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 it in 2019 from the original owner who had molded the space purchased 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.