A Shared, Real-Deal Artist's Loft in Chicago

A Shared, Real-Deal Artist's Loft in Chicago

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Name: Heidi Unkefer (left), Brittany Meyer (right) & Jess Manning
Location: Wicker Park/East Village; Chicago, Illinois
Years lived in: 3 years (Brittany), 1.5 years (Heidi), 0.5 years (Jess)

This is no brand-new condo made to look like an industrial space with high ceilings and exposed ducts; this is a paint-on-the-floor, full of history, open and raw, ever-evolving space, one that has changed in size and configuration over the years depending on whomever was living there at the moment. It has morphed from warehouse to studio to artist's collective, and it has been passed down from artist to artist until now, when the talented Brittany, Jess, and Heidi have found themselves all living here together.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

In true artistic form, the members of "The Babysitter's Club"—everyone who's lived in the loft lately has had a super '90s girl name—have each used their bedroom as a canvas on which to express themselves: a polished gallery, a bohemian mélange, and an edgy boudoir. Meanwhile, the communal spaces speak to all the roommates who have ever lived there; their art dots the walls, their furniture still resides there, and their patches and fix-ups keep the place together. Imagine a mix of Eclectic Chicago Alley, High-End Thrift Store, and Retired Punk House Show Venue styles, and you'll get a sense for what it's like in there: a modern bohemian space that keeps its lofty artistic history alive and well.

The building itself began its storied history as an artist studio collective and later evolved to an artist residential living collective. Artists have been working on their craft in this space for years, and you can tell: there are splatters of paint everywhere, artwork from previous tenants has been put up around the house, and you can even see some of the damage from indoor bouts of bike polo. It's a great space for art—the windows are big and let in light from two sides, the open spaces are huge, and the place can take a good beating and still hold up. You enter into a long, long room, entirely open, that contains the entry, kitchen, dining room, living room, and lounge. Off of this are three bedrooms: first Heidi's bright and warm space, then Jess' punk and playboy room, and finally Brittany's elegant and sophisticated bedroom.

Brittany was the first to move in and resided in several rooms before landing on the one she's in now. It's long and wide, with tall windows, a sitting area, office area, and room to spare. The space is polished and clean, with the contrast and curation of a gallery, and serves as a sophisticated refuge from her eclectic and busy life doing stand-up comedy, producing shows, arm wrestling, and even designing theatre sets, ballets props, and storefronts. But her room wasn't always that way; it started, in fact, as a glorified garage full of all the artwork, objects, and knickknacks she had collected over the years. "This room needs more cohesion… there's just too much stuff everywhere," she thought, so out went almost two-thirds of what she had. What remained was a wall full of delicate, colorful scarves, a desk area that doubles as a make-up and hair-prep area, and a charming seating area with a luxe blue sofa and framed animated scenes from well-known movies. The best decision she made, she says, was to paint the floor a beautifully deep black. She complemented that choice by painting the walls an artist's white, which wasn't such an easy task in this old loft where each and every brick had to be scrubbed and cleaned beforehand.

Heidi was the next to move in; her room is long yet narrow and feels the warmest of the three, due to its south-facing windows and yellow-painted walls. Her experience with designing her space was quite different from Brittany's. Heidi, you see, is super impulsive. Her decisions come at the last moment, as when she picked her paint color: Cheesepuff by BEHR, a warm yellow that's just… cheesy and oh so warm and delicious. It makes the room the most cheerful of the three. There are colors all over, which give the space a child-like relaxed and joyous feeling. A lot of that color comes from screen prints, many of which Heidi designed herself—they are awesome! I was struck by how familiar the work looked, until I learned that she was the artist behind one of the street murals on the Wabash Arts Corridor in downtown Chicago, one that had just gone up! There's so much to experience in this room: prints, art supplies by the tons, even a newspaper stand for The Onion (it's cool, Heidi works for them).

