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Suzanna Bierwirth's Lincoln Park home is chock-full of lessons in easy elegance. Thanks to dramatic colors and artful arrangements, the tiny row house makes a grand statement.
Suzanna is a Chicago-based freelance creative director and cofounder of the design company Binth. Mirrored pieces add a dash of majesty, even when put to mundane use. The entryway bureau (right) illuminates a dark space and holds "all you need when you leave the house, from keys to shoes," says Suzanna.
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The 1879 three-story home that Suzanna shares with her 10-year-old son, Jarek, has just 500 square feet or so per floor. Yet she has turned it into a sophisticated showpiece that feels anything but confined.
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Making an Entrance
Suzanna scored the coatrack at a local architectural salvage store. "It's made of old shoe forms and looks so organic and cool."
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Playing with Fire
"I fell in love with the house because of the fireplace," says Suzanna. Still lifes like this, centered around a bug poster given by a friend, are always evolving. "I've started to get into maritime stuff, hence these urchin tea candles." She groups pieces by color or theme, and then weeds ruthlessly. "Just keep whittling," she advises.
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"With this square footage, I had to choose either a living or a dining room," says Suzanna. She opted for the latter, reasoning that the best conversations and parties always take place in the kitchen and dining areas. So this velvet settee between the rooms is where Jarek and the family dog, Dude, kick back while Mom cooks. The Binth "Cuddle" pillows are designed to appeal to both children and adults. "When you have kids, you shouldn't have to separate their things from yours."
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Fine Dining Room
See-through Lucite chairs and an airy chandelier don't cramp the style of the heavy oak Stickley table. "When you have a small space, you need to create one focal point per room," says Suzanna. "I like mixing antique and modern because things stand out more when styles are contrasted."
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To achieve a feeling of openness, Suzanna washed the kitchen in a clean, pale palette.
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In the kitchen, she layered in subtle touches of color and odd, whimsical objects -- like a cast polyester resin piggy bank and surreal salt-and-pepper shakers -- that a busier room would swallow up. "At first you think it's all very elegant, and then the details sink in," she says. "You see things like the hamster cookie jar, which is just ridiculous. That's why I love it."
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Bed, Bath, Beyond
In the bathroom, an ornate French chandelier that Suzanna won on eBay (for a mere $200) both matches and mocks the space's serious design. "I went with a black-and-white color scheme be-cause it's true to the period of the house," she says, "but it's all done with a wink." Hot pink accents further jazz up the bathroom's look, but they could easily be changed out for yellow or green, she notes. "When I'm decorating, I do whatever makes me smile."
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In the basement, a desk along one wall lets Suzanna and son work elbow to elbow -- they recently collaborated on a greeting-card line for Binth. Her grown-up business partner, Peter Dunham, designed the desk and coffee table.
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All Grown Up
Another doodling station in Jarek's room adheres to Suzanna's belief in all-ages furniture: He can pull up an Eames chair whenever the pencil calls.
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