Jean Louis Deniot French Connection
Jean Louis Denoit brings French flair to a Chicago home. The Parisian taste-maker outfits a handsome prewar apartment with neoclassical-style details, bespoke finishes, and European refinement.
Chicago has long been a city of Francophiles. More than a century ago the eminent Chicago School architect Daniel H. Burnham was so enamored with the French capital that his famous partially realized urban scheme Plan of Chicago became known as “Paris on the Prairie.” And the classicism of Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts was a major influence in the 1920's, as developers put up one grand apartment tower after another along the waterfront boulevard Lake Shore Drive. How fitting then that a couple with a full-floor residence in one of those historic buildings would turn to a dashing Paris-based designer, Jean-Louis Deniot, to give them a suitably Gallic renovation. The apartment would be French, elaborated with Chicago eyes.
Deniot gave them the ooh-là-là. He aligned doorways and hallways not only to create balance and symmetry but also to extend the water views deep into the apartment. He dressed up a vast living room with vertical panel molding that emphasizes the room’s height. He integrated a tapestry of rich materials and textures throughout the home: marble, brass, onyx, lacquer, bronze, silk, Nepalese wool, and mirrored glass.
The apartment’s bones, however, were not comme il faut. The configuration was old-fashioned small bathrooms, smaller closets and too many servants rooms, Deniot demolished 99 percent of what was there. Included was intricate moldings, pilasters, and millwork all of which seem so correct that it is easy to forget this is new construction and not a meticulous restoration. Plasterwork played a starring role in the dining room. Inspired by an architectural fragment he found at a Paris flea market, Deniot devised fluted walls that would rise from the baseboards and curve inward just short of the ceiling. The Living large is the apartment’s raison d’être. Husband and wife also have their own bathrooms, his clad in extraordinary marble mosaic tile, hers in luminescent mother-of-pearl. tiles custom made in India. bathroom shimmers with light-reflecting surfaces. The kitchen is oriented around the same courtyard, and the designer employed mirrored back splashes to add sparkle to the huge room. He also positioned the breakfast table, which seats eight, so that if the door to the foyer is left open one can see through to the living room and the lake beyond.