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West Loop loft

Look inside the tiny apartment of a thrifting master.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Melissa Beilstein takes antiquing seriously. Where some dilettantes approach thrifting with a weekender�s nonchalance, she handles treasure hunting with the kind of calculated seriousness others reserve for strategic hobbies like card playing or fantasy football. She knows what she wants and where to find it.

�I grew up going to garage sales,� says Beilstein, 40. �My mom had a really good eye. She was picking before picking was a profession. It helped her make ends meet.�

Beilstein isn�t picking to pay the bills. She�s a cultivator, decorating her space one thrifted piece at a time. Unlike some collectors, however, she�s not decorating a Victorian mansion or even a vintage Chicago three-bedroom; she�s curating her decades of finds in the 600-square-foot loft she owns in the West Loop.

Beilstein had the original plans for her unit modified to turn her kitchen island into a peninsula. This left some extra real estate on the west side of the kitchen for a dining table. In the kitchen, Beilstein needed to add shelf space to accommodate her white porcelain dinnerware and her Le Creuset cast-iron pieces, so she added open IKEA shelving near the stove.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

The high ceilings in Beilstein�s loft allow her to use vertical space for storage. She stacked two IKEA Mandal slat headboards above her bed frame for minimalist, modern wall storage. She also installed conduit to create a curtain rod, then put curtains above the bedroom closet to hide additional storage.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Beilstein�s mom scored this 1920s flip-top table at a garage sale. The piece can be extended into a 12-foot-long dining table that seats eight.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Beilstein also recently acquired a kitchen-meets-office table with a flip-top design at a thrift store. Paired with two Herman Miller shell chairs, it works perfectly as a regular dining space for two but can expand to accommodate larger parties.

Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

DIY IKEA shelving in Beilstein's kitchen