This 1880s Chicago Brownstone Got an Elegant Makeover for Its Celebrity Owners
Don't even try to give Bill and Giuliana Rancic the old line that you can't go home again. This is one couple who write their own script, and Chicago is definitely their kind of town. It's where Bill grew up and where family and friends roll out a red carpet that's very different from the ones that Giuliana frequents in her role as an anchor for "E! Live From the Red Carpet" specials. "We have such a rich social life in Chicago," Giuliana says. "That just wasn't the case in Los Angeles. It seemed like one giant office with great weather."
Home Sweet Chicago
So when an 1880s brownstone went on the market in the Windy City's Gold Coast neighborhood, where the couple once lived part-time, Bill and Giuliana jumped at the chance to purchase it and call Chicago home again.
These two are masters of new ventures. Bill, an entrepreneur and real estate developer, is also an author and recently a Food Network host. In addition to her work on E!, Giuliana designs a clothing line for HSN, has introduced her own wine collection, and has written three books, including a new memoir, Going Off Script. Did we mention they also own Chicago restaurants RPM Italian and RPM Steak? Doing it all in their work lives meant they could use a hand when it came to reinventing their new house. Giuliana knew exactly who she wanted for the role: Lonni Paul, the designer behind the welcoming interiors of their home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Paul's first challenge was to address the brownstone’s narrow, vertically driven architecture and delineate space so excessive trips up and down the stairs were eliminated.
Light and Lovely Living Room
Her second hurdle was the palette. The designer needed a cohesive flow to suit the house: The main level streams from living room to dining room to kitchen, then elevates to the family room and outdoor patio, all within the sight line from the entry foyer.
Paul's solution was to reinterpret the couple's beloved blue color scheme to suit the sometimes-cloudy Chicago weather, so unlike the L.A. sunshine that the Rancics were accustomed to. "I used blue in California to tribute the water," Paul says. "But in this rowhouse, which doesn't allow light to pour in from either side, the blue functioned as a tool to create light and airiness that wouldn't read heavy and dull when the sky turned cold and gray."
Pale blue infuses the living room, decorated in traditional fabrics that include floral linen for the window panels, windowpane-plaid on a pair of wing chairs, and wide blue-and-gray stripes covering an ottoman. The soft color scheme, which also includes plenty of mood-lifting white, allows a bold, graphic Tony Tasset painting hung above the fireplace to command attention.
Dynamic Dining Room
In the adjacent dining room, the blues intensify to cobalt and indigo. A dynamic damask pattern wraps the walls above classic white wainscoting. Dining chairs covered in rich blue velvet team with a patterned floral rug underfoot to support the color theme, which sees the blues fade away as it goes to gleaming all-white in the adjoining kitchen.
Artwork by Hunt Slonem features bunnies that are painted on a base of indigo-colored diamond dust. The piece adds shimmer to the room and nods to the grand sparkle of a floating chandelier from Windfall Contemporary Crystal Lighting.
Crisp and Clean Kitchen
The veining of Calacatta marble adds an electric presence to the all-white kitchen. A Wolf range is a necessary tool for the family gatherings and holidays that the Rancics host.
Functional Eating Area
A built-in banquette provides seating on one side of the kitchen table, while a pair of versatile ottomans on the other side can be moved to suit different functions in the space.
Pop Culture Decor
Like color, art plays a big role in the home's design. Art aficionados Giuliana and Bill evaluated the works of emerging artists as well as more established counterparts to discover pieces that spoke to them and enhanced their decorative style. One of their favorite finds presides over the breakfast room's seating area: an image of a limousine printed on a 120-inch-wide pink sponge. For Giuliana, this piece by Adam McEwen evokes a specific moment in pop culture.
"When I began collecting, it was suggested to me that I start with artists from my generation," the 41-year-old says. "In my youth, the limousine represented wealth and status. It was chic to pull up in a stretch limo. Now, the limousine is somewhat archaic, and high-profile event transportation happens in a black SUV."
A Lee Industries tufted ottoman contrasts the geometric chevron of the rug. The floor lamp is by Ralph Lauren.
Desire to be Outdoors
Ample deck space provides room for an outdoor dining area. Heat lamps installed in the ceiling above make it usable even in cooler weather. "The outdoors is what they loved about California," says Paul.
Keeping It Subtle
A sophisticated gray palette rules in the library where subtle patterns add interest. The sofa from Kravet pulls out into a queen-sized bed, perfect for accommodating extra guests.
A vaulted ceiling and rustic beams add volume and detail to the master bedroom. A pair of alabaster lamps from Circa Lighting, inlaid mother of pearl mirrors from Serena & Lily, and bedside tables from Bernhardt create symmetry on either side of the wood-and-iron bed, also from Bernhardt. Drapery fabric is from Duralee. Silk wallpaper is from Phillip Jeffries.
For the artwork in the master bedroom, architecture teams up with technology and represents the fully charged, plugged-in activity of this social-media-savvy couple's existence. Digital photographs, taken by Kevin Lynch and intended to be hung horizontally, were cropped and stretched to fit vertical insets that flank the white fireplace. The oceanic hue of the images complements the luxe blue silk wallcovering.
Lavish Master Bathroom
A work of art in itself, the airy two-story master bath/closet suite features a marble-capped tub and a huge shower that showcases a tile design that Paul created (in shades of blue, of course). Cabinets along the walls are fitted with rods, drawers, and shelves to organize the fashionable homeowners' wardrobes.
"We debated between glass or mirror fronts on the cabinets," says Giuliana, who dresses to the hilt for her lavish E! assignments. "But I don't keep pieces that I don't wear. I edit my things often, and knew that the cabinets would be visually organized."
The two-story master bath/closet features tile from Walker Zanger. Plumbing fixtures are by Hansgrohe. Wing chairs from Bernhardt are covered in blue linen.
Elevated Closet Space
Light flows through a glass-encased opening that looks up into a series of closets on the top floor, used for storing special-occasion and off-season garments.
Although Paul's design polished the interiors with elegant flair, she credits the entire team, especially contractor Bert Connolly, for helping to execute the vision. Bill agrees, and also gives a tip of the hat to his native Chicago for providing the family with an active, down-to-earth life where he and Giuliana can establish their roots and raise their 3-year-old son, Duke.
Custom wallpaper featuring vintage planes adorns the walls in Duke's room. Books, toys, and artwork decorate the bookcase.
Letters above the television in the playroom say it all: This is Duke's place. Comicbook posters and primary color seating pieces bring a happy dose of color to the space.
A Versatile Shade of Pink
Pink wallpaper from Mary McDonald for Schumacher departs from the home's blue theme. "This pink has a masculinity to it and reads as the color of a gentleman's shirt, not a party dress for a little girl," Paul says.
A pair of chaise lounges and an extra long sofa provide ample seating in the media room.
Home At Last
"This city has everything to offer, including a community of people with strong Midwestern values," Bill says of his hometown, and especially their neighborhood, within walking distance of shops, their restaurants, and Lake Michigan. "We knew the family who lived here before, and they put a great vibe in this house that we hope to continue. We've always had one foot here, and now we have two. Finally, we're home."
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