Tour a Chicago Duplex That Embraces Cozy Luxury

Making the most of a small space, a Chicago interior stylist uses color to define space and luxurious touches to up the comfort factor.

February 12, 2020

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

Photo By: Shawn Needham

A Decor Lover at Large

Olaniyi Swarn is a Chicago-based interior stylist and the writer behind the decor blog, J’Adore le Decor. For the past 25 years, the stylist and her husband have had a 900 square foot duplex condominium to call their own. Designing the home to their tastes has been an ongoing project, one Olaniyi would be the first to call a labor of love.

A Home With History

Located in one of Chicago's nearby suburbs, the home contains a fascinating backstory. It was originally built by famed architect Elbert Peets as part of a planned community for GIs returning from WWII. By the time Olaniyi arrived, the home's previous resident, a carpenter, had made some interesting design choices. "There was floor-to-ceiling brown and gold 1970s tile in the bathroom, psychedelic metallic wallpaper in the dining room and plaid wallpaper in the kitchen," she remembers. "But the bones were good."

Updating a Classic

Polishing up those bones took a bit of doing. "We were quite young when we purchased this home, so our renovations have taken place over time," Olaniyi relates. Gone are the dated tiles and mind-bending wallpapers, replaced by Olaniyi's unique talent for mixing textures and patterns in the context of whimsical pastel color palettes. Metallics still play a part in the decor, albeit in more contemporary ways, appearing as furnishings and wall art, adding yet more color and texture to the living room.

A Family Moment

Shying away from descriptions of her personal design style as "eclectic," a term she feels has become overused, Olaniyi defines her approach as, "edgy elegance with quirky undertones of bohemian, global and familial influences." It's a mouthful, but she lives up to it. One of the key elements in this mix are moments like this wooden bowl filled with black stones and decorated with small pictures of her grandmother, parents, brother and other members of the family. It's a beautiful way to weave a family story into the decor, one of many that add depth and soul to this space.

Creativity in Tight Spaces

With her expressive style, Olaniyi admits that getting all of the use she and her husband need out of a 900 square foot duplex can sometimes be a bit challenging. “Our home is small, which is great,” she begins before acknowledging that, “some of the spaces are a bit tight. Every room needs to work hard on its function, so designing spaces so that they have enough breathing room is never easy.” The dining room is a perfect example of a lot of creativity living in a small space. In the intimate dining room that seats four, everything in the dining space, from the color of the walls, to the striking art and metallic touches, works together to give the small space a big presence.

A Pop of Color, a Play of Texture

This small moment from the dining room is reflective of a major theme in Olaniyi's design — a mix of color and texture. A bold red throw over the dining room chair, adds a colorful mix to the space, breaking up the pastel palette. The furry throw also adds warmth to the dining area.

Design From all Corners

Another strategy Olaniyi employs throughout her home is to design every space. This design moment occurs as guests climb the stairs to the home's second floor. A small landing between stairways becomes an oasis of color and pattern. Here, palm frond wallpaper and a Moroccan-style mirror pair with cowrie shell necklace and a basket of dried foliage to create a distinctly African-inspired look.

Home Art Show

A fan of layering unique elements in a space, everything in Olaniyi's design feels purposeful. Here, the vignette display of jewelry and ceramics, mirrors the restful color palette of the wallpaper in the background.

The Double Duty Room

Upstairs, the guest bedroom doubles as a home office. With room for work as well as relaxation, the space benefits from a full dose of Olaniyi's amazing design aesthetic — most notably the gorgeous blue ceiling that presides over the room. Form and function live harmoniously in this space as every piece of furniture offers storage as well as style — a necessity in a small space.

Color Code Switching

In a home like this, even the designer has a hard time picking a favorite room. For now Olaniyi claims that the guest room runs a close race with the living room. "Those spaces more than any others in my home show the way I approach design in my home," she says. "I like my spaces to be intentional but not pretentious; pretty but touchable." Intentionality is on full display in the way that she uses color to divide the guest room into a multi-functional space. The part of the room dedicated to work has been designed with black walls, furnishings and accessories, while the areas for sleeping are decorated primarily in white for a relaxing retreat.

Bedroom Bliss

Olaniyi's bedroom is unquestionably the sanctuary of this home. An elegant expression of her style, a color palette of black and white with pops of teal are the backbone of the room's design. The stenciled headboard makes an impact as both art and a functional piece in this warm and welcoming bedroom.

Global Design in Every Room

Olaniyi's design never ceases to delight with its clever touches. Just above the nightstand this small piece of text art reminds her of the need to settle down before sleeping. Unsurprisingly, Olaniyi delights in her ability to surprise with her design choices. "The inside of our home is totally not what anyone expects," she says. "Everything on the outside of the home is cookie-cutter traditional, inside we go for the swanky vibes. No matter their age, people feel right at home here. Everyone who enters gets a warm hug from us and our home, and that makes us proud."

Shop This Look