Their Home Had to Be Fashion Forward. But Above All Else, It Needed a Killer Closet.
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Their Home Had to Be Fashion Forward. But Above All Else, It Needed a Killer Closet.

Ralph Lauren meets Tom Ford inside this sleek and sophisticated Chicago house, which cost $1.8 million to build

By NANCY KEATES
Tue, Jan 23, 2024 9:03amGrey Clock 4 min

If Kelli and Fei Wang’s house had a soul, it would be the walk-in closet.

The house, in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighbourhood, is designed around the couple’s love for fashion and includes a 300-square-foot custom closet, with charcoal-suede wall covering and cerused-oak shelves, amplified by a vanity within a 40 x 60 inch mirror. There is a separate accessories side room, modelled after a showroom, where Kelli’s collection of designer bags and shoes sit on shelves and where she hangs out on a silver love seat.

In the couple’s previous home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, they had to change out their wardrobes every season, hauling clothes from their apartment to their storage unit in the building’s basement, because there wasn’t room for it all upstairs.

“I wanted to never do a closet swap again,” says Kelli, 42, dressed in a floaty, cream-coloured shirt dress from Sandro Paris and light pink Manolo Blahnik pumps. “The closet was the first thing I thought about for the house.”

The Wangs bought their Ukrainian Village property for $511,000 in 2016 and tore down the existing 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, old brick home on it. The new house, finished in 2021, is 5,000 square feet, has three bedrooms and cost $1.8 million, with about $100,000 of millwork, carpet and furnishings going into the primary closet alone.

To design the house, the couple hired Dan Mazzarini, the principal of New York-based BHDM Design, who was a director of store design at Ralph Lauren for six years and also worked on Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and Kate Spade retail spaces.

Mazzarini knew Kelli from college, and understood the couple’s love for fashion: they’d shopped together many times in New York, where Fei had a special affinity for the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue.

“I wanted to live in the Ralph Lauren store,” says Fei, 46, dressed in a custom-made Pini Parma shirt and a Boggi sweater. “It makes you feel elegant, elevated, and classy.”

As a guide for the house’s overall aesthetic, they decided on “Ralph Lauren meets Tom Ford, a mixture of buttoned up and timeless sophistication and sexy, modern, crisp elegance,” says Mazzarini. That meant a lot of black, white and charcoal.

That mixture can be seen throughout the house. In the living room, open from the kitchen on the main floor, a Ralph Lauren influence can be seen in the classic white sofa, while the angles of the coffee table and the chairs are more Tom Ford, says Mazzarini.

Tom Ford comes out in the kitchen, where the black granite counters, black-matte open shelves and stainless-steel appliances have a “refined industrialism,” says Mazzarini. The dining room has a crafty Ralph Lauren chandelier and white leather chairs.

On the second floor, Fei’s office is “menswear-oriented” It has a modern, crisp, geometric style, with a glass coffee table, an oversize black linen sofa, and dark grey flannel curtains, like a suit, says Mazzarini. The red fox fur and brown velvet pillows, the rosewood desk and the nubby rug add more classic textures.

The primary suite, with its bathroom and the centrepiece closet, takes up the entire third floor. It is designed in part after the Bulgari Hotel Milano, where the couple stayed on one of their first trips to Italy. The furnishings include grey-velvet drapes, an ebony headboard, a leather bench and a large brown-velvet armchair.

When designing the closet, Mazzarini says he asked the couple how many suits, shoes, bags and accessories they had—and that number kept growing as the home-building process progressed, going from around 50 to more than 100 pairs of shoes for each. While the overarching goal was beauty and style, it also had to be comfortable—and to reflect what Mazzarini calls the couple’s “Midwestern warmth and hospitality.”

Fei was born in Shanghai and grew up in Chicago, where his father was getting a Ph.D. in chemistry. Living on a teacher assistant’s budget didn’t leave much for buying designer clothes, but Fei says he “always had an eye for fashion—it was innate.” He says his parents, who grew up when many Chinese people wore blue worker’s suits, weren’t interested in subsidising his passion, so he started working in a clothing store when he was 14 years old. The first suit he bought himself was from Banana Republic.

He graduated from Illinois State University in 1999 and then from the University of Chicago with an M.B.A. in 2004. He went to work in asset management at Morgan Stanley, then to J.P. Morgan Asset Management and UBS before landing again at Morgan Stanley in 2021, where he is now a senior vice president in family wealth management.

Kelli also remembers a passion for fashion from a young age. Growing up in Piqua, Ohio, north of Dayton, she couldn’t afford to buy designer clothes, so she mixed and matched, she says. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and went to work at J.P. Morgan Asset Management before moving on to Merrill Lynch and Centric Wealth Management in 2018, where she is currently director of financial planning.

Fashion is central to the couple’s relationship. When they first met in 2008, when they were both working in J.P. Morgan’s wealth management unit in Chicago, each noticed the other’s clothes. “She was chic and classy,” says Fei. “I pay attention to style.” Kelli remembers the first time she saw her now-husband walk by in a suit. “He looked the Wall Street-financier part,” she says.

