Hours before he unveils his newly opened showroom, the Clive Christian Chicago Lifestyle Apartment, the audacious British designer creates a sensation among those gathering to view this unique address. Seated in the living room, Christian—whose name has been synonymous with exquisitely crafted kitchens, furnishings, and perfume for three decades—makes a statement as bold as any of his interiors. “I think without question this is not only the best representation of Clive Christian in the USA; I think this is the best interior-design showroom in the USA,” he says. “I travel across America frequently, and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s unique; it’s actually worth someone traveling a distance to see.”
The project in question—an immersive, 6,000-square-foot expanse of meticulously rendered residential space—is an unrivaled first for the company. The myriad images on social media fail to convey the in-person experience.
Instagram can’t fully capture the hand-painted silver-leaf wall treatment in the vestibule or the grandeur of the Baccarat chandelier presiding over the dining room. Fleeting effects play little part in this apartment, which took Jim Denos, president of Clive Christian Chicago and a 20-year collaborator with the designer himself, nearly 2 years to transform into the ultimate expression of Clive Christian living.
Still, despite its lofty objective, this highly polished environment invites visitors not merely to look but also to touch and explore. Serious clients can arrange to spend the night at the penthouse and experience the heritage brand to the utmost—from the selection of Clive Christian fragrances on the vanity to the seamless automation provided by a $1 million suite of Crestron products. According to Christian, the space encourages interaction and drives desire. “A lot of clients need to be shown things, because they’re busy,” he observes. “They don’t have any time to be planning. And generally, they’ll say, ‘I’ll have it.’ I think the more people who come in here, the more Jim is going to do those complete environments.”
Achieving this signature milieu required a cadre of artisans, painters, woodworkers, and plaster and molding specialists to take their respective crafts to superlative levels. Totaling 13 rooms, the apartment features a spacious living area, where an ornate plaster ceiling affords a classic counterpoint to burr- walnut paneling—a house specialty. Above the fireplace in the library, a custom work of marquetry representing a Denos-family heirloom watch testifies to the brand’s emphasis on highly personalized, bespoke commissions. “We’re an artistic company; we employ artistic people,” Christian says.
Among other highlights are a sommelier’s tasting room, which features a vineyard-themed marquetry mural enriched with hints of vivid blue; a definitive Clive Christian kitchen in the brand’s Architectural design; and an extensive master suite that includes a custom dressing room. To these areas, interior designer Joey Leicht added an additional layer of sophistication. “Selecting luxurious fabrics allowed me to design windows that were fashion inspired and adorned with jewelry-like accents,” Leicht explains. The apartment also features harmoniously presented furnishings from Dorya; crystal and lighting by Baccarat; carpets and fabrics by Pierre Frey; and mirrors by Christopher Guy.
The careful combination of elusive and sometimes invisible elements—heritage, artisanship, and design continuity especially—draw the curious forward. “All of the things you see and feel here are comfortable—are thought through,” says Christian of the penthouse. “That’s why the risk that it’s not going to flow is gone. The risk that it’s going to be jumpy and not sit correctly is gone. Under Jim’s remit here in Chicago, all those risks are gone.”
For Christian, however, the ultimate design risk is to deliver elevated style that lacks comfort. “We’re not designing lobbies for hotels that are there to impress a traveler,” he says. “We’re designing a home. So if it’s impressive and uncomfortable, then I think we’ve failed.” Visits to the Clive Christian Chicago Lifestyle Apartment are available by appointment.