This Elegant Chicago Home Has Surprising Past Owners and Breathtaking Details
Bathed in breathtaking details, the former Playboy mansion is anything but hush-hush.
Built in 1899 by a prominent physician as a wedding gift for his daughter, the Beaux Arts-style mansion was once owned by Playboy founder and mogul Hugh Hefner. Hefner also bought the larger building next door, which had served as the doctor's home, and connected the structures, designating the first house for his personal digs and the doctor's house for, well, play. The compound became known as the Playboy Mansion. The pair of houses are now separated and have returned to single-family units. And while the history of the house that was originally gifted to a blushing bride may conjure images of lavish parties with questionable conduct, the current owners have restored the property into a magnificent example of sophistication, elegance, and propriety.
"We've always been fans of the architecture and craftsmanship that comes with certain historic houses," Julie McGinley says of the home that she shares with her husband, Jack. "This house is full of Old World details from high ceilings to ornate plasterwork. Plus, the fact that its roster of residents includes both a puritan physician and Hugh Hefner has always been a great topic of conversation."
The couple knew that Gail Plechaty, known for interiors with illuminatingly light palettes, was the designer who would massage the architecturally rich interiors into a state of timeless and breathtaking grandeur. They were right.
Stately Sitting Room
Neutral ivory was the base of the classic rooms. But it was an icy shade of blue, uninterrupted by any other color, that amplified the level of opulence spilling from one room to the next. To dress the house's grand windows with soaring proportions, luxurious blue silk was fabricated into simple panels and edged with tassel trim.
Once a breezeway that connected Hefner's side-by-side properties, the sitting room is dynamic with a stately antique secretary that is painted with green lacquer.
The living room lightens the expected tones of blue and white, and is well-appointed with sumptuous upholstery and fine antiques.
Fabrics—mostly silk—range from oversize damask in the dining room to glossy satin that was used to upholster the living room sofa and tufted ottoman in the ladies' sitting room. With the exception of dining room damask and a hand-blocked table skirt in the top-level garden room, patterns were kept to a minimum. When exceptions were made, they were subtle and tone-on-tone.
Return to Grandeur
"Although this house maintained its classic bones and had pretty details, there was a lingering tone because of its past," Plechaty says of the project. "It was a joy to work with clients who appreciate and respect architecture and allowed me to bring their home back to the grandeur it once had."
While Plechaty finds every project that she designs memorable in its own way, this one was especially enjoyable due to clients who spoke her same design language.
Classic Dining Room
Formerly Hugh Hefner's bedroom, the dining room teases with a color that is not quite blue, not quite green on an oversize silk damask that skirts the table and backs the chairs.
Stunning Fireplace Seating
Dubbed the "choiserie room," the sitting room features a pretty fireplace with a stunning onyx surround.
Timeless and Intimate
Elegant draperies in the master bedroom sitting area came directly from a showhouse space the homeowners admired.
A personal space for homeowner Julie McGinley, the ladies' sitting room is anchored by a timeless daybed made intimate by a blue tester lined with pleated, ivory-colored fabric. The bed is flexible too and has a mattress underneath that pops up, transforming it into a queen-size sleeper.
Bring on the Light
Situated on the fourth floor of the house, the garden room features the original roofline with new interior architecture. Given its urban location, the space draws in ample natural light and boasts access to an outdoor terrace.
A mirrored vanity table and chair embellished with pearl trim provide a spot to apply makeup.