After their wedding in Lake Como, Italy, the couple honeymooned at JK Place (now called The Place), in Florence, a hotel that also influenced the design of their home. They started traveling to Italy and France every year because they love traveling and shopping together, and they both appreciate the goal of having the best experience possible, whether it is food, art, clothing or design. “The downside of that is there’s no voice of reason,” jokes Fei.

The Wangs say they have passed their fashion appreciation on to their 2½-year-old daughter, Gemma, who loves to hang out in the accessory room of the closet, where she tries on her mum’s shoes. In Gemma’s own bedroom, a shelf is filled with miniature designer bags: Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Louis Vuitton. “She has a better sense of style than both of us,” says Kelli.



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Winning neighbourhoods where home values rose most in FY24

We reveal the No. 1 areas for price growth in each capital city

By Bronwyn Allen
Thu, Jul 18, 2024 3 min

Home values across Australia rose by a median 8 percent in FY24, delivering the equivalent of $59,000 in new capital growth to the two-thirds of the population that owns a home, according to CoreLogic data. Investors received total returns of 12.2 percent over the year, including capital gains and gross rental income.

Very tight supply and demand in most capital cities except Melbourne and Hobart was a significant driver of the capital growth, with the smaller and more affordable capital cities of Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide experiencing the most price appreciation over the year. A lack of properties for sale trumped the usual dampening effect of higher interest rates.

As usual, some areas outperformed their city’s median growth benchmark. Here are the top SA3 areas for capital growth in each capital city of Australia in FY24. SA3 areas are large suburbs, or districts incorporating clusters of suburbs, with more than 20,000 residents.

 

Sydney

Home values across Sydney rose by a median 6.3 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Mount Druitt. Its median value rose by 13.96 percent to $859,939. Mount Druitt is located 33km west of the CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Mount Druitt, Ropes Crossing, Whalan and Minchinbury. The Mount Druitt community is very multicultural with almost one in two residents born overseas. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the NSW median of 39.

 

Melbourne

Home values across Melbourne rose by a median 1.3 percent in FY24. The top area for capital growth was Moreland-North with 4.71 percent growth. This took the district’s median home value to $746,488. Moreland-North includes the suburbs of Hadfield, Pascoe Vale and Glenroy. It’s a multicultural community with a particularly large contingent of residents with Italian ancestry. One or both parents of 66 percent of residents were born overseas, according to the 2021 Census.

 

Brisbane

Home values across Brisbane rose by a median 15.8 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Springwood-Kingston in Logan City. Its median value swelled by 25.55 percent to $710,569. Springwood-Kingston is approximately 22km south of Brisbane CBD. It incorporates the suburbs of Springwood, Kingston, Rochedale South and Slacks Creek. It is a multicultural community with one or both parents of 55 percent of the residents born overseas, according to the 2021 Census. More than 15 percent of residents have Irish or Scottish ancestry.

 

Adelaide

Home values across Adelaide rose by a median 15.4 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Playford in Playford City. Its median value soared by 19.94 percent to $530,991. Playford is approximately 40km north of Adelaide. It incorporates the suburbs of Elizabeth Downs, Elizabeth Grove, Angle Vale and Virginia. It is home to many young people under the age of 40. The median age of residents is 33 compared to the state median of 41.

 

Perth 

Home values across Perth rose by a median 23.6 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Kwinana in Kwinana City. Its median value skyrocketed by 33.19 percent to $618,925. Kwinana is approximately 37km south of Perth CBD. It includes the suburbs of Leda, Medina, Casuarina and Mandogalup. Henderson Naval Base is located here and there is a significant community of servicemen and ex-servicemen living in the area. It is home to many young families, with the median age of residents being 33 compared to the state median of 38.

 

Canberra

Home values across the nation’s capital rose by a median 2.2 percent in FY24. The best area for capital growth was Weston Creek. Its median value rose by 5.24 percent to $937,740. Weston Creek is approximately 13km south-west of the CBD. It includes the suburbs of Weston Creek, Holder, Duffy, Fisher and Chapman. Approximately 43 percent of residents have a bachelor’s degree, which is on par with the ACT median but much higher than the national median of 26 percent. Household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median. Almost one in five residents work in government administration jobs.

 

Hobart

Home values across Hobart fell 0.1 percent in FY24. The top performing area for capital gains was Sorell-Dodges Ferry with 2.78 percent growth. This took the area’s median home value to $615,973. Sorell-Dodges Ferry is approximately 25km north-west of Hobart. It incorporates the suburbs of Richmond, Sorell, Dodges Ferry, Carlton and Primrose Sands. The area has a large community of baby boomers and retirees, with the median age of residents being 43 compared to the Australian median of 38.

 

Darwin

Home values across Darwin rose by a median 2.4 percent in FY24. The No. 1 area for growth was Litchfield. Its median value moved 3.21 higher to $672,003. Litchfield is about 37km south-east of Darwin and includes the suburbs of Humpty Doo, Acacia Hills and Southport.  It has a high proportion of middle-aged residents, with the median age being 39 compared to the territory median of 33. About 12 percent of residents are Indigenous Australians. The biggest industries are government administration and defence. Median household incomes are about 35 percent higher than the national median.

 

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