A Spacious Chicago Condo Has a Hip 1990s-Style All-Black Bathroom

A Spacious Chicago Condo Has a Hip 1990s-Style All-Black Bathroom

Name: Sarah Buckley, my girlfriend Jenna, and our dog, Ruth
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Type of home: Condo
Size: 2,700 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, own

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Our home is… hard to describe. Our condo is the former loading/warehouse addition to five- and seven-story adjoining light industrial buildings. Therefore, it is both part of larger loft buildings, but also its own structure. The buildings were converted from multi-tenant manufacturing to a mixed-use residential and commercial loft property in the late 1980s.

I purchased it in 2019 from the original owner who had molded the space for the last 30+ years. The main living area is about 1,000 square feet of open space defined only by a raised platform and fireplace. The scale of this room is emphasized by a nearly 20-foot curved entry hallway. I painted the hallway walls and ceilings black and installed gallery walls along each side. The dark, compressed, art-filled hallway empties into the bright, vast main living area. A 12-foot long skylight and textured glass block windows flood the living area with natural light, which accentuates different areas of space throughout the day and nourishes countless plants. A fig tree has grown into the skylight and is at least 10-feet tall. The platform contains our dining area and record player. Custom speakers have been created out of fiberglass pedestals that formerly served a movie theater.

An exceedingly unique bathroom with floor-to-ceiling black tile, custom chrome sink, black toilet, and space-age tube shower stall exists behind the platform wall. The remainder of living space is occupied by a bar, seating area along the rear wall, and S-shaped two-sided sofa. The living area leads to an open kitchen with commercial stainless steel hood, hand-painted sage green cabinets, and large pantries along the rear wall. My friend and Chicago muralist LeftHandedWave painted a mural along the kitchen pantry doors. The mural depicts the Ohio House Motel, a Chicago landmark that I have appreciated since I moved to Chicago. LeftHandedWave creates murals emphasizing a neighborhood’s history and evolution. The two-story motel seems out of place in its downtown location but somehow proudly holds its own with an iconic “mod” sign above the office.

From the living area, a mint green steel case desk (with original chair!) fits perfectly behind the entry hallway’s curved wall to create my home office. From the office, a door leads to the bedroom via several steps. Another skylight with the exposed structure of the ceiling illuminates a king-sized bed with an oversized Art Deco pink velvet channel tufted headboard. A large closet exists off the bedroom and is accessed via an unevenly broken penetration in the thick brick wall.

Finally, a spiral staircase from the bedroom leads to the primary bathroom below. The massive bathroom includes a stand-up shower and an “L” shaped, floating, high-gloss black laminate vanity with mirrors wrapping around each wall above. The mirrors extend to the ceiling, reflecting into the heart-shaped two-person Jacuzzi tub. The walls are painted black and white, with contrasting black and white ’90s pop art vinyl decals. Whenever a guest comments on the space, I always say “just wait until you see the downstairs bathroom.” and it rarely disappoints.

If I bring the design aesthetic, Jenna brings the comfortable, personal touches to our home. She has filled the vintage Art Deco bowl with rocks and seashells from our travels, displayed family photos, and filled every shelf with books. Ruth, or affectionately Baby Ruth, is a perfectly thick pit bull mutt that primarily naps in the path of the sunlight that filters through the skylight throughout the day. She loves to pile her toys under the dining room table and has claimed one corner of the sofa as her own.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Art Deco Eclectic Mural Loft

What is your favorite room and why? Although the bathrooms and main living area get the most attention, my favorite room is our closet. When I saw how the bricks were unevenly broken to make the opening, I knew this was the place for me. You understand the structure and its history when you literally see and feel how the bricks were broken to make the space. The closet wall is also fun and gives off superhero vibes of breaking through a brick wall. Furthermore, the space works well as a closet. It is spacious, secluded, and cozy. Jenna even added a chair when she moved in. Getting ready for the day in our closet allows for a quiet, protected moment to gather your thoughts and I honestly cherish starting my day in there.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing I bought for my home was the sofa. Because the living space is so large, I knew I wanted a sofa that was large and two-sided. By adding seating along both sides, the TV, fireplace, seating area along the back wall, and the bar would all be connected. But finding a sofa in the desired configuration or size proved difficult, and custom sofas were too expensive. I also have an inherent aversion to mass-produced furniture.

