A Modern Glow For Your Home

Tate Gunnerson | September 17, 2019 | Home & Real Estate Lifestyle

The Big Shadow floorlamp by Cappellini is one of the many classic lightfixtures in the living area, where a Togo sectional sofa from Ligne Roset and a pair of contemporary armchairs surround a Noguchi cocktail table from Design Within Reach. Below: This vignette includes a curvaceous Italian Muranolamp by Vistosi atop aglass console table. A Juju hat from Cameroon hangs on the wall, and a custom pouf covered in velvet fabric from Maharam completes the picture.

Sean Cowan of Sean Michael Design transforms a bland Bucktown house into a chic and cozy family home.

Filled with rare and iconic furnishings from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, the posh Edgewater showroom Vern + Vera is a magnet for design aficionados. That has worked out well for co-owner and interior designer Sean Cowan, who has connected with many new clients there. Among his favorites is a hip, young couple who asked him to help warm up their new five-bedroom contemporary home in Bucktown. “They are modernists at heart, but they wanted it to feel homey,” Cowan says.

To that end, Cowan took his clients to meet with artist and gallery owner Michelle Peterson- Albandoz, who cuts and arranges reclaimed wood into magnificent constructions. Ultimately, they commissioned her to create a large-scale three-part piece with starburst-like patterns, part of her Radial series. Displayed vertically above the living room fireplace, the graphic pieces take full advantage of the room’s 21-foot ceiling. “Big texture helps to make this room feel a little cozier,” Cowan says. “It has a warm, hang- out kind of vibe.”

Clean-lined armchairs covered in a burnt-orange faux mohair complement the artwork—a contrast to the more muted enveloping sectional sofa from Ligne Roset that the husband had long had his eye on. The couple also had a thing for lighting—the more sculptural, the better. In the living room, for example, Cowan incorporated a nearly 7-foot-tall floor lamp, the Big Shadow by Cappellini, that he’s always wanted to use in a project. “It’s all shade,” Cowan says. “The lighting is almost art in itself.”


Indeed, a totem-like Murano glass table lamp atop a console table likewise glows, although it looks just as spectacular unlit. And the same is true of the mod, mushroom-like metal-and-acrylic lamps on the side tables in the master bedroom. Perhaps most striking, a three-tiered Japanese rice paper chandelier by Ingo Maurer appears to float over a custom walnut dining table with a live edge. “It’s substantial but lighter than air,” Cowan says.

A tiered rice paper chandelier by Ingo Maurer appears to float over the walnut dining table and a set of Brno chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for Knoll from Vern + Vera.
The table and buffet are by Lagomorph Design, part of Dock 6 Collective.

The chandelier juxtaposes the heaviness of the thick walnut dining table and the custom zebrawood-and-steel buffet, which the owners had already ordered when Cowan arrived on the scene. Inspired by the pieces, Cowan hired the same builder, Lagomorph Design, to create a pair of blackened steel-and-rosewood shelving units for the living area. “It all kind of connects,” Cowan says. “Even though they are so open, there was no marriage between the two spaces, and it needed that.”

Vintage lamps by Guzzini offer light and sculpture alongside the upholstered bed from B&B Italia in the master bedroom

Warm and cozy in feel and decidedly modernist in form, the space is exactly what the owners envisioned. The project went so well, they hired Cowan to work on the family room at the back of the house, a project currently in the works. “They brought a lot of cool ideas to the table,” Cowan says. “It’s so fun working with people who get excited about design.”

Photography by: Erin Nail