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Michael Smith Penthouse Offers 'Life Without Pretense'

Presidential decorator Michael Smith—whose M.O. is transplanting buoyant, casual elegance into the lives of those whose homes could very easily veer into, uh, overwrought chateau territory (coughMurdochcough)—has done it again: swaddling a Chicago penthouse in a 1932 David Adler-designed limestone tower (one that "has sheltered generations of Chicago's leading families behind its soaring façade and crisp setbacks") in an anthology of silvers. Of course, the design here wasn't inspired not by the precious metal but rather by the tresses of its owner, "a too-early gift," she tells Architectural Digest in this month's issue, "from my father and from God."

It started with a desire to make the place more grandchild-friendly, and so Smith put away the untouchables ("significant artworks" by Pierre Bonnard, Joan Mitchell, and Louise Nevelson) in favor of over-plump sofas, a pillowed dining banquette, and many a TV. "Chicagoans dress beautifully and love a good hamburger," Smith told AD. "They're worldly, but they never lose that hearty all-American sensibility. That's what I tried to achieve in the house—a beautiful life without pretense."

In the living room (↑) that translates to Jean-Bérenger de Nattes cocktail tables, vintage Tabriz carpeting, and a Hervé Van der Straeten dining table. Per the architect brought on for the renovation, 80 to 90 percent of the interiors were gutted to bring in parquet and molding to better reflect "the glory days of Beaux Arts co-op apartments."

In the master bedroom (↑) Japanese screens punctuate walls coated in Gracie wallpaper, while bricked carpeting slips under custom-made bowfront chests and a Louis XVI bureau plat.

Besides some well-stationed Sealyham terriers, the family room boasts walls swathed in fabric and a sectional sofa in silk mohair. The dining room pairs Swedish neoclassical chairs with a table from the '70s, plus a sofa and TV "so that the sports fans in the family can watch football games while they dine together on holidays."

· Michael S. Smith revamps an airy Chicago penthouse [Architectural Digest]
· All Michael Smith coverage [Curbed National]