Marina City studio

An architect has outfitted his 500-square-foot apartment with modular furniture.

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  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    Most studio-apartment dwellers don�t dream of entertaining on a grand scale. Dinner parties can get awkward when people find themselves lounging, cocktail in hand, on the only place in the room to sit: the bed.

    But James Pike, who�s lived in his 500-square-foot Marina City studio for four years, doesn�t have that problem. With its reflective black tile floor and sparse furnishings, Pike�s space feels a touch austere, but his deliberate design choices have turned this small space in an iconic Chicago building into the perfect place for living and entertaining.

    A designer at West Town architecture firm Scrafano Architects and program assistant at the Graham Foundation, Pike recently celebrated his 33rd birthday at home. �I had 47 guests in this apartment,� he says. �Comfortably.�

    Pike sleeps on IKEA�s flexible Sultan Sandane, a round bed with a thin, removable mattress that reveals a modular unit that breaks into four ottoman-like parts, which can be configured into several seating arrangements. �It�s too much like a studio apartment when you walk in and there�s someone�s bed in the middle of the room,� Pike says, adding that even when he doesn�t break up the piece, the round shape doesn�t make guests feel as if they�re sitting on his bed. �It�s a sculptural thing,� he says.

    Originally Pike�s unit was carpeted. �It looked like someone had smoked in here for a living,� he says. �It had seen better days.� He made a weekend project of removing the carpet to reveal the unit�s original black vinyl-tile subfloor. The reflective surface makes the space feel bigger. And the hard floors make it easier to clean and rearrange furniture at a moment�s notice.

  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    Pike�s four Panton-esque �S� chairs serve many functions. The lightweight acrylic�s all-weather durability makes for perfect patio furniture, but the chairs also work lined up against a wall when not needed, and at the foldout desk for working.

    The Scandinavian teak shelving unit fits perfectly within the arc-shaped sculptural structure of the unit�s north wall. Coherent, classic and functional, the piece houses Pike�s design books, office supplies and desk accessories. A foldout desktop serves as a modular office when Pike needs it, and gets hidden when he doesn�t.

  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    Architect Bertrand Goldberg�s original design for the Marina City studios didn�t include a pass-through in the wall between the kitchen and living area, but residents have modified the units with varying degrees of success. �Sometimes the aperture is huge and it kills both spaces by making it too connected,� Pike says. His contractor modified the rectangular bar window his unit came with to a circular shape big enough to facilitate conversation between rooms, but not so big that the kitchen invades the living space.

  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    Pike's break-apart Sultan Sandane bed from IKEA

  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    The view from Pike's balcony

  • Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

    Sunlight streaming into Pike's apartment makes the space feel bigger.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Most studio-apartment dwellers don�t dream of entertaining on a grand scale. Dinner parties can get awkward when people find themselves lounging, cocktail in hand, on the only place in the room to sit: the bed.

But James Pike, who�s lived in his 500-square-foot Marina City studio for four years, doesn�t have that problem. With its reflective black tile floor and sparse furnishings, Pike�s space feels a touch austere, but his deliberate design choices have turned this small space in an iconic Chicago building into the perfect place for living and entertaining.

A designer at West Town architecture firm Scrafano Architects and program assistant at the Graham Foundation, Pike recently celebrated his 33rd birthday at home. �I had 47 guests in this apartment,� he says. �Comfortably.�

Pike sleeps on IKEA�s flexible Sultan Sandane, a round bed with a thin, removable mattress that reveals a modular unit that breaks into four ottoman-like parts, which can be configured into several seating arrangements. �It�s too much like a studio apartment when you walk in and there�s someone�s bed in the middle of the room,� Pike says, adding that even when he doesn�t break up the piece, the round shape doesn�t make guests feel as if they�re sitting on his bed. �It�s a sculptural thing,� he says.

Originally Pike�s unit was carpeted. �It looked like someone had smoked in here for a living,� he says. �It had seen better days.� He made a weekend project of removing the carpet to reveal the unit�s original black vinyl-tile subfloor. The reflective surface makes the space feel bigger. And the hard floors make it easier to clean and rearrange furniture at a moment�s notice.

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