Name: D. Denenge Akpem
Location: Chicago (Crossroads of Uptown, Little Vietnam, and Andersonville)
Size: 550 square feet (1 bedroom next to historic Charlie Chaplin Essanay Studio)
Years lived in: 11
Denenge's apartment/studio mirrors the crossroads of its diverse neighborhood; a space to reflect and rest, the "magical" home also serves as a work space for this artist/designer, making it a definitive crossroads of work/home and a constant for experimentation. With a dining room converted into a sewing area and a...
... custom-made work closet (beyond the grand curtain) full of fabrics, files, and supplies running the length of the room, work and creativity rule the house. Forget a t.v. and sofa, this is where Denenge's ideas are born and made at every turn.
D. Denenge Akpem's small apartment has a sure flow, leading one from corner to corner and your eyes from top to bottom. No inch is left untouched or unnoticed. The small kitchen and dining nook combine functional kitchen with a gallery's worth of artwork, personal photos and objects, and a covered bench with many pillows for curling up with friends or a good book. The chalkboard paint in the hallway and partial dining room lend an extra space for fleshing out thoughts, ideas, and lists. This home is 100% Denenge, with anything painted, painted by her, anything built, built by her, anything repurposed...yep, repurposed by her (she opted for smaller rooms to make way for partitioned, curtained closet spaces in the bedroom and dining room, shown above).
My style: Eclectic - Sci-Fi - Industrial - International
Inspiration: North Africa (Bedouin design, Islamic architecture), Dr. Seuss, Alexander Girard, Hussein Chalayan, Maison Française, Ilse Crawford/StudioIlse
Favorite Element: Bedroom in afternoon sun
Biggest Challenge: Balancing home and workshop in small space
What Friends Say: "Wow!" "It's magic in here."
Biggest Embarrassment: Baseboards
Proudest DIY: Closet expansion and bespoke poplar/pipe bed built from scratch
Biggest Indulgence: Framing for artwork
Best advice: You can build it if you can dream it. There is a solution for every problem.
Dream source: Open air markets in North and West Africa, India, France, Turkey, specifically textile and pottery vendors, JAB Anstoetz, Wood World, DWR for Verner Panton lighting
Resources: Tan Thanh Book & Gift (on Argyle), Scout, West Elm, Fast Frame (Clark north of Foster), Marrakech Treasures, Crafty Beaver, Andersonville True Value, Vogue Fabrics, Hancock Fabrics, Le Magasin, Mecox, handpicked items from markets and bazaars in Istanbul, Nigeria, Mexico, and India, family heirlooms (loom woven textile, collected pottery from Nigerian and Ethiopian artisans), Chicago Chinatown antique stores, costume and sculpture from past exhibitions; handbags (peacock print bag shown in closet) by brother Senongo Akpem, owner of colorcult.
Images: Heather Blaha and D. Denenge Akpem