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Sasha Adler Conjures a Sleek Yet Inviting Chicago Abode with Bold Colors and Iconic Designs

Sasha Adler’s first love was fashion. As a child, her style icon was Madonna (“I dressed as her for several Halloweens”), and she later worked for a French wedding magazine. Even today, in her work as an interior designer, she regularly looks to the world of clothing for inspiration. 

Sasha Adler
Sasha Adler, a 1stDibs 50 2023 honoree, is often inspired by fashion when crafting interiors, as in a new-build family home she designed in Chicago (portrait by Weston Wells). Top: The study features a Finn Juhl desk chair and marble obelisk lamps, all from 1stDibs, plus a rug inspired by one Adler saw in Italy. Photos by Tony Soluri

“I’m constantly referencing details and elements I’ve seen on the runway,” she says. A case in point can be found in the living room of a new-build family home in Chicago’s hip Bucktown district by local firm Massey Associates Architects whose interiors she designed. In front of the fireplace stands a bespoke angular, green ottoman with a horizontal brass band around it. “I spotted a brass belt that cinched at the waist and thought it would be really pretty to create a similar effect with a piece of furniture,” she says.

Adler was raised in the Windy City and segued into interior design on her return there in 2003. She was hired as an assistant at Nate Berkus Associates, where she ended up staying for 14 years, most of it as Berkus’s co-design director. Before a friend told her about the opening in his office, she claims, she had never particularly considered a career in interior decor. Still, looking back to her childhood, she realizes she always had a subliminal interest in the home. As a 10-year-old, she asked for new bedding for her birthday. “My friends all wanted clothes or toys,” she notes. And in her teens, when her parents were renovating a new house, “I became completely obsessed with the process and wanted to go to the meetings with my mom,” she recounts. “In retrospect, I must have been a nightmare for the interior designer, because I was very specific: I wanted grasscloth on the walls and thought my window treatments should be striped.”

The clients have modern tastes, but Adler balanced sleek elements with vintage and antique pieces, like an 18th-century fireplace lined with reclaimed Belgian roof tiles. In front of the fireplace is a bespoke green ottoman with a horizontal brass band around it that was inspired by a cinched-at-the-waist brass belt Adler saw.

She founded her own firm in June 2018 with three employees. Within just four months, the team had grown to nine, working on some 15 projects. Since then, she’s completed not only residential commissions in destinations like Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Hamptons but also a private plane, as well as stores for Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop brand in Chicago and Austin.

Sasha Adler Bucktown living room
Mounted on the wall are a set of six Murano glass lights that Adler found in Paris.

The Bucktown home, which has its own rooftop pool, was for a young family with four children. “They entertain frequently and really wanted to create a fun environment,” Adler says of the clients, whom she describes as having “a lot of energy.” They were also looking for something a little different. “They were drawn toward unique pieces,” she continues. “They didn’t want things they would see in all of their friends’ homes.” And it was important that the home reflect their personalities. “People wandering through it really get an idea of who they are and what they’re interested in.”

Sasha Adler powder room
The Thomas Eyck beetle-shaped vases mounted above the powder room vanity are a nod to the wife’s college major, entomology.

The children, for instance, are very into music. So, Adler created a music room that is home not only to a whole host of different instruments but also a collection of vintage concert posters. The wife’s major in college, meanwhile, was entomology, and when Adler came across a series of vases in the shape of beetles by Dutch designer Thomas Eyck, she decided to mount them on the powder-room wall like an art installation.

Sasha Adler Bucktown dining room
The dining room offers multiple seating options, including a channel-tufted banquette, paired with the dining table, along with a couple of Warren Platner armchairs in front of the bar, which is a repurposed 19th-century French wooden credenza.

Adler particularly likes working with clients who have preexisting collections. “There’s a sentimental value to them,” she says. Here, the wife had a number of pieces of 1970s design from her childhood home, among them a floor lamp with a red marble shade and a snake wrapped around it, which Adler placed in the living room. A pair of Warren Platner chairs with their original mohair upholstery takes center stage in the dining room, which was conceived to serve a number of functions. “It’s not only used for formal meals but also to have pizza on Friday night or to sit and have a drink and play music,” says Adler.

Sasha Adler Bucktown kitchen
The homeowners have four children and entertain frequently, necessitating the kitchen’s massive waterfall-edge island and ample storage, including a tucked-away butler’s pantry.

The family can do the last thanks to the turntable on the custom bar, which was created by adapting a 19th-century French wooden credenza. “The clients’ tastes are more modern, but I love having a piece that has real patina and signs of wear,” says Adler. Similar aged charm can be found in the living room, where the inside of an 18th-century fireplace has been lined with reclaimed Belgian roof tiles in what Adler calls a “library pattern,” explaining, “It resembles books stacked on a shelf.”

Sasha Adler Bucktown den
Adler created a cozy gathering space in the den, with a buffalo-check-upholstered modular sofa and custom stadium seating that doubles as storage. On the walls are a collection of Lollapalooza music festival posters.

Integrating vintage items is a signature of her projects, as is introducing pops of color. Another constant is the use of intriguing light fixtures. “I think they can really function as artwork,” she says. This home is no exception. In the study is a custom chandelier based on one that got away. “I came across a vintage fixture at the market in Paris years ago,” she recounts. “It was one of those pieces I wish I’d bought and didn’t. But I had a photo of it on my phone.” 

In the primary bedroom, works from Robert Longo‘s “Men in the Cities” series hang above the bed, which is flanked by a pair of nightstands Adler designed. The chandelier is by Bourgeois Boheme.

The monotony of the long hallway was broken up by a lot of interesting lighting designs. “They help to create different moments so it doesn’t feel never-ending,” says Adler. “As you progress, the story develops.” Among the fixtures are a reproduction Josef Hoffmann chandelier from Woka Gallery, in Vienna, and a pair of oversize brass sconces sourced at the Galerie Glustin, in Paris. Perhaps the best find, however, was a set of Murano glass wall lights, also unearthed in the French capital. “We needed six, and we happened upon six, which was fortuitous,” relates Adler. “The scale and texture were perfect too. It’s like they were meant to be in the house.”

Sasha Adler’s Quick Picks

Set of Murano Glass Sconces, 1980s
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Set of Murano Glass Sconces, 1980s
Marble Obelisk Lamp, 1940s
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Marble Obelisk Lamp, 1940s
Preben Fabricius & Jørgen Kastholm Bird Desk Chair, 1964
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Preben Fabricius & Jørgen Kastholm Bird Desk Chair, 1964
 Reversible Geometric-Pattern Coverlet, ca. 1930
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Reversible Geometric-Pattern Coverlet, ca. 1930
Hans-Agne Jakobsson Pair of Ceiling Lights, ca. 1960
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Hans-Agne Jakobsson Pair of Ceiling Lights, ca. 1960

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