So instead, I purchased a vintage curvy “L” shaped sectional from a local Chicago shop for $600. The sofa had a great shape, but the original fabric and foam had seen better days. I found an (incredible) upholsterer that was willing to fabricate the curved corner, additional back pillow, and essentially an ottoman to attach to the back of the original sofa, creating the desired “S” shape. I picked a fabric, and they rebuilt the vintage sofa with increased support, new foam and legs, as well as added the channel tufting. It took nearly two years to complete this process.

Admittedly, it took this long because once I found a sofa with the right shape, I could not pick a fabric. My friends can attest to how many “pick your top five swatches” texts I sent over those months. In giving that vintage sofa a new life, I learned so much about fabric, foam, frames, and the upholstery process, and saved thousands of dollars in the process. And going through all of this only makes me love the final product more.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Work with what you have. I’ve always appreciated design that responds to its surroundings. When I was trying to figure out what to do with the downstairs bathroom and most “current” styles seemed to only call more attention to the 1990s heart-shaped Jacuzzi tub in all the wrong ways. But the tub works perfectly, and I use it all the time, so why replace it? Gut renovations are often wasteful and yield cookie-cutter results.

When updating room, I try to highlight some of the dated features to give the space character. The ’90s pop art shapes work with the elements of the bathroom. In choosing the vinyl decals, I leaned into the quirky 1990s elements like the tub and vanity, instead of masking or removing them. New light fixtures and vent were installed to give the space modern feel. These decisions have created a one-of-a-kind bathroom that brings me joy with every soak.


This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

A Minimal, Modern Brooklyn Loft Has a Tidy Kitchen Inspired by Garage Storage

A Minimal, Modern Brooklyn Loft Has a Tidy Kitchen Inspired by Garage Storage

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Name: Francesco Bertelli
Location: Bed-stuy, Brooklyn
Type of home: Loft
Size: 1000 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: When I moved here the loft didn’t have a specific style so I wanted to infuse it with my love for design and photography.

I’m a designer but I freelance sometimes as a product photographer so I wanted to keep the space uncluttered and modular in case I wanted to use it as a shooting space. I tried to use only colors and materials inspired by the materials/colors you can find in a photo studio: black, white, and wood (plywood birch).

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Photo-studio inspired loft

What is your favorite room and why? I like how the bedroom turned out, with the little bookcase-stairs to access the nook. I always loved since I was a kid the idea of small stairs and offset spaces.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? Well, the big letter A, which is at this point quintessential if not stereotypical of NY lofts, but it was really hard to find one oversize.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Have a clear and strict plan: choose 1/2 colors and 1/2 materials and stick to that. This helps when you browse endless catalogs and keep you focused on the final feeling you want to infuse into your home.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

A Modern NYC Loft’s Layout Is Maximized With a Dreamy Glass and Iron Wall

A Modern NYC Loft’s Layout Is Maximized With a Dreamy Glass and Iron Wall

Name: Kimberly Henry and partner
Location: New York, New York
Type of home: Apartment
Size: 1,300 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My boyfriend and I purchased our apartment in a co-op building last December, when the NYC market had really bottomed out during COVID. We had been looking at mostly new builds, but we stumbled across our unit and fell in love! We worked with my boyfriend’s father (an architect) to find ways to maximize the space for us, which meant turning a traditional two-bedroom into one larger bedroom with an office partitioned off with a glass-and-iron wall.

We are young professionals with a focus on style and design (I work for Ralph Lauren, my boyfriend works in finance). We both like a more minimalist approach to decor. I prefer a few funkier pieces that make our home feel more uniquely ours, and I love mixing textures and shapes.

We’ve sourced art from both artists we love and my mother (who has always been involved in the arts). The large Rothko-inspired paintings in our kitchen were done by her! We are also big readers, so books can be found in every room in our home.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Loft, modern, cozy, and personal.

What is your favorite room and why? My favorite room is our bedroom, which has dark blue paint and feels so cozy when we wake up each morning. We added panel molding to give a more traditional look to the walls, and added chic furniture largely purchased from CB2, some abstract prints by Marin Vaan Zaal, and a few plants for contrast.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we added to our home was a painting gifted to us by the artist Omar Mahfoudi. Its bright colors are the first thing you see upon entering our apartment.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Mix and match as many textures and shapes as possible! And two coffee tables are always better than one.

