Contemporary Split-Level in Chicago

“Peachy” normally means something great, but for Michael and Karen Hohman, it described the outdated pastel hue of their 1950s split-level house in Chicago. In the exterior trim to the walls and ceilings, almost all lace the bright hue. The Hohmans understood that, despite the color, there was great potential in the structure of the house. With the help of designer Lynn Hertl of LKH Design, they started with a fresh coat of paint and renovated the living area, family room and sunroom, altering their midcentury space into a modern home.

at a Glance
Who lives here:
Michael and Karen Hohman, kids Kate and Grant and their four chihuahuas
Where: Highland Park suburb of Chicago
Size: 3,500 square feet; 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms; two half-baths
That’s interesting: The lively ceramic egg-head sculptures by LaGardo Takett at the living room have been marketed and used as condom holders in the 1960s.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

A fresh new color palette made a huge difference in the overall appearance of their living space, formerly marked by weathered floors and cherry walls. The Hohmans used the high ceilings and built-ins to their advantage, painting the ceiling white to create a light-filled, inviting space.

Sofa and chair: Sofa, Roche Bobois; java table: Instructions; corner table: Altura

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The brick chimney shaft is first to the house, and the Hohmans additional new built-in cabinetry to tuck the TV away.

The timber chair and ottoman beside the fireplace were rescued from a curbside garbage heap. A self-described Dumpster diver, Karen watched beyond the shabby cushions and asked Hertl to provide the chair brand new life by refinishing and reupholstering it.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The couple’s inside style comes mainly in their artwork and found objects. Karen says,”I feel that an eclectic mixture of elements makes an intriguing, cursory look to a house. We started collecting quirky artwork, not knowing their initial function.”

The egglike sculptural heads are by ceramicist LaGardo Takett. “Little did we all know that these humorous pieces had a goal beyond decoration,” Karen says. “They were created and marketed through Playboy magazine as condom holders in the 1960s.”

The suspended flying guy is by Jonathan Forrest Read. The couple found this bit at the St. Petersburg Clay Company in Florida. “We enjoyed his job according to his unconventional thought — a human figure drifting through the atmosphere without care,” Karen says.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

Cynthia Lynn: Where are your favourite places to buy artwork?

Karen Hohman: Mike and I love to locate unique galleries once we travel, and we look for emerging artists wherever we go. We once bought a number of bits in Canada during one vacation. Mike and I enjoy encouraging gifted artists who are building their careers. We regular certain galleries like Vickers Gallery at Aspen, Colorado, along with the St. Petersburg Clay Company in Florida.

One of our favourite musicians, Mark Winter, created the large sided animal-like sculpture at the corner of their living area. We’ve gathered a range of Mark’s impressive bits. He incorporates scrap metal and recycled components and manipulates them into sculptural forms. Mike and I see his Wisconsin studio to watch him at work.

The mantel painting is from my grandma, who had been an avid art collector at the’50s and’60s. The painting is titled Ghost Rider, by Thomas Strobel. Our family has lots of the paintings using natural landscape themes and eye-fooling, antitraditionalist abstract geometric patterns.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

CL: What did you do to make it yours? What is your decorating doctrine?

KH: First of all, we painted all, because the whole house was painted in coral tones. That alone made a big difference. We then replaced the timber floors, the carpet, the tile and all the window treatments to liven up the space. We installed all of new lighting fixtures throughout and additional cabinetry in the living space, then completed the modern look with our artwork. Our philosophy was to pick a color palette which pulled away from the existing look. Our designer, Lynn, found an entirely different color palette which complemented the existing hard stuff.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

This bronze sculpture, Ladder — Seven Climbers, is by artist Bill Starke, bought through the Vickers Gallery. Karen says,”We loved that his job created compositions of figures that depicted the beauty and sophistication of the human state.”

CL: How would you complete these sentences?

If I could have four famous people over for dinner… I would encourage Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Steve Jobs and Chris Rock.

My mum moment was… taking a look at the before and after images of the house and realizing just how far we have come in altering the distance.

My advice to other homeowners would be… to enjoy and utilize all of the space in your house. Don’t create a space unlivable as it’s too overdone.

My house is… my way to express my personality and flavor through layout and artwork.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

New lighting fixtures were added across the house along with new window treatments. The Roman blinds update the space and allow more light in.

Karen bought the dining room celebrity sculptures when she had been a student at Indiana University. She states ,”They have an wonderful art college, and I had been lucky enough to buy them from a gallery that sold and featured pupil work.”

Living room table: Instructions; chandelier: Nido; seats: Altura, Bergamo cloth

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The kitchen needed the smallest quantity of renovation. Other than changing the paint color and also the kitchen faucet, the Hohmans left the space as is. Karen says their next design job is to reestablish it.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

High ceilings make this the perfect spot for enjoying breakfast.

Table and seats: Crate and Barrel

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The living room renovations also started with an entirely new color palette. The Hohmans awakened the old laminate floors, replacing them with hardwoods. The cherry wood warms the space without overpowering it, unlike its own peach predecessor. The formerly peach walls have been painted a neutral color. The first fireplace surround featured patterned tiles, and also the Hohmans replaced them from Ann Sacks. A signed Picasso lithograph hangs over the mantel.

The snakeskin chair is another one of Karen’s recovered objects, found on the curb in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Hertl refinished and reupholstered it.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

CL: What was or is your main style dilemma?

KH: The area spaces were awkward, and it challenged us to design each room creatively with furniture and artwork. We tried to salvage some of this challenging material that existed in the house, like the granite and the cabinets.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The sunroom also failed a color transformation. Formerly, dark colours on the ceiling and dark furniture dulled the space, along with the Hohmans chose a soothing sage green and replaced the outdated chairs with vivid and inviting furniture. The sunroom overlooks the backyard and joins to the family room.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The glass doors are original to the house. The cozy sectional serves as the perfect rest spot for the Hohmans’ four chihuahuas.

CL: What’s the first thing you’d grab if your house were on fire?

KH: I would grab our four chihuahuas.

Cynthia Lynn Photography

Pitched ceilings and strange layouts throughout the house presented a creative struggle. A personalized photo collage by Karen hangs in the master bedroom; it comprises photographs taken of her family, travels and everyday environment.

Bed: antique; nightstand: Instructions

Cynthia Lynn Photography

Karen and Michael chose a subtle color palette for the master bedroom, while the kids’ rooms obtained bolder choices.

A reading chair sits at the corner of this area, opposite the bed. Light from either side makes it an ideal reading spot. Karen says the master bedroom is where they feel the most at home:”It’s the ideal place to sit back and relax.”

BEFORE: The bath

Cynthia Lynn Photography

AFTER: The bathroom countertops and sinks have been replaced with contemporary faucets, and rainforest marble adorns the his-and-hers sinks.

Light fixtures: Lumens

Cynthia Lynn Photography

The Hohmans completely gutted the shower, removing the doors with chrome trim and replacing them with glass panels. They incorporated new tile and fixtures and painted the ceiling white.

CL: What is your ultimate dream house thing? What is your latest splurge?

KH: An art studio with many windows will definitely be my dream house thing. We completely gutted our master bath, and it was worth it.

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