House call: West Loop loft

Two West Loop loft dwellers get crafty with raw and found materials.

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Oversize empty frames double as room dividers while keeping the open layout of the space intact.Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Milk crates used as temporary walls in Smith's old apartment now house the roommates' collections of books, music and knickknacks.Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Lightweight frames hang at an angle, disconnected from matted prints stapled to the wooden support beam in the living room. Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Using wallpaper paste, they covered a portion of the wall with pages from the recently launched design magazine Mat�riel. A UV shield prevents the paper from yellowing, and stenciled-on quotes from Marcel Proust and Wallace Stevens add another layer of interest.Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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"I wanted [my room] to look like a hotel room in Paris," Zuckerman says, explaining the clean lines and lack of clutter. "I wanted it to feel like I was permanently on vacation." Her biggest splurge: two colorful, faux-vintage dressers from the now-shuttered home-decor store Zella Brown.Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Inspired by the concept of drop ceilings, Smith lofted his bed and created a curved ceiling underneath it made from nailed-together Styrofoam cups each outfitted with tiny lightbulbs. He stretched drop cloths left over from school projects to make canvas squares to add texture to the wall, and magnetic black car paint makes decorating extra easy. Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen
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Photograph: Jeremy Bolen

Walk into Adam Smith and Danielle Zuckerman’s West Loop apartment and you’ll see that with 2,000 square feet and 18-foot-high ceilings, the expansive space could easily double as a mini roller rink.

“The thing that sold me was [when] the Realtor showed us the place, she suggested it’s a good size [for us to] put a bathtub in the middle and skate around it [a reference to the cult classic French film Diva],” Zuckerman, an actor and Girl and the Goat server, says. “That didn’t end up happening, but it was a good idea.”

Also, the building’s rough-around-the-edges aesthetic means that the two 25-year-olds don’t have to be too careful with the wood floors or exposed brick walls. “[Management] keeps it rough and everything comes with that,” says Zuckerman’s roommate, Adam Smith. “I think it’s [part of the charm], but I’m not of the age where I would complain. There are enough young designers [in the building] who really like it.”

There’s an inherent temptation to fill a space like this with stuff—such as the stack of five vintage TVs (three of them functioning) piled against the living-room wall—but the two have managed to allow the space to breathe while gradually adding to their collection of furniture and decor.

Putting Smith’s architecture degree and their shared appreciation of thrifting to good use, they’ve also kept their spending to a minimum. Between gifts from friends (see the Chinese wall hanging that stretches the length of the kitchen cabinet, a graduation gift to Smith) and lucky scores from alleys, thrift shops and artists’ sales, they’ve garnered everything from coffee tables to five-by-five-foot picture frames. Using salvaged and raw materials such as canvas, wood and glass panels, Smith has built out the rest—from shelving units to light fixtures to a pot-hanging rack (so far no roller rink).

“I look around and see new products built cheaply and poorly thousands of miles away,” Smith says. “While all around [here] there are amazing pieces of craftsmanship that will last longer than I will. With a little work, they can become something beautiful.”

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