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From the digital art to the surreal paintings and antique furnishings, this loft apartment reflects the owner's lifelong passion for art and design

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Good art should not just appeal to the senses – it should also promote conversation. For Chicago designer Richar, it's a philosophy he has put into practice with the interior design of his own loft apartment.

A testimony of his passion for art and antiques, the apartment juxtaposes the surreal and bizarre with classic design and traditional craftsmanship. But it is the backdrop for the collection that sets the scene. With its exposed structural elements, brickwork and high ceiling, the loft was a natural blank canvas.

"Having plenty of wall space for the art I have collected over the past 25 years was crucial," says Richar. "But it was equally important that the space had the right proportions to best display other artworks, including the sculpture and different furniture pieces I have gathered over the years. The 16ft-high wood ceilings were a real drawcard."

Richar says the loft was already partitioned, but he undertook some remodeling to open up the perimeter of the space, pulling back the partitions where they met the exterior brickwork. Opening up the outside of the rooms reinforces the sense of space created by the three-quarter height partitions in the living area.

The gallery-style interior is further enhanced by the sculptural look of the exposed structural elements and ducting, and the lighting tracks that crisscross the ceiling.

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To define the separate living spaces within the space, Richar used deep midnight-blue color accents, and the careful positioning of art and furniture pieces. For example, the apartment entrance, which could have opened straight into the dining area, is defined by the furniture placement. Two vintage, double-sided Chinese bookcases, paired with 1950s polished-steel and leather stools, create an entrance foyer.

"The space is like an entrance gallery, yet I didn't need to erect any walls," says Richar. "The tall bookcases, which are topped with Asian ceramic pots, provide a formal symmetry that is appropriate for an entrance. But the rich wood of the antique furniture and the curving lines of the steel stools also provide a contrast and eclecticism that I love."

The dining area features a vintage Jules Le Leu table, circa 1925, and Vittorio Ducrot chairs from the 1930s. Richar keeps the leaf of the round table extended to provide a larger oval surface, which is topped with a collection of bronze candlesticks and a sculpture. Similar groupings of accessories feature on furniture throughout the apartment.

The designer says these items have not been grouped for specific reasons. It is more a case of what works visually and what feels right for a particular setting. However, grouping items of similar proportions and color tones, but with contrasting shapes and heights, is a common theme.

Black is also used as an accent color in every room, either in the artworks or furniture, or both.

"Every interior should have a touch of black," says Richar. "It brings a sophisticated look to a space and seems to neutralize an interior."

In the kitchen-dining area, black can be seen in the upholstered chairs and bar stools, the countertops, and a large, highly varnished painting by David Klamen.

"I do tend to like dark artworks, both in color and subject matter," says Richar. "Art should be about conversation pieces – art that tells a story or reflects the passion of the collector."

One such art work in the formal living room is a digital art work by Jason Salavan. Projected onto a white wall, the art presents manipulated data that encapsulates the average colors of the top 25 grossing box-office movies of all time.

Several other key sculptural pieces feature in the living room – the border of the room is defined by an Asian torso on a pedestal, and a bronze Mozart cocktail table and still life by Neil Goodman. These items are contrasted by a large black mohair sofa and chairs.

"Mixing the old with the new is what gives a room soul," says Richar. "The main challenge is to provide a balanced look, to maintain the scale and proportion. It's rather like orchestrating a composition – getting the colors and shapes to harmonize so every element has a role to play, and every piece is seen in the best light."

First published date: 27 April 2007

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Credit List

Interior designer Richar, Richar Interiors (Chicago)
Contractor The Lochert Co
Flooring Vintage oak
Lighting Juno from Lightology
Paints Benjamin Moore
Rug Custom from Hokanson
Draperies Edco
Blinds Allwood Blinds
Foyer double-sided bookcases Pagoda Red Gallery
Living room sofa A Rudin
Living room chairs RR PoPa Bear from Modernica Gallery
Mirrored end tables Pavillion Gallery
Corner table Fontana Arte circa 1930
Floor lamp Casatti Gallery Living room coffee table,
Mozart bronze and vertical wall sculpture Neil Goodman
Large photograph of boy Bill Henson
Digital art Jason Salavon
Dining table French Art Deco by Jules Leleu
Chairs Italian by Vittorio Ducrot
Bronze candlestick Gene Summers
Tall lamp in dining room Tommi Parzinger
Bar stools A Rudin
Refrigerator KitchenAid
Bowls on kitchen counter Hebert Krenchel from Casati Gallery
Painting above kitchen cabinet Frank Faulkner from Roy Boyd Gallery
Vertical oil painting in hallway Aleksander Balos from Ann Nathin Gallery
Photographs in hallway Stasys from Thomas Master Gallery
Bronze floor sculpture in hallway David Kotker from Zolla Lieberman Gallery
Sleigh bed Parenteau Studios
Oil painting over bed Maria Tomasula from Zolla Lieberman Gallery
Cross painting Daniel Reynolds from Roger Ramsay Gallery
Bedroom reproduction chairs Gunnar Asplund from AI
Custom bronze desk Murray's Iron Work; designed by Richar