Benton, Kristin & Mason: Living and Working in a Chicago Loft

Benton, Kristin & Mason: Living and Working in a Chicago Loft

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Julia Brenner
Feb 7, 2016
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

Their setup is unique and it goes like this: three roommates in their 20s live in a converted industrial loft space in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. Two of the roommates are dating, two are best friends and business partners, and all three are pursuing careers in creative fields. Typical nights at home involve film editing, actor rehearsals, dinner parties, screenings of found film footage, and/or a few hours of The X-Files. Here's life with Benton, Kristin, and Mason...

The word "inspiring" gets used six ways to Sunday, but in this case, it's totally accurate. Benton, Kristin, and Mason are three incredibly warm, creative, and motivated individuals, and as a group, their energy is pretty infectious.

Conversations bounced between work projects, music, movies, life plans, lunch plans, and a lot of laughter. They're a tight trio, but the vibe is one of openness and curiosity that feels expansive rather than cliquish.

Spending an afternoon at their loft reminds me of the best parts of pursuing work you care about. It's not the big salary, or that the work is a secure, straightforward path to success (it's often not). It's that when you're in the zone, when you're able to make stuff that's meaningful to others, stuff you care about, and you're able to collaborate with people you like and respect, there's really nothing more rewarding. Pursuing what you love to do is often a constant hustle, but Benton, Kristin, and Mason remind me that the hustle can also be really really fun.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

BENTON AFRICANO

Job: I co-own a production company with my best friend, Mason, called The Wild Blue Yonder. We started the company in 2011 as a vessel to pursue our passion for telling stories. Since then, TWBY has morphed into a full- service production company that takes concepts from ideation through completion by creating engaging narrative content that focuses on originality and emerging media. We mostly bounce between commercial work, music videos, and our own passion projects but have worked professionally on documentary and video installation art as well. Our next project is going to be a feature-length film that we hope to start pre-production on next year. On top of The Wild Blue Yonder, I work for the international post-production company, Whitehouse Post, where I fill a more technical role as manager of technical services.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What brought you to Chicago? My entire family is from the Chicagoland area and I was inundated with the city from a very young age, so moving to Chicago seemed like the logical next step. I moved to the city in 2008 to study film editing at Columbia College Chicago and then later to pursue my career.
  • How long have you lived in this loft? 1.5 years
  • How did you find your place? In 2011, our apartment building burned down, so my roommate (Mason) and I were forced to relocate. We had just started our company, The Wild Blue Yonder, not that long before the incident, so we decided that our next place had to be a space that would cater to our needs as a production company. We had a friend at the time living in a really raw industrial loft in Pilsen and decided to look into finding a space through the same leasing company. Little did we know that decision would eventually lead us to our current living situation.
  • What do you like most about your living situation? I love the complete integration of working and living in the same space. I'm inspired every day by our space, and this directly affects my work ethic, allowing me to be more creative and experiment with my work. I also love that our space is transformable. This allows for a multitude of different uses from shooting, rehearsals, production meetings, film screenings, or parties.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What do you wish you could change about it? The only thing I wish the apartment had was a freight elevator that opened into the space. This would be very helpful because of the constant flow of film gear that comes in and out of the space. Other then that I love it as is!!
  • A typical night at home: I’m am not exactly sure how to answer this question because there is always something different happening. Since Mason and I both have day jobs, we are forced to work on our company projects after work. We usually we put in 1-3 hours of work a night for The Wild Blue Yonder. We do try to cook together each night, but because of our busy schedules, this doesn’t always work out. Also, we have been super into The X-Files lately, so there is usually an episode or two sprinkled in there.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Favorite belongings: I really enjoy refinishing vintage/Mid-century furniture, so some of my favorite belongings in the apartment are a few pieces of furniture that underwent a huge transformation from when I got them to their current state. One piece I really love is a Lane Mid-century coffee table that I bought from someone down the street for $10. It was covered very poorly in black house paint and looked terrible. I stripped the paint, and, to my surprise, there was a beautiful table underneath. After a complete restoration, the table is now one of my favorite pieces I own. The second piece of furniture I really like and am proud of is our standing work desk. This was a fully custom creation that I designed and built. It consists of an 11-f00t-wide countertop that has two modular cubes that fit my and Mason’s individual computer setups. Growing up, there was an old farm table/work bench rotting in my parents basement. Four years ago, I rescued the table and transformed it into a mobile worktable, which is one of my favorite pieces we have. The last piece I really enjoyed working on was Kristin’s simplistically designed vanity.
Benton built a custom standing desk so he and Mason can work alongside one another.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What do friends say? Friends usually freak out! They are stunned by the sheer size of the space and the way we have it outfitted. Another typical response is, “I have never seen anything like this before.” To be honest, I am still amazed each time I walk into our apartment.
  • Favorite bars and restaurants in your neighborhood: Del Toro and Honky Tonk BBQ

