Chicago interior designer Donna Mondi finds her groove where European tradition collides with edgy modernism. She’s bringing that aesthetic to our next ICONIC HAUS.
Donna Mondi is enthusiastic about creating a stylish dining room and patio for the upcoming ICONIC HAUS in Paradise Valley, Arizona. “This will be our first project in Arizona,” says the Chicago-based interior designer, “and we’re looking forward to showcasing the depth and breadth of what we can do.” She’s planning something airy, casual-but-elegant, with neutral hues and accessories that add texture and grit, all to complement architect Mark Candelaria’s “mod-iterranean” style motif.
Donna Mondi is enthusiastic about creating a stylish dining room and patio for the upcoming ICONIC HAUS in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Mondi, a Chicago interior designer, professional member of ASID and published in Architectural Digest, is well-versed in design challenges. She’s a hot-hot-hot designer in her hometown, known for “Donna’s furniture,” elegant residential work on urban high-rise condos and the grand estates of the suburbs. She’s also developed a chic line of furniture, with each piece named and inspired by history.
The Chicago interior designer’s rise to the top wasn’t exactly a straight-arrow path. “I’m the perfect example of how not to start in the business,” says Donna Mondi with a laugh. She grew up in Chicago’s western suburbs, married and went back to school when her children were very young. “I wanted something to challenge me, and I’d always been interested in design,” she recalls, “so I started taking night classes at the local community college.”
Before long, she was working part-time at design firms in suburban Naperville and Hinsdale. In 2001—a few days before 9/11—she opened the doors on her own firm, in downtown Hinsdale.
“My timing wasn’t that great, but somehow we managed,” she says. She cut her teeth on new construction in the suburbs, often doing French country and Old-World motifs that were popular at the time for single-family homes.
Her star began to rise, and Donna Mondi’s home furnishings kept getting pushed forward with her interior designs forward in Chicago, influenced by trips abroad. “I fell in love with European styles,” Mondi explains. “I love the classic architectural elements of cities like Paris and London, which are two of my favorite places. I also developed a modern, edgy side to my designs, incorporating things like thought-provoking, dramatic art. That became my sweet spot—the collision between old and new.”
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That collision prompted her to tiptoe into design projects within the city. “It’s different working within Chicago proper,” interior designer Donna Mondi explains. “Clients who live in the city have a lot of fantastic designers to work with, so the competition is fierce. Those clients don’t usually work with suburban designers. Plus, it’s a lot different doing an interior for a high-rise—you have to deal with boards, time restrictions and elevators. It’s not like doing a single-family home on a big lot.”
She opened a small office on Wells Street in the city in 2016 but kept her Hinsdale office until she knew the transition from suburban to urban would be successful. A few years ago, she acquired an 1890s factory building in the city’s West Town neighborhood, renovating some 5,000 square feet into an industrial, artsy studio space, with another 5,000 square feet for samples and furniture storage. She merged the suburban and urban Chicago interior design offices, and now has six employees, with another two working remotely. In 2017, Crain’s Business Chicago named her Donna Mondi Interiors factory studio as one of the “coolest offices” in the city.
Along with her interior design projects, Mondi launched a line of furniture. Dona’s furnishings are all showcased through lush photography on her website, Instagram and Pinterest sites. “We do so many custom pieces for our projects,” she says, “and I’d wanted to explore some ideas for making furniture without client, time or project restrictions.”
A Francophile, Chicago interior designer Mondi called the line Envie, meaning “covet,” and named the first seven pieces after historically famous mistresses of powerful men. The Diane leather and gold bench is named after Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henry II, who died after drinking elixirs made with gold; while the curvaceous Carolina vanity chair was inspired by Carolina Otero, known for her voluptuous shape and as mistress of Edward VII.
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“I read a lot of historical stories about these women, so I enjoyed attaching a good story to each piece.” Two other pieces—the Madison area rug and the Marina side table—were inspired by the architecture of New York and Chicago. Donna Mondi is also developing two more pieces for the line.
When asked about her favorite Chicago interior design projects, Mondi replies that it’s like asking to choose a favorite child—but she does zero in on two that reflect the yin and the yang of her approach. “One of my favorites has to be a historical renovation of a 1928 Craftsman-style home in Hinsdale,” she says of the project featured in Traditional Home. “The clients were passionate about the project, and we managed to modernize the interior and honor the historic details.”
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Another favorite? A high-rise Chicago condo for a couple downsizing from a large suburban home. “They ditched the Old-World-cherry-kitchen look of their suburban home for something clean and modern,” Donna Mondi notes. “We added touches like an earthy green lacquered wall for the powder room, book-matched marble as the fireplace surround and funky, sexy art.”
But Mondi doesn’t like to dwell on the past as much as look forward to new work. The Chicago interior designer is not traveling as much, due to the pandemic, but taking French lessons in preparation for future treks to France. She’s also noticing an uptick in city clients looking at getaway homes in places like Michigan’s Harbor Country (“a short drive from the city”) and Colorado.
“People are re-evaluating their living situations,” Donna Mondi says. “They’re making their primary homes better and also thinking about living elsewhere.”
In the meantime, she’s focusing on ICONIC HAUS, partnering with TOWN Studio in Scottsdale, Arizona for the dining room furnishings and with Brown Jordan for the adjacent dining room patio. “I’m looking forward to learning about the climate and influences in the area. I love a design challenge that takes me outside of Chicago,” says the passionate interior designer.
And we are happy to host her.