Jess has only recently joined the club, but her style is dramatic and fully expressed in her small room and expanded closet/office. Hers is the smallest room, so an antechamber was fashioned just outside to give her enough room for a closet and small office space. There's an edge to Jess' room. The Mid-century undertones combine perfectly with punk rock colors and details. Chicago's own Playboy Club plays a large role in here—that's clear right away when you notice the actual stuffed playboy bunny doll, completely decked out in smoking jacket and bow tie. But there are also exposed hanging rods and light fixtures and a curvy ebony credenza, the bed is low to the floor, and above it a bull's skull is crowned with flowers and strung with Polaroids.

The best thing about this space is its ever-changing quality. Today's rooms, designed by their talented dwellers, add one more layer to the already dense fabric of impressions left by the many artists and freethinkers who have come before. Brittany, Heidi, and Jess are headed for amazing careers, and it's only a matter of time before they pass this space on to the next generation of artists. I'm certain that those future artists will feel these three women's presences, even if subconsciously, in the shuffle of left-behind artwork, fascinating forgotten objects, and paint splatters.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Editors note: Each roommate's answer below is in reference to their style in their bedroom; They speak about the whole apartment's style under "public spaces."

Our Style:

Brittany: Eclectic Mayhem/Upscale City Alley.
Jess: Mid-century modern, punk rock- and smut-inspired.
Heidi: Weird, eclectic, busy, colorful, bohemian?
Public spaces: Eclectic Chicago Alley/High-End Thrift Store/Retired Punk House Show Venue


Inspiration:

Brittany: Art galleries and minimalist lofts.
Jess: A lot of Playboy Club influence in my space. High-contrasting black, whites, and greys. I have a lot of ability to work off the space I was given in the apartment and was given a lot of free rein.
Heidi: Creamsicle ice cream pops.
Public spaces: Our biggest inspiration was the art studio that existed in our space before us. The paint on the floor, the odd colors, the random walls were all design challenges we had to embrace to make this our home.


Favorite Element:

Brittany: My yellow accents; I love my yellow pillows and throws against my grey bedspread or contrasted against my white walls, it really makes the room warm.
Jess: Mostly the general layout of the place. The ability to build from there. Having such a large apartment grants all of us the ability to design and personalize for ourselves, and not have the whole apartment clash.
Heidi: My posters and screen prints collected from some of my favorite designers, most of whom are from Chicago.
Public spaces: The random furniture we've managed to collect over the years, the great screen prints.


Biggest Challenge:

Brittany: Painting the brick—it took more than one can to do a 9'x12' wall.
Jess: Putting together my furniture. I don't have the patience for directions.
Heidi: Getting all the insane colors I love to work together harmoniously and not clash, which they still kinda do.
Public spaces: Washing the floor and not knowing if it's ever actually clean; the paint splatters make it difficult to know what's dirt and what's not.


What Friends Say:

Brittany: "Marry me?" "You're more of an adult than I thought."
Jess: They love it. Who wouldn't. It's our love nest.
Public spaces: "Your home is full of beautiful garbage."


Biggest Embarrassment:

Brittany: I can only let my own cat in my room under my supervisions so he doesn't scratch the sofa, and I can't paint the ceiling without it raining paint chips on me.
Jess: The first week I moved in there was a rail for clothes against the east wall of my room. There's not anymore. Whole dang thing totally ripped out of my wall. Don't know if I'm more embarrassed over that, or that I still haven't spackled. Haha
Public spaces: Taking people through our terrifying hallway to get to our loft.


Proudest DIY:

Brittany: I gutted the entire room, and painted every part of it but the ceiling. I picked new finishes and completely transformed this space from what was a dingy and sad garage to a light and airy artist refuge.
Jess: Definitely the floors of my room. Much needed and the color is perfect.
Heidi: My own screen prints and paintings, re-purposed window frame headboard.
Public spaces: Cleaning out our apartment from all of our former roommates—so many people left clothes, furniture, and general junk in our space it took a solid week to go through it and bring it to the curb.


