A vintage soul
Julie Purpura (Avenir Creative)
Vivian Maier, the Chicago-based nanny-photographer, loved the rationalist façades of the buildings in Roger Park where she lived for many years, and they appear as the backdrop in many of her snapshots which were eventually recognised as genuine works of art. She would stop, observe them scrupulously and then capture a shot, another photographic gem to add to her collection. She loved this slightly outlying neighbourhood of the city for its multiculturalism, a quality that it retains today thanks to the presence of street artists, galleries and museums. It is a magical place where the streets suddenly offer up unexpected views of Lake Michigan. One of the city’s best-known buildings, dating back to 1917, is named after Maier, and when in 2019 the designers from the practice Avenir Creative were commissioned to renovate the interior of the building they opted for eclectic choices that reflect her personality. „Maier was known to be creative and eccentric and a little quirky, so a lot of the interior space is very quirky too,“ says Julie Purpura, owner and design director of Avenir, in an interview with a well-known US design magazine. „We tried to keep as much as possible of what was existing,“ Purpura says. „It’s vintage rehab. For instance, the floors in the bathrooms have been updated, but use the same tile pattern as the originals. The doors and original molding remain, as do beautiful vintage porcelain bathtubs. But the walls have been redone and the kitchens are brand-new. We work with a lot of hotels, so we designed the public spaces to feel like those of hotels rather than your average apartment lobby.“ The interiors offer a fascinating journey into the past, a unique combination of early 20th century style with the luxury of the American Gold Coast. Purpura and her team retained the original lobby ceiling but decided to paint it maroon. They preserved the cast-iron handrails in the stairwells, but added a new terrazzo-effect porcelain tiled floor with eighties Memphis Style patterns. The architects opted for the Artwork series from Casa dolce casa – Casamood, choosing the colours Micro 01 and Basic 01 in fine and medium grain sizes. The furniture is largely postmodern, with a selection of vintage items sourced from local stores and arranged in original juxtapositions: Shaker-style furniture in white shades, granite shelves, Whirlpool stainless steel appliances, ceiling fans, large bathrooms with generous showers and sanitary fittings, large windows and spacious wardrobes. These luxury rental apartments are aimed at a high-end market and offer full amenities, including a panoramic rooftop terrace perfect for socialising, a fitness centre housed in the historic ballroom, and a laundry room with an app that informs users when a washing machine is available or when their laundry is dry.