Donna Mondi: Enduring Style with an Edge
“I love vintage properties and the character they naturally possess,” says Chicago-based designer Donna Mondi. The catch? Many of the firm’s projects are new builds and luxury condos that don’t necessarily come with built-in character. In a renovation, Mondi frequently contrasts classical features with modern art, but in a new build, the reverse often occurs. “I’ll add in vintage furnishings (retro bar carts are a signature accessory), interesting millwork details, specialty wall finishes, or more traditional lighting to give the space a collected feeling,” she says.
Mondi’s interiors are both soulful and multi-sensory — it’s easy to imagine dimming the lights and pouring a cocktail in one of these spaces.
“I’m especially drawn to the French Moderne and Art Deco era of the 1920s and 30s,” she says. “It was an age of decadence, elegance and elevated lifestyle.”
Like Jean-Michel Frank, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann or other artists of the era, Mondi tends towards rich materials: mohair or cashmere rugs, velvet or wool upholstery and leather details. Still, her spaces don’t feel confined to any particular style or time period.
“There is no such thing as timeless design,” says Mondi, explaining that most major trends have a 10-year shelf life. For proof, one needs only to look at trendy kitchens and baths, which feel out of date after a decade.
“Our job is to avoid short-lived trends and blend in elements that will blur the lines of the era,” Mondi says. “If it’s difficult to define when the furnishings were bought, the overall style has more longevity.”
One trick for quickly updating an interior is to switch out the light fixtures. “This small change can shift the style,” she says, whether searching for a more modern or traditional look.
Art is another element that gives Mondi’s interiors an edge. If the client is a collector, she uses art as a jumping off point. For a luxury condo, Mondi started with a spectacular collection that was a bit small for the space. Using metallic finished millwork to frame the pieces, she created a custom installation that helps to define the design. “In some cases, the art may be the final piece that ties everything together.” With an expert eye, Mondi may pull colors from a piece of art with her upholstery choices, or balance the calm palette of a room with vibrant art.
Art can also provide contrast, especially when an interior is “too perfect.” In those instances, Mondi adds earthy accessories or unpredictable elements. “This could be an old African bench next to a chair, a Dogon ladder in a corner, or vintage accessories in a shelving unit,” she says. “Finding something that is hundreds of years old next to a lacquered cabinet can create quite a surprise!”
Mondi values the freedom to arrange items in unexpected ways. For a recent condo at One Bennett Park, she mixed plaster walls, rich area rugs and luxurious textiles to bring a bit of drama into each room without compromising the cohesive elegance of the overall aesthetic. “When we have the ability to design without boundaries,” she says, “we truly create magic.”
To learn more, visit donnamondi.com. Hero Image: Design by Donna Mondi. Photography by Werner Straube.
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