegner-inspired dining chairs are upholstered in a poppy shade that complements the room’s color palette.
A Shoom bowl in stainless steel tops the dining table. Purchased from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art store, the tabletop accessory references Cloud Gate (the Bean), a 110-ton elliptical sculpture located in Millennium Park. \"Everybody walks up to the Bean and stares at his or her reflection,\" says Vern. \"I loved somehow weaving it into our unit.\"
Antique wood carvings, salvaged from an English oak bookcase, add sculptural interest in the dining area.
\"I wanted to abstract the idea of stained glass,\" says Vern of the living room's signature light fixture. A series of glass pendant tubes that run the width of the room pay tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright's own stained glass and lightscreen designs as well as Chicago's tradition of stained glass craft.
Vern shopped 42 stores over the course of two days to gather the collection of decor for HGTV Urban Oasis 2011. \"If you ask me about any item in the unit I want to be able to tell you the story for why it's there — it’s not just there to be there,\" he says.
At night HGTV Urban Oasis takes on added glamour, with light emanating from the wall sconce, glass pendant tubes and filament-bulb lamps, which generate a soft, nearly imperceptible hum.
\"It doesn’t feel like you’re in a big city when you are walking the streets,\" says Vern, when speaking of his long-standing relationship with Chicago. \"Everyone is an acquaintance or a friend. That’s one of the things I have always appreciated about this city.\"