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

KRISTIN ANDERSSON

Job: Freelance makeup artist and actress (I work in theater, television, and film). As a makeup artist, I have worked for M.A.C. cosmetics and Stila cosmetics and continue to freelance with photographers and designers. My specialties include beauty, film, television, stage, and special effects (SFX) makeup.

I’ve been involved in theater since I was very young and acting continues to be my main passion. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to make my career out of two disciplines that I love.

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What brought you to Chicago? I’m originally from Southern California and came to Chicago to go to Columbia College. I’ve been here for nine years and I love it more every year.
  • What do you like most about your living situation? The space is so conducive to productivity with all the lighting and different levels—you can really have a totally different experience in every part of the apartment. It helps also having extremely driven and motivated roommates to help get you out of a rut!
  • A typical night at home: I wouldn’t say we have a typical night. Between The Wild Blue Yonder and my widely varying freelance gigs, every day is different. We do pretty well at cooking dinner most nights, but other than that it’s a toss-up.
Kristin working on set
(Image credit: Kristin Andersson)
Benton, Kristin's boyfriend, built her this minimal, more "grownup" working vanity.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Funny roommate story: Ok, so we’re going the shared route on this funny story. We recently had our friend Jordan over, who is known to start glorious '90s sing-alongs in our apartment... Introduce alcohol into the situation, and fast forward to 3am, and here is where the story begins. We were singing at an unbelievable volume and definitely unaware of the time. Once we saw the clock, we shut the music off and all began getting ready for bed when we heard a very loud knock at the door. Benton and Jordan went downstairs to find a male and female police officer angrily awaiting them. The officer asked, “Who’s the ignorant ass?!” as the boys stood there confused, then added, “Time to shut the party down!” And with that we ended our four person, '90s sing-along rager, even though it was already over.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Favorite neighborhood restaurant and bar: Definitely Dusek's for food and Punch House for the bar. A little fancier dinner food, but totally worth it! Then Punch House serves incredible house-made punches, so it’s a perfect nightcap after dinner.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

(Image credit: Julia Brenner)

MASON THORNE

Job: Creative director at The Wild Blue Yonder. (Mason has also worked on CNN’s critically-acclaimed series, Chicagoland, and the award-winning documentary, Almost There.)

Mason's room is a loft in a loft, so there's no closet. To solve this lack of storage, he built and installed some simple pipe shelving and keeps his belongings minimal.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • What brought you to Chicago? I moved from Kentucky to pursue cinema studies at Columbia College.
The crew on set for a film shoot
(Image credit: The Wild Blue Yonder )
  • What do you like most about your living situation? I've never before lived in a space as inspiring as this. The way the light moves through the space in sharp beams or glows through the tree leaves at sunset is constantly refreshing how I feel about the space. Beyond the aesthetic, it somehow handles movie screenings, dinner parties, photo shoots, and still manages to allow privacy.
  • What do you wish you could changed about it? To contradict my previous answer a bit: privacy. You can move throughout the apartment and feel like you're in an intimate space, but sound doesn't abide by the same rules as the visual. It carries. Wouldn't mind less of that.
  • What do dates say? "I can't figure this place out..."
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Favorite belonging: Our 16mm projector. A mechanically inclined friend helped me fix it up and get it running. Since then, we have hosted screenings of our friends' films and strange rolls of film that people find. My favorite among them is an old WWII propaganda film.
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
(Image credit: Julia Brenner)
  • Please leave any questions for Benton, Kristin, and Mason in the comments below!
  • If you missed the preview for Life Stories, check it out here.

Thanks, Benton, Kristin & Mason!

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