Biggest Indulgence:

Brittany: Candles, zines, leather/fur accents.
Jess: Lamp and rug. Totally want all of the lamps and rugs.
Heidi: West Elm air plant holders.
Public spaces: Novelty salt shakers, random chairs, odds-and-ends home goods like the lobster oven mitt.


Best Advice:

Brittany: Scrub brick as much as possible before painting it. Don't be afraid of white; I was worried it would be a boring color for my room but the right shade really made it look clean and sophisticated so my unique art and furniture pieces can really shine. A high-gloss black floor can look beautiful! Just be ready for constant cleaning and prints/marks in it for the first few walk-throughs.
Jess: Patience is a virtue. Take your time to pick out colorways and plan. Check Craigslist every day for furniture steals.
Public spaces: Find roommates that love your home as much as you do.


Dream Sources:

Jess: The Playboy Mansion, obviously. Hans Wegner. Eames.
Heidi: Anthropologie

Resources

PAINTS & COLORS

  • Brittany's bedroom walls: Glidden Silver Screen, eggshell
  • Brittany's bedroom floors: Glidden Onyx Black, high-gloss
  • Heidi's bedroom walls: BEHR Cheese Puff
  • Heidi's bedroom floors: BEHR Intergalactic
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

ENTRY

  • Clothing rack: left from previous roommates
  • Her painting: left from art studio
  • Dottie: left from art studio
  • Aqua sideboard: left from art studio
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

LIVING ROOM

  • Red sideboards: left from previous roommates
  • Screen prints: Screwball Press in Chicago, IL
  • Corner chair: thrift store
  • Display cubbies: IKEA
  • String lights: Target
  • Molded plastic chairs: a friend
  • Glass table: a friend's yard
  • Random art: left from art studio
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

DINING ROOM

  • Table: IKEA
  • Chairs: IKEA
  • Placemats: IKEA
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

KITCHEN

  • Eclectic dishes: thrift stores
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

BRITTANY'S BEDROOM

  • Duvet: IKEA
  • Sheets: Target
  • Grey throw: Fred Segal
  • Yellow throw: Target
  • Body pillows: Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Curtains: IKEA
  • Large mirror: IKEA
  • Couch: Create & Barrel
  • Wood side tables: found in alleys
  • Yellow leather pillow: Edelman Leather
  • Fringed yellow throw: thrift store
  • Tables: IKEA
  • Desks: IKEA
  • Ghostbusters print: Mark Englert
  • Breaking Bad print: Mark Hammermeister
  • Annie Hall print: Anne Benjamin
  • Lucha prints: street artist Radah
  • Scarf hanger: copper pipe from Home Depot
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

HEIDI'S BEDROOM

  • Headboard: repurposed window frames
  • Hanging plant holders: West Elm
  • Screen prints: Delicious Design League, Jay Ryan, LandLand, Heidi
  • Couch: the trash?
  • Record player: gift via Urban Outfitters
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

JESS' BEDROOM

  • Checkered Mid-century rugs: Rocket Resale in Davenport, IA
  • Mid-century hanging lamp: Brew City Salvage in Waukesha, WI
  • Leather-bound serving tray: ZGallerie
  • White faux fur blanket: ZGallerie
  • Hanging bondage prints: David Cook
    (Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

    OFFICE/DEN

    • Art prints: Jessica Checkeroski
    • Moss carpet: Shaw Carpeting
    • Boomerang table: IKEA
    • String lights: Target
    • Orange chairs: a friend's trash
    • Black futon: a friend's trash
    • Pillows: Target

    Send us your own:

    Share your home with Apartment Therapy: House Tour Submission Form

    Are you a designer/architect/decorator? Share your residential project: Professional Submission Form.

    → And see all of our past house tours here

    Follow Apartment Therapy's board House Tours Apartment Therapy on Pinterest.

    Updated daily with fresh tours full of photos for you to pin & enjoy!

    Thanks, Brittany, Jess & Heidi!

    Created with Sketch.