A graphic piece by artist Matthew Shlian, which hangs over the living room fireplace, is one of many pieces that designer Melissa Benham bought for her clients
"This was a vanilla box, and our job was to add some personality,” says Studio Gild principal Melissa Benham of the warm Lincoln Park pied-à-terre she created for a San Francisco couple. Before making any recommendations, she spent some time getting to know her well-traveled clients. “They had taken an African safari that was particularly meaningful, and that inspired the textures and materials,” Benham says. “We infused little touches throughout the condo to create a rich, rustic feeling.”
A horizontal fixture with an opal shade by Roll & Hill elevates the beautiful kitchen, where a steel table is surrounded by thatched leather chairs
Many of those objects can be found on the mod aluminum and smoked gray glass shelving unit Benham placed between the open living and dining areas. On one side, a thick rug, floor-to-ceiling draperies and plush furnishings are grouped around the fireplace. Over the mantel, a framed 3D jet- black cut paper art piece adds a pleasing edge. “We wanted that high-contrast drama to permeate throughout,” Benham says.
A black-and-white photograph by Benjamin Heller from Robin Rice Gallery and a simple wire-and-wood stool from Felicia Ferrone take things up a notch in the master bathroom
It’s one of the many pieces of artwork that Benham selected for the dapper gents. A series of steel panels with acid and resin etching, for example, complement the simple cerused oak table and leather chairs in the dining room. Around the corner, there are several pieces by renowned Chicago artist Michael McGuire, whose grid-like work is inspired by the skyline. “Architecture is such a prevalent force in this city, and we wanted to bring that Chicago flavor,” Benham says.
The designer commissioned local artisan Michael Turner to create a black wood wall sculpture, which coordinates with the black steel accents in the open kitchen and breakfast area, where metal chairs with thatched leather seats surround a simple steel table. “We added layers of cognac, tobacco and olive green,” Benham says. “Leather was our favorite way to employ those rich hues.”
The colors in a pair of line drawings by Rachel Perry inspired the chartreuse pillow in the master bedroom
Indeed, a sculptural chair covered in warm leather and a wool-covered daybed pop against a dyed-hair-on-hide rug in the den. His-and-his desks flank the doorway, and above each, artwork by McGuire plays off the gray wool wallcovering. It’s one of Benham’s favorite rooms. “We layered so much texture and such beautiful materials into this one small space,” she says.
A similar gray grass-cloth wallcovering adds warmth to the master bedroom, a serene tone-on- tone space punctuated by pops of color in a vibrant aerial photograph of South Africa and a chartreuse lumbar pillow that coordinates with artwork over the bed. “They allowed us to splurge on an investmentworthy art collection, and they were so receptive,” Benham says of the homeowners.
Artwork in the children’s bedroom, “Bug No. 4” and “Bug No. 3," both by Tracey Capone
While the designer felt confident that she had created a posh pad that reflected her clients, she nevertheless took a notebook along on her first post-project visit, fully prepared to document any final punch-list items. Instead, the clients sang her praises, gushing over the many bespoke details throughout. “They just wanted to thank us,” Benham says. “We brought our A-game, and they loved it.”
Photography by: Mike Schwartz