FOR ME, ‘HOME’ IS MY HUSBAND GREG making dinner at our kitchen island, drinking a glass of red wine, walking barefoot on my grandma’s rug, with my hair untied. Home is a fresh bouquet of flowers, my home-made 3 ingredient pancakes, and La Colombe coffee in our bed on a lazy Sunday morning. Home is our white couch and marble coffee table, and music playing in the background after work on a busy day.
I think with this apartment, Greg and I are living out our ‘maximalist’ interior dreams. Patterns, colors, antiques, no space on the walls left bare. I personally love color. The kitchen is painted green and the wall behind our dining room table is a blood orange/red.
When I first bought the place, I showed my painter a can of Blood Orange Pellegrino, and said: “I want the kitchen wall the color of the leaves, and this living room wall the color of the orange”. He did just that.
A LOT OF THE SCULPTURE, painting, and décor is mostly antique or vintage. My grandmother is an antique dealer in St. Petersburg, Russia and has specialized in decorative arts for over 45 years. She has a fantastic eye for interiors and over the years has gifted and brought over a number of paintings, Imperial Porcelain sculpture, and vases as gifts for us. I trust her taste, blindfolded.
TWO INTERESTING STORIES ABOUT A COUPLE OF PIECES IN OUR HOME:
The art deco chandelier in our bedroom used to hang in my bedroom in St. Petersburg, Russia throughout all of my childhood years. I remember waking up and looking up at it and admiring the floral glass light bulb covers. It was one of my absolutely favorite pieces in that home. Every year that I visited Russia recently I would comment to my grandmother how much I loved that chandelier and finally one autumn day, she decided to de-install it from her home and ship it to mine, almost 4500 miles away. To this day, I can’t believe it’s here in our bedroom in the United States. It’s such an important piece to me and my grandma is one of the only people in the entire world that shares the sentiment with me – that some material items are truly priceless.
The other piece that has an interesting story in our home is our white marble coffee table which has only been in our home for a little under a year. Greg and I had been searching for the perfect white marble coffee table to replace the French country style table I had sitting there for 4 years. For one, most of the marble tables we came across and loved were out of our price range and two, there was always something off about the ones we saw (too much metal frame, too small, not circular enough, etc.). Greg loves to hunt for unique pieces as much as I do, and one day decided to visit Susanin’s Auction House, two blocks away from our place. I used to work for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers back in college and graduate school and, let me tell you, auction houses get the move amazing consignment pieces!!! The day Greg visited Susanin’s, the auction house was having a huge blowout sale on many of their ‘market’ decorative arts – pieces that didn’t fit within a particular auction category and were mostly interior pieces. There, he noticed two large white marble slabs, already cut into specific shapes, ready for installation. This white marble round slab you see here in our living room is one of those and he was able to purchase it from Susanin’s for only $27! Since we saved so much on the actual good quality marble, we spent $200 on a simple wood frame table and mounted the slab over it. There you have it.
GREG REALLY LOVES to move around furniture and paintings when something seems stale. We also love to try new trends out for a couple of weeks to see how they sit with our mood. So for example, we keep seeing book stacks in interior magazines and people’s homes. We decided to stack our large format art books across our dining room table, arranged by color. We’ve had that now for a couple of months and we love it!
I also love to play around with plants, flowers, and botanicals to freshen up spaces and corners. Bright pink peonies or a lush bouquet of white tulips always change the atmosphere for me, which is sometimes enough of a change.
MY FAVORITE NOOK in our home is the corner of the white couch next to the bookshelf, right under the reading light. I read all of my books in that corner, with a hot cup of black tea that I can easily set on the bookshelf. During Christmas, when our tree is lit up and stands in front of the balcony, the lights are twinkling, and it’s snowing outside, that corner becomes the best seat in the house with a hot cup of cocoa.
For my inspiration, I love to look through CS Interiors magazine. I literally rip pages out and keep them to inspire me for our new place. I love that magazine because Chicago has some of the best interior designers and architects in the country, and it gives me a sense of what’s happening right down the street. I also love to look at celebrity homes on Coveteur.com – insider looks at different style makers and what inspires them at the moment. I never thought I would ever be caught saying this, but I have actually started to fall in love with Crate and Barrel! There are so many individual items there that make an interior look complete and a lot of wood and marble pieces there that I love. There is actually a bed there that has been on my wishlist for two years now.
For botanicals and flowers I love Asrai Garden in Wicker Park, and Steve’s Flower Market on Grand Avenue. There are a couple fantastic interior shops off Chicago Avenue and Grand Avenue in West Town, and definitely a number of amazing antique shops in Andersonville. Greg loves Brimfield off Clark Street – they have the best pieces for the holidays!
As cliché as it is, Greg and I are obsessed with traveling, so every time we go somewhere, we always bring back a painting or print for our gallery walls, to remind us to travel again and again.
Lately, we are gravitating towards white, grey, and black colors in our interior choices. We are going to attempt to be more ‘minimalist’ at our next place, although I don’t know if we’ll actually be able to control ourselves!
RECIPE FOR HOME-MADE PANCAKES WITH 3 INGREDIENTS
by Nika Levando
- 1 large banana, mashed
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp of peanut or almond butter
(you can add chocolate chips or blueberries if you want)
- Peel and mash the banana, stir in the egg. Mix in peanut or almond butter
- Heat a nonstick skillet and lightly spray with oil. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
- Pour 2 tbsp of batter onto skillet for each pancake.
- Cook until golden brown on the underside (around 1 minute) sprinkle on any chunky ingredients (chocolate chips or blueberries), then use a metal spatula to flip and cook until golden brown on the other side (30 seconds to 1 minute).
TEXT – Nika Levando
INTERIOR STYLE – Nika Levando & Greg Birman
PHOTOS – Angelika Poletaeva
DIRECTOR – Julia Latkins
Greg and Nika’s West Loop home is a space I know intimately; yet, this photoshoot exposes fresh perspectives, even for me! I can attest that Nika’s narrative does not over-embellish their shared lifestyle, which I’d explain as “fast paced yet effortlessly relaxed.” The article encapsulates them to a T!
Sarah thank you so much!
We glad you like it!))
What a unique place. I love the modern design elements and the sprinkle of old Russia in this young yet cosy home. Thank you for sharing.
omg Vick!!! I love and miss you!