A Light-Filled Loft in Santa Fe Has Tons of Natural Wood and a Spiral Staircase

A Light-Filled Loft in Santa Fe Has Tons of Natural Wood and a Spiral Staircase

Name: Dana Taylor
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Type of home: Loft
Size: 735 square feet
Years lived in: 6 months, owned

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: When my plans got canceled due to the pandemic, I had no choice but to pivot. Instead of traveling, I bought this light-filled little loft in Santa Fe and have spent the past six months filling her with old treasures and new finds and lots and lots of plants. She feels much larger than her square footage implies. The high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows spoke to my passion for mid-century design. There is a lot of natural wood in the space. Wood beams in both the den and kitchen offset the exposed ductwork so synonymous with loft living, allowing her to feel warm and homey.

I love a good color story! My personal color palette is comprised of five hues; black, brown, gray, off-white, and green. And my home is no different. My personal style consists of contrasts, utilitarian mixed with bohemian. My home is dressed very similarly; industrial mixed with organic. Our homes are reflections of our personalities, and the colors and textures we are most drawn to land on our backs, on our walls, and beneath our feet.

What is your favorite room and why? I would have to say the dining room is my favorite space. Viewing the dining table from my den is so satisfying. Vintage mid-century chairs (obtained during my time as a gallery owner) coupled with my newly-acquired Razor dining table are just dreamy together. Running the length of the dining table is a beloved vintage textile I brought back from Peru. It had been stored for many years and while unpacking it I found it had been accosted by bugs and deteriorated from years of neglect. I was heartbroken. But not defeated. Fortunately, not all was destroyed. I turned what was left into a collection of framed pieces, and I couldn’t be happier with the happenstance.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? I just brought home a mid-century black metal nightstand with a white marble tabletop. It’s industrial meets European glamour. I love it! And the delicate brass faux branch drawer pull is whimsical. My bedroom is still very much a work in progress and the last room to be completed. But I’ll give a hint as to where it’s headed. The walls are black. Chalkboard paint in black. Musings and scribbles await.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Mid-century, Modern, Organic, Industrial, Bohemian

Any advice for creating a home you love? Don’t feel you have to rush the process. Take that time to live in the space and listen carefully for direction. She (or he) will inform you, but it could take some time. When you embrace the aesthetic of a place and allow the architecture to influence how you decorate, magic happens. Mixing design styles and blending old and new, light and dark, highbrow and lowbrow, creates interesting counterpoints. Combining high-end pieces with second-hand store scores and items from places like World Market and Home Goods, along with treasures from your travels makes for an eclectic home. And creates a home that feels lived-in and thoughtful.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

This Loft’s Cool 12-Foot High Open Bookshelf Divider Cost Under $500 to Build

This Loft’s Cool 12-Foot High Open Bookshelf Divider Cost Under $500 to Build

Name: Bronte Athearn and partner, Jordan
Location: Los Angeles, California
Type of home: Loft
Size: 1,200 square feet
Years lived in: 4 months, renting

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: Last summer, my partner, Jordan, and I bought a van, then decided to leave Los Angeles for six months. We explored 32 states and dozens of National Parks, and had fallen completely in love with this new way of life. We eventually found ourselves in Brooklyn. We considered staying in New York, but ultimately, with our work, we realized Los Angeles would be home for now. (Jordan is a filmmaker, and I’m an interior stylist.)

We finally made our way back to Los Angeles, and the apartment hunt began! We toured at least 10 apartments before stumbling across a loft we found on Craigslist. The moment we walked in, we immediately fell in love with its character and charm. It has tall windows, brick walls, 12-foot ceilings, original hardwood, and even a wood-burning fireplace. I knew this would be the perfect canvas for me to play with.

I love neutral tones with pops of green (hence my very green kitchen that I painted myself.) I also love using natural elements when it comes to styling: rocks, leathers, woods, linens, and lots and lots of plants. I actually ended up styling with items I found on the road.

What is your favorite room and why? The living room! I designed a 12-foot high open bookshelf that divides the bedroom and living room. Instead of building walls, I wanted to keep the loft/studio vibe, so I went with this alternative, and I love how it came out. Jordan’s dad is an amazing carpenter and built it for us for under $500!

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Lived-in modern

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? A few favorites are our vintage cane dining chairs from Urban Americana, all our Danish furniture from Saasaan Vintage, and our super breathable cozy bedding from Dazed But Amazed.

Any advice for creating a home you love? For fellow renters my advice is this: Find a way to enhance what already exists in your home by asking yourself: How can I make this more special? Remember, less is more.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.